MEGAN KEATING & SAMUEL JOHNSTONE | WITNESS
4 – 25 JUNE 2016
In the visual realm to witness involves an act of seeing, viewing and or discovery. The agency of this act is also dependant upon a passive but receptive mode of seeing. That is the witness must remain incidental and disconnected to the subject in view. A witness cannot bear influence on the act but be present in the moment. But to look doesn’t necessarily correlate with perceiving information. To witness is to gain knowledge through the act of seeing and viewing as well as have the intention to report or share that knowledge. The witness thus accrues information that irreversibly shifts the constitution of their mind away from indifference. To bear witness then, is the intention to first claim the importance of the personal shift, then recount knowledge gained through seeing in order to testify. Being and doing, seeing and reporting, are intrinsically interwoven in this “ethical and sensory” conundrum (Connor 2004).
This work explores the space between the act of witnessing and the intention to bear witness. In our digitalised world the witness is often the camera or screens which can be both medium and mediator. When images and representations multiply and proliferate with ever-increasing speed the challenge must be to not conflate the two acts. The work uses both randomly sourced internet sources images as well as surveillance images. In the capturing, downloading and display of these images intentionally comes into play. So how does media, mediation and display complicate the act of witnessing and bearing witness. The implication here is that there is an unbalanced transaction occurring that is not impartial or disinterested but fraught with the perceptions of context, memory, history and time and when fair use or just intentions are out weighed by over saturation, hyper-visuality and accessibility.
Connor, S, 2004, ‘Overlooked’, in Ekman, U & Tygstrup, F. (ed.), Witness: Memory, Representation, and the Media in Question, Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2008, pp. 291-302.
Megan Keating and Samuel Johnstone have been collaborating on experimental multi-disciplinary projects since early 2013. Keating’s work crosses paper cutting, installation, and painting while Johnstone works with digital media, and animation.
As collaborators their work explores intersections between the natural environment, technology and culture. They are interested in modes of duration in the act of viewing and often work between different media including animation, two-dimensional image, cut out pieces and immersive installation. Within these works they draw odd and often absurd connections between human interactions and the natural world. These works also allude to our relationship with screen base devices and the influence they have on the way we interact and inhabit the world around us.
Keating and Johnstone have exhibited nationally and internationally together including at MARS Gallery for Climeart Festival Melbourne 2015, as part of new makings.com exhibited at Plimsoll Gallery, Hobart and Melaka Art Gallery, Malaysia, 2015 and the commissioned piece Shadow Ministry for Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart annual curated exhibition Giving Voice 2014, which also toured to Gosford Regional Gallery, Goulburn Regional Gallery, NSW & Swan Hill Regional Gallery, VIC.
Keating holds a PhD from the Tasmanian College of the Arts, University of Tasmania where she continues to work and Johnstone is an emerging artist and curator who has a BFA from the University of Tasmania.