Words – Sheena Colquhoun

Photos – J Forsyth
Emotional Landscape series, Claire Robertson, Screen Space Gallery, 30 Guilford Lane, Melbourne

An empty swimming pool glistens in the sun next to an empty hotel room next to an empty landscape. Curtains frame the foreground of a window looking out to an empty view. Emotional Landscape Series by Claire Robertson presents us with a beautiful meditation on the tension between interior and exterior and the potential for that binary to be fluid.

A three-channel projection on three separate built wooden structures divides the room, and defines our interaction with the work. Flicking back and fourth between different channels, the pace and cutting of the footage allows for a series of complex associations between time, space, landscape and figure/ground to take place.

Set in a hotel room, as well as in the rolling hills of Death Valley, California, the feeling that this is the mise-en-scene to an off-kilter Hollywood murder story is uncanny. Each shot is thoughtfully framed in formal manner, and allow the work to be analysed and read as photography, film, narrative and fiction.

In her exhibition text, Robertson recalls the theme of Foucalts heterotopia, this concept was coined in his seminal essay ‘Of Other Spaces’ in which he delineates various communal spaces as platforms for subversive or non-hegemonic activity to occur. This connection means we start to construct a narrative based on an association with ‘other spaces’ and what this could mean for the expansive landscape.

Robertson also makes mention of the fact that Death Valley is rumoured to be the site for when Foucalt first took LSD. Whether this esoteric fact is true or not is entirely irrelevant, because it’s so great. This story adds to the works reading as some midway point between fact and fiction, between a cerebral or formal reading of the work as a series of beautiful shots and a more imaginative spurious reading of what these places and spaces could mean and what could have possibly occurred in them.

Screenspace is a medium specific gallery space, in that they only show works by artists who engage with a screen based practise. The space, unlike almost all artist run initiatives in Melbourne, is provided to artists rent free. Tucked away in a laneway in the CBD, the darkened space provides a wonderful means by which a diverse range of screen artists can be encouraged to experiment and show their work. With Beam Contemporary upstairs, and Utopian Slumps just across the lane, this exciting little pocket of Melbournes city is well worth a trip too.