Dominic Redfern is a video artist based in Melbourne, where he is an Associate Professor in RMIT University's School of Art.
Zanci Station: Exploded Diagram, single channel video, 4min 15sec, 2013
by Dominic Redfern
published November 2014
In Zanci Station: Exploded Diagram, the minute details of an environment point towards the multiple narratives of place that intersect at that site. Lake Mungo National Park is a site of significance across cultures and millennia; it is the place in which Mungo man and Mungo woman were found, two sets of remains which have been dated to 40,000 years and which provide the earliest evidence of cremation (Young). It was later colonised and turned over to sheep grazing, forming part of the post World War One soldier settlers scheme, before finally being recognised as a site of national and international significance and falling under the protection of the National Parks service (Willandra Lakes Traditional Tribal Groups Elders Council).
I have made a number of works in places that are between different areas of land use, places where detritus accumulates but becomes invisible because no one is directly responsible for it. I have made work about collections of rubbish on boundaries that are far flung: two reindeer herding co-operatives in the north of Finland (Redfern, “Mythos”); the sides of roads across inland Australia (Redfern, “HEAT”); between an old village and a new freeway in Shanghai (Redfern, “Jiang”); as well as culverts and drains between towns and rivers. Zanci Station: Exploded Diagram took this work in a new direction by reading the archaeology of an old farm in a National Park and finding evidence of: indigenous species; introduced species; remnants of pre-colonial aboriginal culture; the remains of the station itself in the form of wood and metal artefacts; and signage and re-growth that point to its post-colonial status as a National Park.
I utilised a number of devices within this artwork to evoke scientific imaging and study as a means of representing the relationship between the rational analysis of science and industry and the subjective views of artistic practice. These devices were intended to evoke natural history illustrations and serve as problematic markers of objectivity. In this work, as in previous projects, I have used a series of lenses and extension tubes such that the details imaged are on the border of visibility to the naked eye. This strategy is intended to evoke the unseen and impossible perspectives of botany and biology. In the particular case of Zanci Station: Exploded Diagram, I also used the archaeological convention of gridding up the site and then creating a close scan of points along the grid. The “Exploded Diagram” of the title also draws our attention to a convention in engineering and scientific illustration with their connotations of utility and objectivity, but also to the literally exploded nature of this imaging of the site. Details crowded upon each other in situ are separated and isolated, pulled out of their natural continuance.
Interestingly, this notion of the exploded view (amongst other forms of lists and schematic descriptions) has also appeared in Ian Bogost’s Alien Phenomenology (35-61). He utilises this diagrammatic convention in an exploration of a non-anthropocentric view of the universe. I came across Bogost’s work subsequent to creating Zanci Station: Exploded Diagram, but there is compelling coincidence in finding someone else using the motif of an exploded view to emphasise materiality in valuing the non-human. For me, the desire to capture the undeniably physical details of the environment is a means to express – if not reconcile – contemporary conventions that oppose science and art. Zanci Station: Exploded Diagram uses a roving, questing form of camera movement. Through its micro-perspective, the camera searches the remnants of plant, wood, metal, and stone for the essential substance of the environment but ultimately distorts and aestheticizes, providing no truth at all. In an attempt to re-particularise an environment, it curiously provides viewers with both more and less information at the same time, and indeed this is partly the point. The high definition video used provides viewers with such a surplus of representational information that any realist function is potentially overwhelmed. Ideally, our reading of the image as a set of signs is supplanted by our experience of texture and surface, form and volume.
Zanci Station: Exploded Diagram is an evocation of a place, a mapping of it that questions our ability to understand, to grasp and hold, its many and evolving meanings. The work’s miniscule detail allegorizes the viewers’ fleeting and subjective engagement with this place, creating a visual poetry of detritus. The extended choreographed shots embody my attempts to find different means to render the temporary, dynamic, and fluxing nature of place. In doing so, they acknowledge the incapacity to fix the landscape and thereby embody humanity’s transitory moment, our fleeting glance.
Bogost, Ian. Alien Phenomenology, or What It's Like to Be a Thing. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2012. Print.
Redfern, Dominic. “HEAT.”2006. Tate Modern, London, England. 6–8 Feb. 2009.
---. “Jiang.” 2013. Himalayas Museum, Pudong, China. 20 Jan. –20 Feb. 2014.
---. “Mythos.” 2008. Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, Perth, Australia. 30 Oct. –28 Dec. 2009.
Willandra Lakes Traditional Tribal Groups Elders Council and New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service (Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water). “Mungo Book.” Web. 1 July 2014.
Young, Emma. “Mungo Man has his say on Australia's first humans.” New Scientist. 177.2383 (Feb. 2003): 15. Print.