Deadline : Design Students, Ilam. 22 - 23 AUGUST 2008

Avoid of content: Notes on the audio recording of an opening I missed

I can’t live with the ephemeral any more. How did I ever begin to think that experience should somehow remain, concrete and unsullied, forever with me? All I wish for is to halt this cruel stripping-bare that is the progression of time: every minute I am denied the previous moment, and every moment I once again face a cold uncertainty, another instant in which I must, by my wits, survive.

All drugs are nothing more or less than false promises to freeze time, to halt the perpetual sense of loss that defines experience within an understanding of history as linearly unfolding – blinded to the cycle, to return and repetition. Drugs are succedaneum for the myth of a Nature that is at least understanding – if not kind.

Because most of us, though, have to go to work the next day, drugs are not the ideal panacea for our unremitting heartache.

Creation – the act of creation – stitches something tactile through the textureless textile of time: a seam is sewn into the ectoplasm and the creator clings – sick with fear, terrified she will lose her grip – to this ungraspable unfolding of connected moments.

Listen to the music come on – within, above, and below the bird-and-animal chatter of the crowd. While the peoples accumulated continue to confound their perpetual uncertainty with constant, if mindless, natterings, the bass lines, drum beats, melodic phrases, and lyrical intrusions of the soundtrack all exhibit a surety of purpose and direction that places them on an altogether different experiential level: they provide the assurance that we grasp at, and moving our hips we acquiesce to their greater knowledge, reason, sensibility.

Another sound adheres to the wall. The sounds of design. Sounds made of light, cutters, measurements, and aesthetic laws. These are the products of the students’ week; the ostensible cause of it all; the reasons behind the bar tab, the poses, the hugs and the name droppings; the irony, the exergy, the entropy, the empathy.

God, how can this thing go on so long? What fuels these unremitting conversations? Are they talking Art? Philology? Frustrated sexuality?


Design should be taught in the school of Engineering. Design is everything. And everything is Engineering. Engineers need to lean back on the principles of Design, and Designers have to find their place within a universe more Newtonian than nice.

Besides, HSP could use some Engineers around the place; it might benefit from being an Engineer-run space.

So why do we sell out to a few Design Kids like this? Give up our fine acreage of wooden floors to those who’d rather install a tidy sheep-skin four-leaf clover around an octopus beanbag of vermilion and rust?

Probably because they bring in the punters like this. The place hasn’t been so packed since an overflow from the German bar found our stash of Tiger beer and rekindled a collective memory of Malaysian holidays replete with sunshine, sand, and sultry, provisionally-single, syphilitic native girls. That night ended with an unpremeditated flesh-show upon the floors of HSP, while the beer pooled malodorously and deffervescently and the cops pounding at the door were told to move themselves on, perhaps to the brothel next door, in a number of languages amongst which were counted both Esperanto and Kryptonian.

Besides, we all need Design. Not only is it everything, but more importantly it connects everything. It behoves HSP (contradict me if you dare) to put its resources into the next generation of the army we call, and who call themselves (privately), redeemers of the vacuous. Like a blessed, soft assault, it is Design that harmonizes our alienated city walks, office views, and late-night kitchen/bathroom perambulations. The dull charge of the emptiness that hovers forever in front of us is absorbed by the endless mitigation performed by these aesthetic acts of inconsequence. We are relieved from ever really experiencing the rough and raw of life inside the capitalistic when it’s clothed in garments (ok, not silken and gold, but damned impressive, industrially produced, alternate formulations) that any emperor would be proud to wear.

Rumour has it there was a bit of debate among the Design Artists assembled when it came to the phrasing of the stand-out piece of the show. On cheap-looking, cardboard-looking, heavily insulating fibre that actually comes at a mere $1000 per metre was the cut-out phrase, Void of Content, which apparently some grammar-geek tried to argue should have been Devoid of Content. I don’t think so, buster. I mean, a void of content is precisely what this show is, surely: An empty space that’s full of stuff. _ Creon Upton.



Deadline was an invitation for a group final year design students to use High Street Project as their studio for a week and then to exhibit the resulting work at a Friday night opening. In this way the usual exhibition conventions were reversed by prioritising the social aspect of the opening over a more studied contemplation of the work during regular gallery hours.

No one pays that much attention to the art at openings; these are social events, and the work provides a pleasant backdrop to the drinks and chatter. Few then saw Deadline (the works), even though around 400 attended the opening. Determined effort was necessary to see much of anything amidst the thick crowd and dim lighting. Even the nightclubish DJ'd sounds created a visibility-reducing fog.

This state of affairs generated a question of category: was Deadline an exhibition of things or a social event? Well clearly it was both, but in this case the opening function was connected with the project in a thorough-going way. This strategy was employed at HSP earlier this year by Lee Cunliffe. Lee also paid careful attention to organising an extravagant and well attended, by the usual HSP standards, opening event. Both openings employed a significant sound component. These elements combined to create an aura about the events, as well as foregrounding the importance of social networks to the development of the artistic career.

So, when someone questioned the style of music being played at the Deadline opening - this amounted to an art critical concern about the exhibition. More attention could have been paid to this element. An opportunity was wasted for a more fine-grained aural experience. By contrast, the sponsored bar serving generous amounts quality wine was universally felt to be entirely fitting.

Also fitting was Finbar McCarthy's small light box installation. This piece welcomed visitors with a sexualised portrait of a pouting girl, recalling the neighbourhood brothels and strip clubs. Its position outside the gallery entrance knowingly lowered the tone of the conversation before it even got started.

Chloe Geoghegan's work related to ethereal aspects of the environment as well as to the concrete facts of the urban situation. Her internally glowing heap of paper cups pointed to the economics of over-consumption. Letter-pressed on each cup snippets of speech and popular punch lines invoked a media-saturated disposable collective consciousness. Geoghegan said that: “the over-whelming amount of throw away information I have processed this year in my research has been amassed into a brain-like pile of empty vessels that allude to an answer I still can’t find.”

Sarah Mills employed massed foliage, piled on a shelf above the store room door. Their situation and lighting added to the artificial aspect of the potted greenery. These plants where all non-native varieties of orchids and ferns. Some flower only once every 8 years. Mills has been investigating the notion of 'don't miss out.' The idea being that phenomena happen all the time, but like her work, most people miss them.

Light was a recurring element within most of these works. Laurens de Forges also employed light; it trailed around and enveloped his projected geometric forms. The precise mapping on of the projected light to the projecting forms was strangely satisfying. Forges has been researching old video arcade games and is interested in technology generally.

Matthew Galloway also employed anachronistic technologies in the production of his wall painting. An over-head projector was used in the time-honoured way of realising large and to scale wall paintings from small drawings or photographs. Similar images were presented on to old floor-based monitors. Galloway has been working within the format of comics to produce stories relating to university and art school funding cut backs.

The research of Matthew Finnigan has sought to excavate memories of early childhood and recontextualise their meanings in relation to his current perceptions. His re-made toy has been produced at a scale that is equivalent in relation to that of the smaller toy to his previous self. By inserting his own face and actual hair into the piece, Finnigan has sought to symbolise the relationship between memory and reality.

Caroline Paynter has been researching the relationship of typography and architecture. The Void of Content statement reportedly acts as a statement about how work is placed in the gallery setting. The modernist white cube-style gallery acts as a void, devoid of architectural distractions, within which the work can be contemplated outside of the ‘stream of life.’ However the phrase, as with Paynter’s previous I am Content (School of Fine Arts) is deeply ambiguous.