Artecycle is the annual non-acquisitive art award held at The Incinerator Gallery in Moonee Ponds. Inspired by the striking 1929 Walter Burley Griffin Building this exhibition has become an important event on the annual arts calendar bringing together artists from around the country who are negotiating waste, recycling, environmentalism and sustainablility in a plethora of ways and means. As a part of his series of profiles on visual artists working with waste and upcycling Paul Andrew speaks to artist Jeremy Blincoe.
Jeremy tell me about your art training?
I studied photography at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand. Immediately after finishing I pursued a career in advertising photography and it was not until I shifted to Melbourne in 2008 that my focus switched and I became devoted to working on my own bodies of art work.
The first series Wander and Wonder was created to express my deep concern for what I perceive as the diminishing wonder and imagination amongst future generations. Brought about as technology pervades every aspect of our lives and the beauty of the natural world may be losing its grip, its ability to seize the attention of the modern generation. On a road trip a child’s distant gaze out the window toward a setting sun, is now replaced by an intense gaze into the cool glow of a smart phone.
What theme's in your work have emerged since his time?
My second series Fleeting Embrace focused on the environment, sustainability and principally it raises the question about what we leave for future generations if current environmentally detrimental practises continue.
My series Ephemeral Memory was created to help shine a light on a number of important issues surrounding Indigenous Australians.
My concern for the environment and the fate of indigenous cultures continues to feed into my new work. Though I have also become very intrigued by questions surrounding the formation of the self, the contradictory nature of humans and the spiritual famine within modern culture as the influence of mythology and religious ritual has waned over time coupled with this growing disconnection from nature.
Tell me more detail about your interest in environmentalism and sustainability, why is this important you?
Although the prospect of settling distant planets is becoming a far more plausible possibility, we only have one planet right now. To quote Carl Sagan this is our very own “mote of dust on a sunbeam.”
I feel strongly that we all have a responsibility to future generation’s to determine what state the planet is in. It is a humbling thought the idea of tracing your existence back to one common ancestor and how fortuitous we are to be in existence knowing that each of our ancestors has has survived and passed life on to us. Thinking about this heritage gives weight to the importance of environmentalism and sustainability.
Tell me about what inspired you to participate in the 2013 Artecycle exhibition?
It is one the first competition’s/exhibition’s that I have come across that focuses on both the environment and on sustainability. As these are both key threads within my work I jumped at the chance to be involved.
Describe your entry, Untitled?
The work features my friend’s son Samedhi, whose clear plastic bag parachute has deflated leaving him floating aimlessly through a black void.
The narrative intent behind the image addresses the detrimental impact of the current volume of plastic production for the environment and the uncertainty for what state the environment will be left in for future generations.
Tell me about what you adore most about photography as a medium?
With the advent of technology it gives me the immense freedom of being able to turn any idea into reality. It is also a fantastic catalyst for curiosity, providing me a purpose to seek out pockets of wilderness, explore new places and to meet interesting people.
Why the realist photography style?
It is closely related to how my imagination conceives ideas and my desire to create new myths, ones that help me become a better human and hopefully have the ability to emotionally connect and plant the seed of a narrative in the viewer’s mind. As much as I revere many traditional analogue photographic artists I yearn to be able to create my own distinct language and make a valid contribution to a medium in which I love and am drawn to.
You commented once about your work for Artecycle 2013; “we are having a love affair with plastic”, what did you mean by this?
Day to day life is almost inseparable from plastic, many see it as an extremely economic and convenient necessity. Yes I do believe we are a disposable culture which is partly due to the dying art of patience. We bemoan the slightest wait time or moderate inconvenience in our lives and often operate in our own isolated bubbles.
I am guilty of both of these and the mindfulness you mention is perhaps one of the cures. To find transcendence from everyday anxieties and find the realisation that each of us has a part to the play in the welfare of the planet is extremely important.
My greatest concern is that the growing population rates parallels the rise in plastics production and if we will ever be slow down or reverse the consumption rate of the long lasting and extremely convenient commodity.
Long range thinking for the benefit of future generations is something you feel is important too?
Indeed, it is a shame that it takes the stark reality of global climate change for countries to initiate conversations to work together and think about long-term solutions. It is such a difficult road however as strategies are often targeted at resource use, the engine room behind a large proportion of the world’s economies.
So much of our consumerism seems to be based on excessive consumption, consuming goods with an inbuilt obsolescence and a short use by date - things are not made to last, not well crafeed like they were once, goods are not durable - disposability of consumer goods is paramount now with mass production happening now in China and so on, e goods, mobile phones, PD’s and so on?
It is a huge issue, we crave the fleeting gratification that comes with a shiny new technological toy with often little thought as to where the previous model will now reside. I yearn to travel and make a series of work in places such as as Ghana and Guiyu in China in order to come to terms with the scale and magnitude of electronic waste epidemic.
Paradoxically photography is one of the few things that we treasure today?
Our memory is an incredibly fickle thing, a nice analogy compares memory to compost heaps which grows and transforms as new content is added often leaving the original form unrecognisable. Photographs are important, as they are powerful triggers to relive experiences. This is an amazing quality for me as one of the ultimate goals in creating an image is to create an emotional trigger in the viewers mind.
There is a recurrent theme in your work about the depiction of youth, figures alone, floating in nature represented in a fairly iconic peraps even alienated manner?
One of my preoccupying thoughts is maintaining the inner radiance of a child. As time progresses life’s toils and social conventions tend to from rigid armour around each of our inner child. Preying those layers back to maintain wonder, curiosity and an open spirit are important theme that I wish to continue to explore through my work.
And in many of the works there is a mythic quality that pervades te image, many of the figures apppear Icarus like, is this a comment about humanity's hubris in the face of "an epidemic of waste"?
Yes I am fascinated by mythology. Part of the reasoning behind the ‘untethered nature’ of the figures is a re-occurring thought that we are each a tiny fragment of a vast universe our fates often at the whim’s of nature. The ideology of mans domination of nature and the growing disconnections from nature are barriers to mindfulness and environmentalism.
I am curious as to why your figures are represented in nature vs cities and/or urban contexts, the theatrical quality they espouse?
The solitude of Australia’s vast landscapes allows me to step away from my sense of self and gain perspective that I am a very small part in a grand universe. In terms of creating work in an urban environment, I love landscapes I think too much too focus on the urban environment and a big part of the thrill is the chance to explore beautifull spots that I may never have visited if it were not for the urge to create driving my curiosity.
Growing up in New Zealand, definitely helped nurture my appreciation for the natural environment. The house where I grew up backed onto a reserve filled with a dense plantation of bamboo, I couldn’t have asked for a better-secluded playground.
For the untitled image I experimented with placing different landscapes or backdrops behind the figure, but I like the graphic nature of the black void and believe that it helps portray that the future fate of the boy with the deflated parachute is unknown.
Zeitgeist- your thoughts on what matters now - there is a tendency in contempoary art today to focus on and represent the everyday the mundane the ordinary vicissitudes of life and what do you think this tendency says about society?
I use photography to escape from the realities of the everyday and to ease the burden slightly. As new forms of narcissism have developed via social media platforms individual focus has been shifted inwards, ever so slightly and the grander narratives connecting all humans have been left by the wayside.
And is this to do with making a sense of ourselves in a world that is priamrily about consumption ( and by corollary it's monumental waste) perhaps?
Yes, I believe our perchance for consumption is partly an attempt to fill a spiritual void in our lives. It is a shinning mirage that the latest object of our desires will give such satisfaction, only to dissipate in our hands and leave us searching for the next bigger and greater thing with perhaps a few more unnecessary functions.
Photography tends to make things look good or beautiful, we know this, to your way of thinking what is useful about making waste, about making plastic appear good, redemptive and beautiful like a parachute in the image above?
With all of my work whether they are concerned with the environment or another narrative I strive to make it a thing of beauty to entice the viewer then if all goes well they will delve into the story and create his or her own meaning from the image.
And finally how did it feel seeing your work in the context of this marvelous exhibition about environmentalism and sustainabilty, such a wide range of attifudes towards waste in the exhibition - sartists ike Hannah Bertram are passionate about the poetic possiblities of waste, detritus, dust and others like Ashlee Laing are keen on the political aspect of waste, recycling and so on?
It was great I think any opportunity to gleam an insight into a range of artists’ perspectives on such an important topic will always be a valuable and worthwhile experience.
Above: Untitled, 2012
Below, Artist Jeremy Blincoe