Watch me like a bug under a glass | Alexander Jackson Wyatt
Dates: 4 June - 16 July 2014
Where: Seventh Gallery's Workers Window
Image details: Watch me like a bug under glass, 2014 (mock up)
Writer: Joe Scott
Currently based between Germany and Sydney, Alexander Jackson Wyatt works across installation and image production. Operating between spatial intervention and image production, he combines spatial issues with aspects of documentary material to form temporal encounters which allow for interactivity and viewer participation.
He studied at the National Art School in Sydney (2007-2010) and finished with First Class Honours in Drawing. During 2011 he undertook studio residencies at the Sydney Non Objective Centre for Contemporary Art (SNO) and the Queen Street Studios, and then 2012 at the SPINNEREI in Leipzig. He received an ArtStart Grant from the Australia Council for the Arts to set up an emerging arts practice with the aim to bring together two arenas for research and exhibition in Germany. The first encompasses current concerns with contemporary practices of spatial intervention and the second concerns the documentation and photographic practices.
From October 2012 has started working with Armin Linke and Michael Clegg (Clegg and Guttman) as a guest student at the Univeristy for Art and Design at the ZKM (Center for Art and Media Technology) in Karlsruhe. And received the inaugural Giorgio Armani commission, involving subsequent residencies in Milan and Sydney in early 2013 to complete a major new work.
Alexander Jackson-Wyatt's Watch Me Like a Bug Under Glass
by Joe Scott
In Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, James Stuart’s protagonist is resigned to a wheelchair following a minor accident. Entombed within the humid mid-summer surroundings of his inner-city apartment, Stuart is left with nothing more to do than become increasingly watchful of his neighbours. As voyeurism turns toward paranoia, the psychology of both character and audience become blurred and confused. Who is watching who?
Alexander Jackson-Wyatt’s work Watch Me Like a Bug Under Glass, takes its title from the seminal movie. The installation is located at a busy intersection in the heart of one of Melbourne’s most popular retail districts. A vitrine-like window displays the text of the title, crafted by a local sign maker in the vivid neon colour pallet of its surroundings. Behind the glass, a photographic work is printed on PVC, mirroring the dimensions of the window. The subject of the image is not immediately clear in its amalgamation of precise geometry and aged decay, the image, in fact, originated from a wall surface of a hotel in Broken Hill.
In the presence of multilayered and multitudinous histories, what narratives do we choose to examine and avoid? What are the politics of our gaze? When do we see truth and when are we shown fallacy? Who are we watching and who is watching us? In both the micro and macro contexts of Jackson-Wyatt’s work, such questions take on a loaded significance.
Past work speaks to the ongoing conversations shaping the response. The thread that binds the entirety of Jackson-Wyatt’s oeuvre may be understood as site, place and geography. The artist has spoken of the nature of his upbringing and its importance in shaping his conceptions of place. “I grew up in a peripheral neighbourhood…so that it took me a long time to see – and by seeing I mean acknowledging, being able to recognise, understand, appropriate – the centre.” Here, centre and periphery are not just geographic entities. They are ideological constructs that demand translation and negotiation.
Despite these engagements, Jackson-Wyatt’s intent remains ambiguous, indeed ambivalent. Are we to understand the site as passive recipient of out Hitchcock-esque voyeurism? Or, must we view the scene as actively returning the gaze, challenging notions of subject and object? And, as subjects of the urban centre, should we be asking ourselves the same questions?
Watch Me Like a Bug Under Glass gives form to the invisible power relations that govern our interactions with place. Just as historically loaded sites such as Broken Hill contain multiplicity, so too does the sleek and a-historical surface of the cityscape, albeit bleached by a barrage of neon lights and blaring signs. Yet Jackson-Wyatt appropriates the vernacular of the urban environment, governed by the blind exchange of capital at the expense of past and future, to point to the realities resting beneath its thin veneer.