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Images link to the relevant archive entries. In some cases more extensive notes are linked on separate pages.

1999 Horizon1997*

South, Sydney (the image shows the work as it was exhibited in 2000 as part of the Sydney!Vienna! exhibition.

Material available at the installation:

Horizon is a landscape video drawing installation by Margaret Roberts, shown at at South, a gallery at Level 6, 241 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills 2010 (phone 9281 7941) from March 2-13 1999. Horizon contains 2 drawing instruments, 10 cushions and 20 one-hour videos. The videos are: Western line: Broken Hill, Menindee, Ivanhoe, Condobolin, Molong, Lithgow; Eastern Line: Bondi; Northern Line: Brisbane, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Hartbour, Gloucester, Wyong; Southern line: Melbourne, Albury, Junee, Yass Junction, Goulburn, Campbelltown.

Horizon documents the landscape drawing made across south-eastern Australia by the rail lines from Brisbane to Melbourne and Broken Hill to Bondi. These lines seem to meet close to South, at about Central station in Sydney, where trains travelling along these lines usually begin and terminate. (They actually cross at Strathfield.) It shows video record of the horizon lines visible from trains travelling along parts of each of these directions. The train is not usually visible but is present 'behind' the moving image through the sound and movement of the hand-held camera recording through the train window. Each video is one hour long. One hour covers the distance, for example, between about Wagga and Cootamundra on the Southern line, or Broken Hill and Menindee on the Western line There are 6 one-hour video tapes for each of the North, South and West directions, and two from the shorter Easterly direction from Central to Bondi.

The videos are shown on 4 video monitors, one each for the North, South, East and West lines. Viewers can watch whichever segment they choose from the range of videos available. Seats and cushions are provided to assist their enjoyment, because the narrative of train travel is slow to unfold. The cushions are also simplified versions of the large landscape drawing. Simple drawing instruments are available to help people draw the horizon on the walls of the gallery. These drawing instruments were made by Phil Spark.

The artist would like to thank Countrylink rail and coach network for assisting with rail travel and their general support for the project. The project has been funded by the National Asociation for the Visual Arts with financial assistance from the NSW givernment Ministry for the Arts. It is also supported by a Pat Corrigan Artist Grant managed by NAVA with financial assistance from the Australia Council. The artist would also like to thank Chris Fortescue and Simon Barney who run South.


1997* FLATS

individual room drawing/installation at 106 Erskineville Rd., Erskinville, Sydney.

F L A T S Door sheet

Flats is an artwork which is meant to be viewed from the pavement outside the shopfront. Looking into the shop, you can see the colours of the shapes inside merging with the reflections of the road and the traffic. This creates random patterns which vary according to the position you look from, and also creates varying impressions of the position of ground level.

The coloured shapes inside the shop are not made randomly, however. Flats is an installation in the form of a room drawing. It follows the tradition of realistic drawing in that it reproduces the likeness of something recognisable from the real world—in this case, the front-facing, inside walls of the shop. In traditional drawing, a likeness of something is reproduced in different materials from the subject represented (usually in pencil or ink), and also in a different location, usually on a sheet of paper. In Flats, a likeness is also reproduced in different materials and location from the subject, and thus it uses some of the elements of realistic drawing.

However it varies the specific way these elements are usually employed. Flats reproduces a likeness of the the walls at the back of the shop at 106 Erskineville Road which face onto the street. They are reproduced in the same size and shape as they actually are, and so, in one sense, are even more realistic than would be a pencil drawing on a sheet of paper. The likeness is also made in a different material from the walls themselves—but in coloured oxides on wallpaper lining—and in a different location—5 metres forward (i.e. in a southerly direction), and 1 metre to the left (in a westerly direction) of the original position. (The remnant of the shape of the furthest-left wall is to be found on the far right. )

Flats is not only using the tradition of realistic drawing. Because it is three dimensional, the drawing changes shape as the viewer moves along the pavement. By having moved first, the altered location of the shape of the back walls can also be understood as prompting or mimicking the potential movement of a viewer. However, after that one movement, the drawing is now still-art, and all subsequent movement is left up to the viewer who is being prompted to continue the performance.

The word 'flats' is meant to refer to the walls in art galleries constructed specially to display works of art. Whenever the shop at 106 Erskineville Road is used to show art, the walls become 'flats' in this sense. The drawing in Flats takes on this meaning by making the walls themselves the subject of the the art, instead of simply the unnoticed support for works of art.

The shop at 106 Erskineville Road is often used to show art, and the South Sydney Council might be inclined to continue this practice if people support it. Please direct your support to the Council on 9300 4000, and any complaints or enquiries to the current artist on 9560 3940.

Margaret Roberts December 1997

This project has been assisted by the Commonwealth Government through The Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body. This project has also been assisted by the South Sydney Council.


1997* Ground Games

Watch This Space gallery, Alice Springs .

text from floor sheet:

'Ground Games' is an installation in which the space between ceiling and roof of the gallery building is remade on the floor in newspaper. The building of Watch This Space has a double saw-toothed roof, and the ceiling space is defined by the triangular shape above the square and rectangular shapes of the plaster walls. In the first room this space is visible. In the second room, it is hidden by the plaster ceiling. When the triangular ceiling space is remade on ground level, it has the same scale and shape as the ceiling space above, but the location and material it is made of, is altered.

This process of remaking something, or its likeness, is basic to art-making. The process used here, of being able to see something in two locations (one under the roof and the other on the floor) may be comparable to the process, in painting, of placing one colour beside other colours, and seeing how the same colour changes according to its context. It may also be comparable in some ways to casting a fruit in plaster and seeing how different it is when it is no longer made of the same, edible material. As in these examples, when you relocate a ceiling onto the floor and remake it in another material, it begins to become something else.

This is because only the shape and the size of the ceiling space are remade. The main characteristic of a ceiling space, is that it is a space located well above ground level, under the roof. Thus to relocate it onto ground level is to take its less essential characteristics and is to ignore the main thing that makes a ceiling a ceiling, ie its location at the top of a room. In planning this, I hoped its relocation would make it so different from what we understood a ceiling space to be, that we would not immediately recognise it, and we would need to make some other sense of it. The process of trying to make some other sense of something is a creative process which any viewer can engage in. Thus, to some extent, the installation is presented as a game of perception and interpretation for the viewers to play with while standing on the ground.


1996 X

NSW Ministry for the Arts Gunnery Studio 3, Woolloomooloo, Sydney

1998 X, in After the Masters, group exhibition, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Paddington, Sydney.

X was a drawing in newspaper and architecture, first made in the NSW Ministry for the Arts Gunnery Studio 3 in Woolloomooloo in 1996. It began with the old bricks of the exterior wall of the studio, and their relationship to newspaper. I had worked with newspaper as a transitional material, used to protect walls etc in the process of making work with other materials. The studio room was already divided into two parts, the exterior brick wall and the rest of the painted plaster-board room. I used newspaper to extend the plane of the brick wall and divide the whole oblong room in half. Each of the 4 long surfaces were divided diagonally and one half of each was covered with newspaper, reducing the room to an X. From the door end of the room, the newspaper makes a slash through the room. From the window end, the room makes a slash through the newspaper. Together, these slashes convert the entire room into an X, though it is never possible to see where each slash crosses the other. In the photographs, the slashes appeared to have straight edges. When looking at the work in the room itself, however, the slashes had curved edges, because the ends of the slash went to the edge of a viewer's field of vision. I remade X for the foyer of the Ivan Dougherty Gallery for their After The Masters show in 1998, using newspaper again.


1996 Unavailable Space

group exhibition, The Performance Space gallery, Redfern, Sydney

From catalogue of Unavailable Space :

What things might look like if you could see them.

It is partly their non-specialist architecture which makes galleries like The Performance Space such a pleasure for artists to work in, because the art-world can constantly interact with the real-world, to stimulate awareness, through the contrast, of things that are commonly taken for granted in these worlds. The architecture of TPS gallery has never been fully converted into conventional art-gallery architecture. It looks as if it could be an empty version of what it was before it became an art gallery in the early 1980s. It is fairly normal, functional architecture in the sense that most things function as they do in other parts of the world—you can still go through doorways, lean on walls, look out of windows, etc. Sometime during the 80s, the windows were covered with false walls beginning a more serious conversion into the specialised architecture of an art gallery. However these were removed permanently (so far) during the 1990s and now you can see out the windows again, and feel like you are living in a city of other people rather than isolated in a completely internal space.

The corridor is the main part of the architecture that was most drastically altered in the conversion. The corridor is still blocked off at one end to separate the gallery from the administration area, and at the other end a moveable wall separates it from a storage area. It is a structure without a ordinary purpose anymore. People go sideways across it rather than parallel along it. If the corridor wasn't blocked off, it would operate as a passage into somewhere else - you would be able to see and move into the space now taken up by the administration of TPS. But it is still blocked off, and thus the corridor remains an amputated structure located in the middle of a large room, functioning only to divide it in two for no particular reason.

One way to draw attention to the way the corridor structure became an anachronism when the administration area was constructed, is to imagine the shape of the floor of the administration area as it would look like from a position at the end of the corridor—as if you could give back the corridor its function, by imaginative will. For example, we could change the rules of visual perception by imagining that we have x-ray vision and could see through walls. If this was the case, then any part of the administration area, such as the floor, could be drawn over the walls at this end of the corridor, and if the calculations were right, this shape would correspond to the shape of the floor of the administration area that you would see if you had x-ray vision and stood in a particular spot.

If you restrict this game of x-ray vision to just the floor of the administration area, you would get one shape. (If it was not restricted at all, then you may not be able to see anything very much, because you would be able to see everything in that direction.) This game also enables you to see the floor in a different way to how it would appear from the end of the corridor if it was not blocked off, as then, parts of it would be hidden by other walls. Nevertheless, the shape you see through this game of restricted x-ray vision, is still of a familiar everyday object, especially for the administrative people at TPS, but because they don't normally see it from the position of the end of the corridor, they may not recognise it at first.

However, they could tell us that the object or plane that the shape corresponds to, really does exist, because they operate on it whenever they come to work. However, another plane whose existence is less verifiable, occurs when there is a wall with two backs. A back implies a front, otherwise it is not a back, and so a wall with two backs must have at least one front somewhere between them. Although it is not so easily able to be checked out against the real thing as is the floor of the administration area, if you draw all over the backs of this wall, then you would surely also be drawing the shape of their front(s) from some position, because they could be expected to correspond.

This second excercise may be taking the first one a step too far for credibility. However it is an interesting contrast to the first. The wall at the end of the corridor has one side facing the art gallery and one side facing the administration. These are two worlds operating by very different rules. However according to the rules of each, each side of the wall at the end of the corridor is a front—each faces out onto a very different world, each governed by broadly accepted if not always understood, rules or criteria. When the idea of a wall with two backs evolved out of the idea of the drawing on the end of the corridor, I had hoped it would be something more mysterious or complicated than just the answer to where then are their backs?

Margaret Roberts
June 1996


1996* Drawing on Rooms

Gallery ARDT, Leichhardt, Sydney.

Drawing on Rooms was a drawing installation in two rooms of a 5-room gallery, which also included an office and stairwell, and altogether made an oblong shape. In the first room, the shape of this entire oblong floor was drawn as it would appear if it could be seen from the centre of this room. This shape covered the whole floor and parts of 2 walls of this room, marked out in powdery red oxide. I then drew the shape of the red oxide shape, as it would appear from the centre of the second room of the installation, on the wall between them. This shape was filled with yellow oxide powder. A protrusion of red from the red room could be seen in the yellow, as well as from the red room. On the evening of the opening, people walked onto the red drawing, got red oxide powder on the soles of their shoes, and walked it over the floor which the oxide had represented, so that the whole gallery floor was covered in red footprints through a spontaneous viewer performance.


1994 Ipso Photo

group exhibition at Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

The drawing installation in Ipso Photo was derived from drawings in the Leichhardt studio (Virtual Veranda) and an abandoned building near the bus depot in Leichhardt (the Transheds).

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