Artist statement – Rhizomes at Gallery Paquette July - August 2012

This exhibition is a collection of rhizomatic (non-linear) installations made up of paintings, drawings and video animations produced while living on the far north coast of NSW, Australia during 2012.

The show features three parts: Pandanus palms, mangroves and life drawings: all are rhizomatic in their growth patterns. Mangroves and Pandanus grow in the liminal zone between sea and land. The RSVP on-line dating phenomenon draws life within the liminal zone between actual and virtual realities. For me, these rhizomatic organisms serve as practical and theoretical models for how we adapt and survive in today's environment. As with all rhizomes there is no specific start or end point with these organisms that move in a horizontal rather than vertical trajectory. Growth is determined by libidinal flows and paths of resistance and attraction – following the spread of nodes across the Internet; inner city scooter traffic or swarms of bees. Pandanus palms are sometimes called "the walking trees" because they seem to move across the landscape using their long buttress roots as legs. Mangroves in turn depend on thousands of aerial roots (pneumatophores) to breathe above the high tide waterline. The RSVP “coffee date” exists in the transit lounge of the café.

Much of my childhood was spent playing inside these littoral worlds that surrounded my sub-tropical village. Stories return as postcard images from the past and are built upon with each new foray. For my exhibitions I have drawn on these emblematic, sensorial memories, then translated them onto canvas, paper or video. The process collages together events, experiences and places into images, sculptures and installations that map the passage of time. These "desiring organisms" continue to generate, with the passage of each tidal flow, devastating tropical storm or balmy summer's night, recordings of the past, this present as much as projections of a future.

By focusing on one Pandanus palm tree, for example, I aimed to highlight these mnemonic concerns – of how memories of past signs vary from recall to download. From this perspective, there is no singular take on history. Rather, our image of history is always in flux, washed and eroded by desire, overlaid and rescanned by fictions of the present. Yet, each image is a pathological slice of reality, each relationship and encounter, although different in appearance, is in its own way just as powerful, beautiful and flawed as the last. For me, art is a means of fathoming, and at times, deepening the mysteries of life, by being directly immersed in its flows of difference. Art celebrates the diversity that culture and society can generate when and where the radical possibilities of life (difference) may be experienced.

Kurt Brereton, New Brighton, Australia, 2012


Artist statement for Compton Gallery exhibition - July - August 2012


Kurt Brereton – Rhizophotography

This second solo exhibition in the USA by Australian artist brings together rarely seen highlights of Kurt Brereton’s photography from the 1970s till the present. Known primarily as a visual and digital media artist, Brereton has to date chosen to show his photographic work only in published book form. It is through the long and determined encouragement of photographic dealer Donna Compton, that we can now view these images in a larger gallery space. It is not your typical photographic exhibition by any means however.

The exhibition has been grouped into three preoccupations of Brereton spanning the last 40 years – namely; patheticism, beach and punk cultures. With the recent publication of More Is Plenty, edited by art critic Ken Bolton, we saw the full contextual extent and importance of photography to Brereton’s creative career. The complete version of his critically humorous text The Pathetic Manifesto was a highlight, as was the updated Cultural Poetics of Water. We see immediately that both essays go hand in hand with bodies of photographs, films, paintings and sculptures produced at the time of research and writing.

Brereton’s artistic exploration owes much to radical postmodern ideas of the Post-structural philosophers Deleuze and Guatarri. In particular their theory of rhizomatics and the generation of artistic “desiring machines.” Photographs, while being framed as singularities, also serve for Brereton as “image-maps” and “organotronic” phenomena that point and extend in all directions into other productions. Art is in constant state of flux for Brereton. Just as the waves of the sea constantly rewrite the pages of a beach, so Brereton’s images are constantly painted over, re-edited, revised from day to day. So we must see Brereton’s photos as textual elements or fragments that expand into films, paintings, poems or performances. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Brereton has preferred the book to the gallery when it comes to relatively “cold media” of photography.

In the past Brereton has preferred to show his photographs as projected slide shows for selected audiences. He says that the life of a photograph lies in how light is cinematically projected through the grain of the image and immerses the viewer in its glow. The intimacy of the small scale book format is also preferred over the gallery wall. Traditionally, photos were seen inside albums, iconic lockets and wallets – something secret to be unveiled to the cherished few. Of course the other format is, by contrast, the advertising billboard. During the 1970s Brereton used to wall-paper his apartments with huge discarded billboards. Friends would enter and leave through doors cut into an enormous scene of a plane flying over the ocean or an extreme close up of a floor to ceiling face of some beautiful suntanned model frolicking on some Pacific beach. The challenge for the viewing logic of traditional white cube gallery space is to heat up the photographic viewing experience so that is can compete with the “hot media” of painting and sculpture. Hence the emergence of large rear projected light boxes and cinematic projection rooms inside galleries. The tendency is to go ever larger towards the billboard wall.

Brereton has treated the gallery space as one large performance space. We are presented with a topological environment of images, texts, graphics and objects – in other words, a performance network, including its nodes and connecting lines. The viewer is pulled in to the intimacy of details as much as impressed by the larger mise-en-scene. Rather than quickly scanning the gallery room for a few brief seconds to “get the idea” then leaving – we find ourselves engrossed in visual “footnotes”, full bleed images, private viewing micro films and bizarre museological curiosities. Without being dogmatic or prescriptive, what Brereton delivers is the all the history formats and cultural genres of experiencing the photographic image in one download Google-like search finding.

We leave the gallery space with as many questions as answers. As Brereton notes, “there is no beginning or ending to an artwork today – only interruptions.” After leaving Brereton’s last exhibition I found myself reaching for my favourite search engine to follow up what the hell a “desiring machine” was and where I could buy one as soon as possible.

Edward Ward, Sydney 2012