Melbourne-based emerging artists Bishop and Schauble focus on uninhabited environments and spaces devoid of people, yet retaining traces of the human presence, to explore alternative representations of existence and experience.
These works seek to capture the trace of a human presence where there is bodily absence. The absence could be momentary; the subject having left the frame seconds earlier, their scent and vibrations still lingering in the atmosphere. It could be a longing for someone who has left or passed years or decades earlier. Perhaps they capture something less personal and tell of humans as a group and the traces of their many stories.
Photography has always been tightly wound with the themes of death and memory. Its use in everyday life has often been as a memento or proof of a person’s existence. Traditionally we have kept pictures of loved ones in our wallets and images of our ancestors in books and photo frames. What then can we take from images with an absence of a subject? When we look at photographs of people, we try to grasp their real self from the single physical likeness. The experience bears more similarities to looking at images suggestive of a bodily presence than one might assume. The works in this exhibition invoke a feeling of searching for somebody, peering around a corner, up a pathway or through a window. Neither these images or traditional portraits are actually a living, breathing person but we can’t help but search for them anyway.
Landing is a reflection on the complexities that come with visiting a new environment, understanding it, and taking from it. No matter how humans may think they can define a space, they may never truly be able to inhabit it. Landing was filmed during a recent artist residency to the Arctic Circle during the Autumn Season. Every day we conducted ‘landings’, where we would prepare to explore land for the first time. The work is a reflection on how I first experienced the Arctic wilderness and the lasting impression it had on me. The stillness and vastness was the most striking feature of this space. Although I traveled with a large group of artists, our presence seemed completely insignificant against the backdrop of this barren place. It seemed to be a place that was unable to support the human narrative.
The video is slow, like the way we would navigate through the snow. There is a visual impairment of some sort on screen, and soon a man made structure is revealed. It hovers almost out of place, like a portal to a dystopian landscape. Although there are humans dotted along the screen, their presence does not impact the space. As the structure slowly forms and begins to dominate the landscape, it serves as a precaution of what can be lost.
Madeline Bishop and Leela Schauble are both current Master of Fine Arts candidates at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne. Schauble received a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Honours from Monash University in 2011, and has since exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Australia and China. In 2012, Schauble was the inaugural Artist-in-Residence at Shen Shaomin’s Studio in Beijing, China. Last year, she undertook an artist residency in the Arctic Circle. Bishop graduated from the Australian National University School of Art with a Bachelor of Visual Art with Honours in 2013. Since graduating, she has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions. Bishop was an Emerging Artist-in-Residence at PhotoAccess in 2014. Last year, Bishop was a finalist in the Maggie Diaz Photography Prize for Women.