Temenos Catalogue, Zara Stanhope
Project Space/Spare Room Gallery
As the images unwind 1
CJ Conway’s concerns with intersubjectivity, the transformative potential of interactions, resonate in her new work Temenos. Her installations convey an interest in the potential of human encounters, including the dynamics of exchanges between animate and inanimate worlds. Conway’s investigations dig deep into the science of what has become a common cliché: “everything is connected”. Seeking to understand Temenos necessitates taking a spiralling route, moving inward from an exterior perspective on Conway’s practice towards the meaning and affect at the centre of this work, like a wheel within a wheel.
Behind Conway’s works are sets of theoretical explorations that spool across historical and contemporary thought and feeling, creating a network of what is, and what can be. Here, alchemy and its origins are brought into current day conversations with neurosurgeons and scientists. This is a practice where crucibles, earth elements, instruments, chemical reactions, energy fields, planetary alignments, love, time and geometry are equally significant and related.
By assembling a group of topics for exploration, Conway takes us on journeys of exploration into the heart of this heady vortex. These compelling stimuli attract others along the route of research and development. In works includingThe World is Bound by Secret Knots (2010) seen at Gertrude Contemporary, the paradigm was the interplay between opposing forces. The push and pull of magnetism can be understood as a metaphor for the changing forms of belief on the nature of being. Where once we assumed planetary action, the ice ages and evolution were the acts of animistic divinities, now we favour scientism. Where will knowledge and belief lead next in the search for explanations?
The nature/culture divide is apparent also in deceptively simple looking objects. In the form of a physical balancing act inAdam and Eve (2010) precarity in the instability of opposing forces awaits its inevitable aftermath. Any one plugged into the Heart Chamber (2011) at Kings ARI revealed the body as a source and conductor of electricity. The body physically completed the circuit in Conway’s graphite diagram. One person could ‘throw the switch’ or, in a test of John Dewey’s thesis that collaboration relies on a human pre-condition to democratic behaviour, a group had to be prepared to hold hands to test their conductive ability to light the globe. An art with a heart, this relational electroaesthetics linked the non-phenomenological with visceral flesh.
These are only a few examples of Conway’s ongoing investigation into the sphere of invisible forces that govern our lives. Taking a more global scale, the current work Temenos indicates the world isn’t an apple whirling silently in space. Have you heard a humming when you wake at night or walk into a room? That’s the electromagnetic emissions radiating from every gizmo and screen – don’t let the children near them, they’ll be fried! There is no escape: both home and office are emitters, and we happily transmit from our pockets, handbags, and cars as we drive though fields of wireless transmissions. Our individual trails of radiation bounce through this ‘hertzian space’ of waves, pulses, lengths and intervals.
Underneath this growing hum there is a deeper inaudible electromagnetic frequency generated by the earth. Emitting across time and space is a constant 7.8 hertz, a base frequency that has been likened to the planet’s heartbeat. Its inaudible rhythms are believed to be fundamental to health and well being. Conway is interested in earth-generated electromagnetics and the way man-made technology has interfered with the rhythms of the body and brain. Thought you had a migraine, flu, muscle cramps or just feeling damn tired? Intense dreams? These sensations may be the result of the inability to connect to the earth’s nourishing signal, to resonate with the planetary tuning fork, amidst the volts roaring around urban spaces.
Following this line into Conway’s latest work Temenos, have your personal oscillations slowed? The graphite surface is not only earthed but also earthing, shutting out background transmissions. Like going down a tunnel to a cavern, Conway suggests her hollow in electrostatic space is ‘a little closer to the earth’s core.’ 2 I imagine this architecture as one of no endings or beginnings, not in a hyperbolic sort of way, but where we could be ‘centred’ internally so to speak. Its insulation allows time out from the complex, industrial strength tensions of a globalised world. Partaking of a mental and physical drawing of breath, we might find a state as receptive as the one Joseph Beuys attained when he communed with the coyote.
The dream of perfect health and clarity of thought might be achievable in Conway’s chamber. However, her intention was not to offer a Tardis-like journey back to a pristine state of connection with Gaia. Instead, Conway’s circles of physics and speculative thinking spiral outward into the everyday environment. They connect past philosophical imaginations and sci-fi dreams to form routes that can be taken to transpose negative energies, by way of power and its equilibrium, currents and their resistance.
Zara Stanhope is a Melbourne-based curator, writer and editor.
1. From ‘The windmills of your mind’ (Les moulins de mon coeur), original French lyrics by Eddy Marnay,
English lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, recorded by numerous artists including Dusty Springfield (1969).
2. Electromagnetic readings taken in Conway’s previous structure of this type, Sanctuary (2010) indicated that
it shielded rays down to a fraction of a microwatt per m2. Outside the structure readings of electromagnetic
radiation were in the hundreds of uW/m².