JC works with residues of scientific reality-stuff occurring naturally
in the world. This residual science forms the matrix for a circuitry
of behaviours, bringing to light an ugly beauty.
Here touching this thing.
In the tracks of an earlier series which foregrounded the rust-bruised pathology
of everyday debilities, Campbell over recent years has gone home to the kitchen
concocting no end of strange matter to store inside the fridge. Cooking up an
alchemy of potato dextrose she provides the nutrients for the growth of a fungicidal
culture. This cool stuff in petri dishes when exposed to light and warmth becomes
a series of Fairy Rings [Fiat Lux 1997]. Works of exquisite delicacy,
intriguing in their morphology and delightful in their seeming innocence-such
that the hand mechanically reaches to examine and question as in childhood.
Around the same time parallel colonies appeared at the windows of Lopdell House
in the exhibition Touch Lightly, doubleglazed to the outside panes. The
double of glass acts as an insulator for these fullbloom chromatic inoculations.
The impression made by the convergence of permeating light and transparent plane
logically suggests itself as the stuff of photography. Contact printing; direct
imagery; a residual review of how the image comes into being without imposing
on the surface-as far removed from the contamination of human intervention as
is possible in the making of art. This sounds like "pure" art but is
the sort of purity belonging to a colony where from the colour of their skin
to the duration of their wander-rate, Campbell has the rights-to -ife over these
Spoors of Spores
Taken in at the breast and confirmed at the knee of her mother, Mary, scientist,
Joyce's knowledge of photosynthesis by the age of seven was sufficient to educate
those years older. This synthesis seems incipient in her initial approach to
photography during adolescence with light, xrays and chemicals used in merging
layers of the already-has-been with the direct image.
Integrally photosynthesised then, Campbell's processes can be said to `come naturally'
to her. Finding no need for the death of photography [that-which-will-have-been
prerecorded] she has begun to capitalise on the life and death of the organism
through direct contact. The raw materials for tracking its development are already
here in the specificity of her situated knowledge.
- A rectangular glass plate is placed in a germicidal hood and flooded
with U.V. light for 30 minutes sterilizing it and the surrounding air.
Contaminants are excluded by this pressurised environment.
- Liquid sterile seaweed agar is poured into the plate and left to
- Gloved hands are sterilized. Tools-scalpel and wire loop-are sterilized.
- Gloved hands open a petri dish and pass the wire loop over a chosen
colony of bacteria or fungi.
- Touch the wire loop to the agar in the plate-I inoculate.
- If I want a single colony I use a scalpel-and prick the surface.
If I want growth from the edges I stroke the surface there.
If I want a `random' plague of growth I wave the spore-covered tool over
the field of agar
- a sporing free-for-all.
In time these growths reach various stages of fullbloom depending on their DNA
and available food. They wander randomly until running out of nutrients they
spoor and then they die-just ripe for photography's cliché verre processing
A Time Image
Engaging art practice with processes like this depends upon attention to detail,
waiting, and hard work. The surface of any art production "is virtually
invested entirely by all sorts of clichés from which one must break away". Time
images suffer from the debilitation of overexposure, and none more so than
photographs. Campbell knowingly takes on the stereotype of photography's `truth
She breaks with the cliché that "indicates both a stereotyped thinking
and a snapshot (the link being that both are born out of an instantaneous act
that requires little effort and that results in a freezing of reality into
a reified image). The photograph is a particularly dangerous form of short-circuited
thinking and representation, since its chemically based realism gives it an
of authenticity, of innocent directness, that anchors and supports all its
cliché is a surface where a fundamental image of time is incisively
prepared for inoculation. Her photography is both cliché verre and
not at all a cliché in that it demands long periods of gestation, thought,
and physical engagement. Her works are abstractions of invisible reality born
a light box; images of life and death they preserve the behaviour of the organism's
struggle against all pressures. It is death by design, unbeatable in its intensities,
that renders visible the invisible.
Campbell's series Hostings, a multiplicity of largescale Ilfachromes [Sydney
Biennale 1998, The Everyday;] are sensational. Scrolling bacillus subtilis.
They constitute a response to the logic of sensation developed in Deleuze's
approach to the paintings by Francis Bacon. In contrast to the single figure
he discerns vibration, and in the diptychs resonance, in Bacon's triptychs "rhythm
takes on an extraordinary amplitude, in a forced movement that gives it autonomy
and gives us the impression of Time. The limits of sensation are overflown,
exceeded in all directions."
This is the logic of art's behaviour.
This is the force that overwhelms, that has its own autonomy in relation to the
organism and the work of art. It is the inbetweenness of its rhythms and its
components and its very facticity that brings the art to appear as if wireframed
before the work.
Isn't sensation the stuff of the combinatory effect of neural and chemical signals
between body and brain which gives character to behaviour?
It's the combination of colour, tonality, line, the point, the problem, the accidental
transgression of spatial limit brought forth in the chemical substrate that forces
the movement in Hostings beyond the sum of the constituent elements.
Campbell's forthcoming project Microcosm for Artspace Auckland is a virtual
universe, a screensaver, transparent in its purity; designed to be downloaded
as freeware. Its environment is the screen of the user. Organisms live within
it, but are not it. Here organisms compete, their various behaviours defined
by binary programming code, as microbes are by DNA code. Pixels on the screen
are converted into a virtual field within which tone equates to nutrient value,
e.g. text has no nutrient value other than the white around it.
Any text that the screensaver hits is just going to die - Campbell
All other priorities rescinded
You still don't understand what you're dealing with... a perfect organism its
structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.
I admire its purity... a survivor
unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.
"I can't lie to you about your chances."
(Ash the robot unplugged in Alien, directed by Ridley Scott in 1979)
I can't cut down the wander rate...Campbell