'Reception (Jean Bellete's Studio) documentation', 2003.

'Reception' 2003-4.

Conny Dietzschold Gallery, Sydney.

Reception 2003-4' Conny Dietzschold Gallery. Photo Su Blackburn.


'Reception' is part desk and part room. Its shape and scale is the pattern of the reception desk in Conny Dietzschold Gallery, and its three dimensional form is the right angle where wall meets floor. The pattern is positioned in the room so that this right angle is located where the pattern needs to bend in the process of becoming the desk. Made of unbound titanium oxide, it is white like its parent forms, but with a more open surface - not being sealed with a binder in the way that white house paint normally is, the white oxide transfers to anything that it touches. This nascent and open character is partly what distinguishes it from the furniture and architectural space from which it otherwise originates.

It was first made in 2003, in the studio of Jean Bellette, built onto the miner's shack in Hill End in rural NSW where she and Paul Haefliger lived in the early 1950s. There, the desk pattern was made using the architectural space of the studio, and documented in photographs with the furniture etc that Bellette and Haefliger brought with them. This furniture etc is still there, appearing slightly enigmatic now because the eclectic tastes and lives of Bellette and Haefliger, which may have given its location there more meaning, have long since gone. With its own peculiarity as almost-furniture itself, 'Reception' looked quite at home with the idiosyncratic collection that Bellette and Haefliger left behind when they migrated to Marjorca in 1957.

The temptation is to anthropomorphise the old remnant furniture as silent witnesses to or relics of this small part of the past. In its capacity to represent absence in this way, however, the furniture resembles the way that documentation of site-specific art is necessarily an incomplete record because of the impossibility of including in a photograph that which is often the artwork's major component, the live quality of the site. In acknowledging the selectivity of photographic documentation, the incomplete nature of what is pictured, the photographs of 'Reception' taken at Hill End hopefully allude to the ongoing life of the site that is also otherwise excluded. Ironically, by echoing the function of the old furniture in this way, the photos incorporated 'Reception' even more into the situation of the Hill End studio, enabling it to change status from a visiting site-specific artwork to a completely adopted one.

This problem of the documentation of site specific art was an important element in 'The Aureolin Collection - Sites', a collaborative exhibition in 2003 with Stephen Sullivan, in which we recognized that heavily cropping the photographic documentation of site specific work echoed the way this process of documentation cropped the work by deleting the live site altogether. The 'Sites' exhibition restored the live site by including floor lighting, which - by being atypical gallery lighting - recognised, as part of the exhibition, the live site of the gallery in which the cropped photos were shown. The photographs of 'Reception' taken in Jean Bellette's studio owe a debt to that prior collaborative work (though their limitations are my own). The photographs documenting 'Reception' in Hill End accompanied 'Reception' when it was made again in its place of origin, Conny Dietzschold Gallery, in 2004.

The photos of 'Reception' at Hill End may represent a continuity with the past, following on from the temporal implications of the nascent state of 'Reception' itself. They may also echo the spatial continuity of 'Reception': viewers could recognize that what is partly absent in the photos (the white shape) is fully present in the gallery, and that they and other viewers etc may have a similar relationship to the white shape that the exotic furniture did in the situation photographed. They may also notice the continuity of the white shape on the ground where they are standing - and perhaps also in the edge of their field of vision - into the represented space of the photograph which they look into but from which they are excluded. This relationship may echo the nature of the continuity between the space of the white shape in 'Reception' and the space in which they stand as live viewers.

Margaret Roberts 2004 .