Life inside an Image

Gerard Byrne, Jielemeguvvie guvvie sjisjnjeli 2015_2016Bringing together seven contemporary artists from six different countries whose work engages with significant international cultural collections, Life inside an Image is presented by Monash University Museum of Art in association with Melbourne Festival from 8 October 2016.

Life inside an Image explores the function of the museum in relation to the camera. Museums, like cameras, preserve, frame and index the world. Both attempt to arrest beings, objects and environments into conditions of stasis. In so doing, museums also translate objects (whether artworks, ancient tools, mineral samples or taxidermied animals) into documents – official texts that evidence natural and cultural histories. Like photographs, they bear witness.

Many of the artists in the exhibition return to the origins of photography as a way of grappling with contemporaneity, sensing that photography – as a practice and medium – is in a critical historical moment.

It offers a selection of still and moving-image works by artists Matthew Buckingham, Gerard Byrne, Melvin Moti, Fiona Pardington, Elizabeth Price, Amie Siegel and Judy Watson, each of whom has worked closely with a museum collection or artefact in order to disrupt old, and unearth new narratives.

Orbiting around the presentation of a new major work by Irish artist Gerard Byrne, co-commissioned by Monash University Museum of Art, Mead Gallery, Warwick University and Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Life inside an Image considers the museum as an image-capturing technology.

Byrne’s new work is a slow, panoramic film that captures the famous natural history diorama at the Biologiska Museet in Sweden. Made in 1893, the diorama’s host of taxidermied animals give an eerie impression of the Nordic wilderness. Byrne augments this sensation by adding field recordings of native bird calls to the film’s soundtrack.

The work, Jielemeguvvie guvvie sjisjnjeli is an approximation of the phrase ‘film inside an image’ in the local Indigenous language of Southern Sami. Its direct translation is ‘life inside an image,’ for in Sami there is no word for film. This mis-translation articulates Byrne’s work even more precisely, for in it Byrne is also drawing a parallel between the processes of taxidermy, film and photography – forms of preservation that arrest life.

“This exhibition encourages us to consider the politics and potentialities of collecting institutions, especially as they relate to the representation and historicisation of different cultures,” says Charlotte Day, Director MUMA.

Life inside an Image
Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), 900 Dandenong Road, Caulfield East
Exhibition: 1 October – 10 December 2016
Free admission

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Image: Gerard Byrne, Jielemeguvvie guvvie sjisjnjeli (Film inside an image) 2015-16 (still) – Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery, London.