MERILYN FAIRSKYE






Photography

Claustrophobia

In 1951 the US stockpiled nuclear weapons, the Cold War was in full swing, and Stalin ordered the construction of a top-secret bunker in central Moscow. Sixty-five metres underground, it was to be an emergency command post HQ and long-range aviation communications centre. As I descended the 18 flights of stairs to see the rooms and tunnels, I thought about the Soviet leaders, their families, and the thousand or so military personnel who could exist there for up to three months after a nuclear attack, with certain devastation awaiting their compatriots above ground. In the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, 800 military personnel and technicians remained in the bunker for 13 days on high alert, ready to launch an attack if needed. The facility was declassified in 1995 and operates as a museum dedicated to the Cold War. Now known as Bunker 42, some of tunnels are hired out for interactive war games.

Jacket
Jacket 2016 Pigment print. 33.3x50cm. Edition of 5
Lenin
Lenin 2016 Pigment print. 33.3x50cm. Edition of 5
Bunk Beds
Bunk Beds 2016 Pigment print. 33.3x50cm. Edition of 5
Tunnel
Tunnel 2016 Pigment print. 33.3x50cm. Edition of 5

Long Life (Kazakhstan)

This work is part of an ongoing series about the experience of nuclear landscapes. The visual drivers are nuclear sites, what is to be found there and what they suggest. The emotional driver is the underlying pathos of the brevity of human life against the longevity of radiation. The images were shot in The Polygon, Kazakhstan, site of Soviet nuclear tests between 1949-1989. The pastoral landscape of the central image shows Degelen Mountain. Underground tests took place there in tunnels now packed with highly radioactive material, precariously blocked to outside access by cement plugs. This image is flanked by depictions of residual structures, a bridge, a measuring tower and bunkers, built to test the effect of aboveground explosions across the Polygon.

Ground Zero
Ground Zero (first Soviet atomic bomb test, 7.00am, 29 August 1949, The Polygon, Kazakhstan) 2016 Pigment print. 92x275cm. Edition of 5
Degelen Mountain
The Day After Degelen Mountain (Soviet underground nuclear test site, Kazakhstan) 2015 Pigment print. 80x120cm. Edition of 5
Sensors
The Day After (sensor bunkers, The Polygon, Kazakhstan) 2015 Pigment print. 33.3x50cm. Edition of 5
Measuring tower
The Day After (measuring tower. The Polygon, Kazakhstan) 2015 Pigment print. 33.3x50cm. Edition of 5
bridge
The Day After (bridge, The Polygon, Kazakhstan) 2015 Pigment print. 33.3x50cm. Edition of 5
test objects
The Day After (test structures, The Polygon, Kazakhstan) 2015 Pigment print. 33.3x50cm. Edition of 5

A group of these works was shown in the exhibition 2020 at Stills Gallery in August 2015. The title 2020 alludes to the near future and to the absence of hindsight around all things nuclear. This group of works is part of an ongoing series of site-based photographic scenarios and video scenarios. The titles draw on nuclear cinema and identify the location and purpose of each nuclear site. Two sites are depicted in the still images - The Polygon, a decommissioned Cold War site and the still-operating Dungeness Nuclear Power Station B. One from the past, one from the present. The accompanying video depicts six scenes of apparently mundane nuclear landscapes and reflects my experience of these sites. The intertitles specify location and the official dates of operation.

Installation Polygon
Installation view, 2020 exhibition, 2015
Installation Ground Zero
Installation view, 2020 exhibition, 2015
Installation
Installation view, 2020 exhibition, 2015

Long Life (Dungeness)

Dungeness Nuclear Power Station B, Kent UK is situated 2 metres above sea-level in a wildlife sanctuary. Built too close to the sea, the plant is protected from sea surges by the man-made shingle defence. Waste hot water and sewage from the power station are pumped into the sea, and the increased life of the sea-bed attracts seabirds.

On the beach
On the Beach (north-east view, Dungeness Power Station B, Kent U.K.) 2015 Pigment print. 92x275cm. Edition of 5
Birds I
Birds I (Dungeness Power Station B, Kent U.K) 2015 Pigment print. 33.3x50cm. Edition of 5
Birds 2
Birds II (Dungeness Power Station B, Kent U.K) 2015 Pigment print. 33.3x50cm. Edition of 5
Birds 2
Installation view, 2020 exhibition, 2015 Stills Gallery, Sydney
Birds 2
Installation view, 2020 exhibition, 2015 Stills Gallery, Sydney

Long Life (Ranger)

Since opening in 1980, Ranger Uranium Mine, Kakadu National Park, NT has experienced routine failure of its water and waste management systems. After falling sales and traditional owners’ opposition to its expansion, the mine will cease operations in 2021. A 5-year clean-up is mandated but funding is uncertain.

Retention Pond
Retention Pond (Ranger Uranium Mine, Kakadu National Park) 2016 Pigment print. 50x250cm. Edition of 5
Open pit
Open Pit (Ranger Uranium Mine, Kakadu National Park) 2016 2016 Pigment print. 50x250cm. Edition of 5
Plateau
Plateau (Ubirr, Kakadu National Park) 2016 2016 Pigment print. 50x250cm. Edition of 5

Plant Life (Chernobyl)

The photo series Plant Life (Chernobyl) that depicts areas around Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant – site of the catastrophic accident of April 26, 1986 – the landscape, abandoned apartment blocks, and dilapidated structures designed to variously process, store or cool nuclear elements and waste. The buildings, the vegetation and the earth are still contaminated. In Playground, an unused Ferris wheel due to open the day after the explosion sits rusting amongst snow and trees. To the right is a tiny caretaker’s cottage. Nearby, the abandoned apartment blocks in Apartments, are almost overrun by trees and bushes, the original residents - nuclear plant workers and their families - dispersed across the former Soviet Union, never able to return. Reactor #4 is a view of the ruined reactor, site of the initial explosion and fire, from the bridge outside of Pripyat, where in the hours following the explosion residents had gone to watch what was happening 4km away.

The Road In
Road In 2010 Pigment print. 40x109cm. Edition of 5
Playground
Playground 2010 Pigment print. 40x109cm. Edition of 5, Available 80x218
Pripyat Town
Pripyat town 2010 Pigment print. 40x192cm. Edition of 5
Apartments
Apartments 2010 Pigment print. 80x120cm. Edition of 5
Reactor #4
Reactor 4 2010 Pigment print. 80x120cm. Edition of 5
Waste plant
Waste Plant 2010 Pigment print. 80x120cm. Edition of 5
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Cooling plant
Cooling Plant 2010 Pigment print. 80x120cm. Edition of 5
Distant Reactor 4
Distant Reactor 4 2010 Pigment print. 80x120cm. Edition of 5

Aqua

Two videos, Aqua/pool, and Aqua/ocean, accompany this work.

Aqua/pool

These images are captured from a sequence of improvised filmic fragments. A camera silently observes a swimming pool from the 17th floor of a hotel in Miami. Nothing specific is revealed. A man floats in time and space. A couple comes into physical contact and pull apart, then come together again. A woman sinks and rises. A group of swimmers creates an abstract choreography.

Aqua/bay

The location is Botany Bay. The camera is directed out past the heads, into an emptiness that could be the edge of the world.

The images comprise multiple superimposed layers of video – a second of video time simultaneously.

Aqua Pool 1
Aqua/pool #1 2007 Pigment print. 67.5x120cm. Edition of 5.
Aqua Pool 2
Aqua/pool #1 2007 Pigment print. 67.5x120cm. Edition of 5.
Aqua Pool 3
Aqua/pool #1 2007 Pigment print. 67.5x120cm. Edition of 5.
Aqua Pool 4
Aqua/pool #1 2007 Pigment print. 67.5x120cm. Edition of 5.
Aqua bay 1
Aqua/bay #1 2007 Pigment print. 67.5x120cm. Edition of 5.
Aqua installation
Installation view Out of this World, William Wright Artist Projects 2013

Aqua/Script

Photographic fragments or “aqueous excerpts” of abandoned film-script that I had written over several years. The aim was to give a new life to these almost-dead scripts. Nothing specific is revealed. Dramatic narrative remains unrealized.

Aqua/ script 1
Aqua/script #1 2007 Pigment print. 60x51cm. Edition of 5.
Aqua/ script 1
Aqua/script #2 2007 Pigment print. 60x51cm. Edition of 5.
Aqua/ script 3
Aqua/script #3 2007 Pigment print. 60x51cm. Edition of 5.
Aqua/ script 4
Aqua/script #4 2007 Pigment print. 60x51cm. Edition of 5.
Aqua/ script 5
Aqua/script #5 2007 Pigment print. 60x51cm. Edition of 5.
Aqua/ script 6
Aqua/script #6 2007 Pigment print. 60x51cm. Edition of 5.
Aqua/ script 7
Aqua/script #7 2007 Pigment print. 60x51cm. Edition of 5.
Aqua/ script 8
Aqua/script #8 2007 Pigment print. 60x51cm. Edition of 5.

Stati d'Animo/Seconds

Several videos, made between 2005-2007, accompany this work. Link to Stati d'Animo.

Stati d'Animo engages with the contemporary world of global networks and connectivity explored in my earlier work, Connected. The images were captured at over 20 international airports. I use the word videographs to describe the formation of the image in these works, which is different from both film and photography. It closely resembles the sequenced exposures of chronophotography by Jules Etienne Marey which (like Henri Bergson's reflections on time) inspired the painterly experiments of the Futurists. Unlike film- or video-stills, the videographs condense and dilate the experience of time, by superimposing a sequence of frames in transparent layers.

CDG/#1/1sec
CDG/#1/1sec 2005 Pigment print. 40x50cm. Edition of 5.
CDG/#2/1sec
CDG/#2/1sec 2005 Pigment print. 40x50cm. Edition of 5.
CDG/#4/1sec
CDG/#4/1sec 2005 Pigment print. 40x50cm. Edition of 5.
SFO/#2/1sec
SFO/#2/1sec 2005 Pigment print. 40x50cm. Edition of 5.
KUL/#1/1sec
KUL/#1/1sec 2005 Pigment print. 40x50cm. Edition of 5.
BNE/#2/1sec
BNE/#2/1sec 2005 Pigment print. 40x50cm. Edition of 5.
HEL/#1/1sec
HEL/#1/1sec 2005 Pigment print. 40x50cm. Edition of 5.
BNE/#1/1sec
BNE/#1/1sec 2005 Pigment print. 40x50cm. Edition of 5.
PHL/#3/1sec
PHL/#3/1sec 2005 Pigment print. 40x50cm. Edition of 5.
GRU/#3/1sec
GRU/#3/1sec 2005 Pigment print. 40x50cm. Edition of 5.
SFO/#1/1sec
SFO/#1/1sec 2005 Pigment print. 40x50cm. Edition of 5.
SYD/#7/1sec
SYD/#7/1sec 2005 Pigment print. 40x50cm. Edition of 5.
SFO/#3/1sec
SFO/#3/1sec 2005 Pigment print. 40x50cm. Edition of 5.
GRU/#6/1sec
GRU/#6/1sec 2005 Pigment print. 40x50cm. Edition of 5.
SFO/#4/1sec
SFO/#4/1sec 2005 Pigment print. 40x50cm. Edition of 5.
SYD/#6/1sec
SYD/#6/1sec 2005 Pigment print. 40x50cm. Edition of 5.
GRU/#4/1sec
GRU/#4/1sec 2005 Pigment print. 40x50cm. Edition of 5.

Stati d'Animo/9 Seconds

SFO/#2/9secs
SFO/#2/9secs 2005 Pigment print. 96x120cm. Edition of 5.
KUL/#2/9secs
KUL/#2/9secs 2005 Pigment print. 96x120cm. Edition of 5.
BNE/#2/9sec
BNE/#2/9sec 2005 Pigment print. 96x120cm. Edition of 5.
GRU/#4/9sec
GRU/#4/9secs 2005 Pigment print. 96x120cm. Edition of 5.
GRU/#6/9sec
GRU/#6/9secs 2005 Pigment print. 96x120cm. Edition of 5.
KUL/#1/9sec
KUL/#1/9sec 2005 Pigment print. 96x120cm. Edition of 5.

Connected

Nine RA-4 Prints on Duraclear, steel hooks 175x87.5cm. Edition of 5. Available as pigment prints, 168x84cm

Nine photographic transparencies depict life-sized figures, probably business people at the end of the working day. The subjects are shot from behind and hurrying away from us. Each person is talking on a mobile phone, and they appear disengaged from their environment. Their tenuous presence is heightened by the shadowy translucence of the prints suspended from the wall that move with the air currents in the room.

Connected #7
Connected #7 2003
Connected #8
Connected #8 2003
Connected #9
Connected #9 2003
Connected #10
Connected #10 2003
Connected #11
Connected #11 2003
Connected #12
Connected #12 2003
Connected #13
Connected #13 2003
Connected #14
Connected #14 2003
Connected #15
Connected #15 2003
Araluen Galleries
Installation View, Connected, Araluen Galleries, Alice Springs, NT 2003
Connected, Stills Gallery
Installation View, Connected, Stills Gallery, Sydney 2003
Connected, Stills Gallery
Installation View, Connected, Stills Gallery, Sydney 2003

Sea and Sky

Four Duratrans, lightboxes, 180x93.6cm. Edition of 3.

This work which evolved out of Material World (1999) takes the form of both light boxes and prints. Some of these images were part of the Plus+Minus exhibition at Stills Gallery in 2000

Sea Kurnell
Sea (Kurnell) 2003
Sky la Perouse
Sky (La Perouse) 2003
Sea (The Gap)
Sea (The Gap) 2003
Sky (North Head)
Sky (North Head) 2003

Material World

Fire Kurnell
Fire (Kurnell) 2003 C-type print. 100x200cm. Edition of 5. Also available 50x100cm.
Water (The Gap)
Water (The Gap) 2003 C-type print. 100x200cm. Edition of 5. Also available 50x100cm.
Air (North Head)
Air (North Head) 2003 C-type print. 100x200cm. Edition of 5. Also available 50x100cm.
Earth (La Perouse)
Earth (La Perouse) 2003 C-type print. 100x200cm. Edition of 5. Also available 50x100cm.
Earth (La Perouse)
Installation view, collection of Dylan McKimmie and Sonja Bennetto, Perth. Photo credit Australian House & Garden, July 2017.

After Image 1995

This work focuses on the photograph and the near-anonymous subject. Between 1992-2000 I systematically photographed people with whom I came in contact. There are 1000 images in the series. Many of these images have been used as source images in other works since 1992 e.g. Proposals for Rooms with Columns, Invisible Paintings, After Image and Double Exposure. Each image is ‘captioned’ with the person’s first name, occupation and country of birth. They are mostly unknown people from a wide spectrum of racial and social origins who are instructed to adopt a neutral expression and to close their eyes before being photographed. The fact that their eyes are closed is important – on the one hand not dead or asleep, on the other, not awake, but somewhere in between.

Unique edition, 12 black and white line positive transparencies, each 143x106cm

  • ouliana, foreign trader, bulgaria
  • moya, writer, australia
  • beulah, art student, vietnam
  • andrew, art historian, australia
  • marina, nurse, russia
  • dylan, lawyer, australia
  • gursuran, scientist, india
  • jenny, secretary, australia
  • edwin, travel agent, puerto rico
  • judy, artist, australia
  • yvonne, student, yugoslavia
  • wendy, manager, barbados
After image 1
yvonne, student, yugoslavia 1995
After Image 2
Installation view, Photography is Dead! Long Live Photography! Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 1996
After Image 3
Installation view, Photography is Dead! Long Live Photography! Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 1996
After Image 4
Installation view, After Image, William Mora Galleries, Melbourne, 1996
After Image 5
Installation view, After Image, William Mora Galleries, Melbourne, 1996
After Image 6
Installation view, After Image, Stills on William St, Sydney, 1996
After Image 7
Installation view, After Image, Stills on William St, Sydney, 2014
After Image 8
Installation view, After Image, Stills on William St, Sydney, 2014

Moving Image

White on White (after Malevich)

White on White
Screenshot, White on White 2015

Merilyn Fairskye 2016
Single-channel HDV, colour, stereo sound.
Duration: 03:50
For installation: Single-channel HDV loop
Loop duration 4.00

Two women undertake the slow, endless task of repainting a wall surrounding a medieval cathedral on the outskirts of a large city.
A choir of monks sing a cappella.

Almost a century earlier, Kasimir Malevich painted White on White - an off-centre white square angled across a white ground that embodied a sensation of infinity.
Everything, and nothing.

"Let My Prayer come True" performed by Blagovest A Cappella, conducted by Lev Pankratov.     VIMEO link

Radiant

Radiant
Installation view, Radiant, Bath Spa University UK, 2015

Merilyn Fairskye 2015-17
Single-channel vertical video installation
Duration: 12:54, stereo sound
VIMEO link

This vertical video installation was originally made in response to an opportunity to exhibit on the Media Wall in the Commons foyer at Bath Spa University, Bath Spa, UK. A revised version was made in 2017. Taking landscape into the expanded portrait format, it situates the viewer in a corporeal relationship to the unfolding scenes of compromised nuclear landscapes.

Material has been captured from radioactive sites in Australia, Kazakhstan, and the UK.
Original version: duration: 12:54, stereo sound.
Revised version: duration: 11:40, stereo sound
(Production assisted by Bath Spa University; Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (C.O.R.E.,) Cumbria, UK; National Nuclear Center, Kazakhstan; Vitosha (Australia).

..
Radiant
Installation view, Radiant, Bath Spa University UK, 2015

Life Still

Life Still
Performance at Annandale Galleries, Sydney, 12 March 2016

Merilyn Fairskye 2016
Single-channel HD video
Duration 24 mins, stereo sound
VIMEO link

A video documentation of a reprised collaboration between Anca Frankenhaeuser, Patrick Harding-Irmer, choreography and performance, Tony Twigg, visual artist and contributing choreographer, Stephanie Burridge.

When the Wind Blows

When the wind blows
When the Wind Blows, 2020 exhibition, Stills Gallery, Sydney, 2015

Merilyn Fairskye 2015
Single-channel HD video, custom screen
Duration 13 mins loop, stereo sound
VIMEO link

This work was first shown in the exhibition 2020 at Stills Gallery in August 2015. The title 2020 alludes to the near future and to the absence of hindsight around all things nuclear. This group of works is part of an ongoing series of site-based photographic scenarios and video scenarios. When the Wind Blows depicts six scenes of apparently mundane nuclear landscapes and reflects my experience of these sites. The intertitles specify location and the official dates of operation.

The sites include nuclear-energy production, defence-related sites, radioactive waste and post-accident and remediated sites. Surrounded by secrecy, located in remote environments or hidden away behind signs restricting entry, these sites are often beautiful and always, on investigation, compromised. Vulnerable to fragile security systems, weather, flawed protocols, political priorities, mismanagement and corruption, and sometimes just simple mistakes, nuclear facilities reflect the limitations of the fallible entities that manage them.

MARCH

March
Installation view, MARCH, The Sceptical Image exhibition, Sydney College of the Arts Galleries, Sydney, 2014

Merilyn Fairskye 2014
Two-channel HDV installation with stereo sound.
Duration: 1x2 min. loop, 1x7 min. loop
VIMEO link

On 19 March, 2014, Vladimir Putin formally annexed Crimea to the Russian Federation. Since then the political and social situation has remained tense and competing claims have been issued that have not resolved the real differences between Russia and Ukraine that have been brought into focus through this action. MARCH traces some of the key fault-lines between empire and ordinary people.

Long Life (1)

Long life
Long Life, City of Hobart Art Prize, 2013, Tasmanian Art Gallery and Museum, Hobart

Merilyn Fairskye 2013
Single-channel video installation
Duration: 07:00, stereo sound
VIMEO link

The South Alligator River near the Ranger Uranium Mine in outback Australia is in flood. Waterbirds swoop and glide across silver surfaces in and out of sync with unmoored radio signals from Sputnik 1, the long-lost satellite. Birds and signals, traces adrift in the ether of flooded, radioactive wetlands.

Precarious

Precarious
Poster, Precarious 2011

Merilyn Fairskye 2011
Duration: 66:00, HDV, colour, stereo sound
VIMEO link
Precarious trailer

Precarious is a road movie. The journey starts, 1,000 kilometres away, in Crimea, in inverse direction to the flow of contaminated water from Chernobyl, via the Pripyat and Dnieper Rivers, to the Black Sea. It takes us right into the heart of Chernobyl. To Reactor No. 4. Our companions are an unseen group of people who have experienced Chernobyl at first hand.

July 10 1982

July 10
July 10 1982, 2010

Merilyn Fairskye 2010
2-channel video installation
Duration 04:00 loops, colour, stereo sound

A video work for that commemorated the opening of the Woolloomooloo Mural Project on July 10, 1982 for the exhibition TIME AND SPACE at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery, Sydney, 3 July-15 August 2010.
The footage of the opening of the Woolloomooloo Mural Project (artists Michael Dolk and Merilyn Fairskye) on July 10, 1982, originally recorded by Beth McRae, Erika Addis and Pat Fiske, was re-mixed and slowed down to inscribe a time and space for memory and reflection. Still photographs taken at the opening by Sandy Edwards have also been incorporated. Former BLF organiser and green bans activist Joe Owens was one of the the soundtrack.

Fieldwork I & II

Field work I Stills
Installation view, 100 exhibition, Stills Gallery, Sydney, 2009
Fieldwork I (Echo Point, Giza, Pripyat)

Three-channel video installation, 3 custom screens, 168x300cm.
Colour, stereo sound. Duration: 6 minute loops.

1. Echo Point, Katoomba, looking across to The Three Sisters. The Three Sisters, one of the Blue Mountains' most famous sights, tower above the Jamison Valley. A false Dreamtime legend was created in 1942 to boost tourism in the area. It claimed that three sisters fell in love with three men from a neighbouring tribe, but marriage was forbidden by tribal law. Battle ensued. The sisters were turned to stone by an elder to protect them, but the elder was killed in the fighting and no one the else could turn them back to flesh.

2. Menkaure's Pyramid, Giza, looking across to Cairo. The smallest pyramid, the tomb of Menkaure, was built sometime during the 26th Century BC. According to legend, Menkaure was a pious and beneficent king, in contrast to his two predecessors, Chephren and Cheops. In 1835, the remains of a wooden anthropoid coffin inscribed with Menkaure's name and containing human bones were discovered in the upper antechamber of the pyramid and removed. The coffin can now be viewed in the British Museum.

3. Pripyat, looking across to Reactor 4, Chernobyl. The ruined Chernobyl nuclear facility still contains some 200 tons of radioactive fuel. A steel and concrete shell was built soon after the disaster to contain the radiation. It is becoming increasingly unstable. A billion-dollar Safe Confinement replacement has recently been completed, designed to enclose the existing sarcophagus for 100 years. Within the lifetime of the new shelter, it is hoped that a way of dealing with the radioactive fuel and the breached reactor will be found.

Field work II Stills
Installation view, 100 exhibition, Stills Gallery, Sydney, 2009
Fieldwork II (Chernobyl)

Merilyn Fairskye 2009
Single channel video projection.
Colour, silent. Duration: 100 minutes.
Link

A 100-minute tracking shot, made with a small camera through the window of a moving car, takes you into a bleak, winter landscape, littered with deserted villages engulfed by trees. A long row of ghostly, abandoned houses stands on snow-covered ground. Further along the road other houses are buried under a thick layer of clay. You learn only from the title where this place is. Moving footage is time-stretched to the point where the image, on the verge of disintegration, is almost stilled.

..
Field work II Stills
Fieldwork II Street Screen, Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney, 2015

Aqua/ocean

Aqua/ocean
Installation view, 100 exhibition, Stills Gallery, Sydney

Merilyn Fairskye 2009
2-channel video installation. Colour, silent
Duration: 3 minute loop.

Aqua/ocean continues the Aqua series of works, which depict people immersed in different bodies of water. On a grey day, surfers paddle out towards a ship that passes without stopping. A rainbow arches across the overcast sky.

My Favourite Australian

Ruth Lewis
Still from Ruth Lewis 2008 2008 (from My Favourite Australian, commissioned by ABC TV)

Merilyn Fairskye 2008
HD transferred to DV50, DVD
Duration: 02:30, stereo sound
Single channel video.

Sir William Deane
Still from Sir William Deane 2008 (from My Favourite Australian, commissioned by ABC TV)

Merilyn Fairskye 2008
HD transferred to DV50, DVD
Duration: 03:00, stereo sound
Single channel video. VIMEO link

Dian Wellfare
Still from Dian Wellfare 2008 (from My Favourite Australian, commissioned by ABC TV)

Merilyn Fairskye 2008
HD transferred to DV50, DVD
Duration: 03:00, stereo sound
Single channel video.

My Favourite Australian is a project developed in collaboration between the National Portrait Gallery, ABC TV and the people of Australia. Early in 2008, the ABC commissioned video portraits by twenty-three artists and filmmakers of a selection of well known and little-known Australians who were voted for by the Australian public.

I was invited to create video portraits of three very different subjects. The portrait of Sir William Deane, Governor-General 1996-2001, was created from ABC archival material. Brief text excerpts from speeches made whilst he was Governor-General scroll past his image, which appears to fold in on itself. I wanted to provide an unfamiliar, almost intimate point of engagement for the viewer with a very public, much-loved figure.
Produced in association with Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

MFA installation Wellfare
Installation view, My Favourite Australian, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra 2008

Stati d'Animo

The overall body of work, Stati d'Animo, invokes the trilogy of paintings (1911) by the Futurist artist Umberto Boccioni that addressed the mixture of dynamism, chaos, and anxiety of those who leave, those who stay behind and those who say farewell in the modern city of the early 20th century. The international airport replaces Boccioni's railway station as the principal site of human movement - a technological zone of passage in which people suspend their usual lives.

Stati d'Animo exists in several forms - as stills, a video essay, and multi-channel and single-channel video installations.

LAX
Screen shot, Stati d'Animo

Stati d'Animo Merilyn Fairskye, 2007-2011
Single-channel HDV. Duration: 24:34
5.1 Surround Sound, Stereo sound

There are five sequences - Arrival, Crossing, Waiting, Departure and Farewell. Airports and their environs are monitored to create a sense of place that is layered with shadows, echoes and reflections. Communications between ground staff and flight crew, airport announcements, interweave with personal stories of loss and new beginnings to form "conversations" that populate the airport. The airwaves are dense with the echoes of human drama.

Produced in Association with the Australian Film Commission.
Produced with the assistance of Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney.

Stati Taipei
Installation view, Stati d'Animo, Discovering the Other Exhibition, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2007

Stati d'Animo|States of Mind 2007
Three-Channel video installation, 24:00 loops
5.1 Surround Sound

Stati 60sec
Installation view, Stati d'Animo/60 Seconds/07, Stills Gallery, Sydney 2007

Stati d'Animo/60 Seconds/07 2007
Single-channel video installation: wall projection, acrylic sheet
Original format: HDV, colour, stereo
Transferred to DVD, 04:45 loop

60 one-second sequences of anonymous travellers captured at 18 airports. Stati d'Animo/60 Seconds/07 is the final component of a body of work that exists in several forms -- as stills, as cinema projection and as single and multi-channel installations.

Stati 2005
Installation view, Stati d'Animo, Stills Gallery, Sydney 2005

Stati d'Animo 2005
Three-channel SD video installation
Original format: HDV, colour, stereo
Original format: video PAL, transferred to DVD
Color, silent, 04:00 loops

On the left, a view across a tarmac. A plane glides into an arrivals bay as a sheet of newspaper furls and unfurls itself over and over. On the right screen, drifting high above the clouds, an endless daydream into nothingness. In the middle, 60 one-second grabs of anonymous bodies captured at 12 international airports.

Public Projects

Light, illusion and the movement of people

Between 1995-2001, I created several public artworks. In each case, the work is a response to the environment in which it is to be located. Working with a wide range of materials, I have explored these concerns using anamorphosis, light and illusion, to reconfigure the space between the material surface of the artwork and the viewer.

Stati d'Animo

Sydney Airport at Work Program. Artist: Merilyn Fairskye. Commissioned by Sydney Airport Corporation Ltd. Installed October 2006.

This work was derived from SFO/#2/9secs, an image in the Stati d'Animo/9 seconds 2005 series. It depicts the individual frames from nine seconds of video footage of travellers arriving at San Francisco Airport from Sydney. Small incidents play out over a trajectory of 225 frames.

Tide

Tide
Tide, Rialto Square, Manly (in between Wentworth Street and The Corso). Artist: Merilyn Fairskye. Commissioned by Manly Council. Completed April 2001

Six polished stainless steel column structures of varying heights are dispersed in a diagonal line from near Wentworth Street to the beginning of Rialto Lane where it meets the Square. Each structure houses acoustic sound activated during the day. Fibre optic lighting is activated at night. Each column's lighting is a movement between four monochromatic tones. The effect is of liquid, subtly changing colour. From one end of the square to the other, the colour spectrum is played out. The structures are supported off the ground by a central steel rod. Additional coloured light washes down from inside onto a white granite surround. The structures appear to float on light. The height of the columns coincides with high tide levels on six dates, from 4000BC to May 28, 2000. The sound component is no longer functional, but when it was, once each day, at the time of the lowest tide for that date, the repeated chiming of a single note could be heard in each column. At noon the sounds combined to play an interpretation of a transcription by a European circa 1825 of an Aboriginal song from the Sydney region.

Sea (Kurnell)

Art at Work Program, Sydney International Terminal, Mascot. Artist: Merilyn Fairskye. Completed Aug. 2000

Sea Kurnell
  
Sea Kurnell 2

This was an initiative associated with the 2000 Olympics. Several artists were commissioned to create an image for customized lightboxes that are dispersed throughout the new arrival terminals at the International Airport. This work is 1m high by 2m long. With this image, I knew that people would be viewing it as they quickly moved past. An anamorphic stretch, the overall image is to be seen out of the corner of the eye. There is a hidden image within it that is only visible as you approach the lightbox from an oblique angle.

Material World

Material world
Material World: Devonshire Street Tunnel
Material world 2
Material World: Bus Interchange windscreens.

Material World, Railway Square, Sydney. Artist: Merilyn Fairskye. Commissioned by City of Sydney. Opened July 1999.

This work echoes the idea of the vanished colonial gateway to the city. Using anamorphic perspective, and digitally stretched and elongated images, the four light boxes in the tunnel play with perception and the changing position of the viewer - appearing to move as people rush past. Every now and then, the hidden image of a face appears and then disappears. The viewer moves through saturated colours reflected on the ceiling of the tunnel. These reflections themselves compress and stretch depending on the position of the viewer, and change in intensity as you moves along.

The windscreen images, no longer extant, were situated at either end of Railway Square, were where, under the bus shelters, people alight, or wait for the buses. These digitally manipulated images representing the four material elements - Air, Fire, Water and Earth. They have been photographed at inner coastal locations around Sydney - La Perouse, Kurnell, North Head and The Gap. Each of these sites has a particular and complex social and historical resonance. These locations approximate the entrances to Port Jackson and Botany Bay.

Air and Space

Air and Space 1
Air and Space (Grid)
Air and Space 2
Air and Space (Grid):
Air and Space 3
Air and Space (Grid)


Air and Space (Grid): Foyer, Plaza Level, former State Office Building, 111 George Street, Brisbane. Artist: Merilyn Fairskye. Commissioned by the Queensland State Government. Completed December 1995

Two blue channels and a red aluminium grid attached to the four interior walls of the skylight at the plaza level form a grid within the square of the skylight. An empty rhomboid is centred within the grid. It is anchored flat yet appears three dimensional when viewed from different positions. Red and white neon are visible at the top of the channel. As the spectator passes through the foyer space, the grid compresses optically, thus allowing the center shape to appear to compress into a square and then to stretch out again. At a certain time of year (April), the position of the sun at midday and its effect on the shadows cast onto the floor and walls through the skylight cause the shadow of the rhomboid to appear as a perfect square on the floor below. At night the effect of the neon light dominates the work. The glass pyramid surmounting the work is filled with reflections, which change as the position of the viewer changes. What is seen from below in full sunlight differs from what is seen when the sky is overcast. What is seen at night is different again.

Woolloomooloo Mural Project

Murals
The Woolloomooloo Mural Project: Woolloomooloo viaduct, between Cahill Expressway and Harmer Street. Artists: Merilyn Fairskye and Michiel Dolk, and invited artists. 1980-83
Woolloomooloo 1
BLF and FEDFA murals Artists: Merilyn Fairskye and Michiel Dolk. 1980-83
Woolloomooloo2
Victoria Street Artists: Merilyn Fairskye and Michiel Dolk. 1980-83
Woolloomooloo 3
Waterside Workers Artists: Merilyn Fairskye and Michiel Dolk. 1980-83

Today, when only objects valued by museums and collectors are enshrined in the history of art, we may recollect and reflect on a historical moment of activism by artists committed to a different social future for art. It was a time of collaboration between artists, but also of collaboration with social constituencies beyond the prevailing institutions and middle class enclaves of art. The Woolloomooloo Mural Project represents such a moment of engagement by artists concerned to find different social relations for artistic practice in Sydney. It also commemorates a history of those who fought for a different, a more socially inclusive and environmentally aware future for Sydney.

It is difficult in retrospect to overstate the significance of the battle for Victoria Street and the battle for Woolloomooloo; one was lost, the other won; both had an impact on the future of the inner city suburbs. Woolloomooloo was a working class community shaped by shared memories of the Depression and War years - a community in decline and revitalised by the struggle to save the area from private redevelopment. The residents' campaign succeeded with the intervention of trade union green-bans, the Whitlam Government and the NSW Housing Commission. When we first approached the Residents Action Group in 1979 through local advocate and architect Col James with a proposal to create a public artwork on the pylons of the Eastern Suburbs Railway, it was made clear to us that the residents wished to see their own history represented. Our own artistic concerns and interests were to be subsumed by this. The result, on eight of the 17 pylons, was a montage form of social portraiture in which the documentary record of street life culled from personal photo-albums and State Archives intersected with the media record of social protest and community activism. We commissioned artists Robert Eadie, Ruth Waller, Tim Maguire, Vicki Varvaressos, Angela Gee, Bob Clutterbuck, Toby Zoates, and Robyn Heks to create billboard paintings that addressed a range of themes on seven of the remaining pylons. We always envisaged that the history murals would have a limited life. We gave them ten years at most because of their location in a public park and thoroughfare, exposed to the weather. In response to community concerns however, the Sydney City Council recently intervened to preserve the murals as an enduring historical record that has become identified with the area.

As a unique record of time and place, film and photography have a documentary immediacy unavailable to any attempts to revive popular history painting as a public art. The footage of the opening of the Woolloomooloo Mural Project on July 10, 1982, originally recorded by Beth McRae, Erika Addis and Pat Fiske, has been re-mixed by Merilyn Fairskye - slowed down in order to inscribe a time and space for memory and reflection. Still photographs taken at the opening by Sandy Edwards have also been incorporated. Former BLF organiser and green bans activist Joe Owens was one of the speakers at the opening. His speech provides the soundtrack. Like the murals, the gathering reveals itself as a commemorative event and celebration owned and shared by the community and its supporters.

Michiel Dolk and Merilyn Fairskye
(Catalogue text for the exhibition Time and Space, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre, July-August 2010)

Cutheringa (unrealised)

Cutheringa
Cutheringa 2011 Townsville Hospital Expansion, Townsville, Qld. Artist: Merilyn Fairskye

A site-specific triptych incorporating aerial imagery, glass, reflected light and colour, and the red granite of Castle Hill

the concept:

Cutheringa evokes several journeys - through Aboriginal history and mythology to the present associated with Cutheringa, the original name given to Castle Hill in the centre of town, the red granite almost-mountain. This history and mythology around the name Cutheringa haven't been recorded, but the name apparently survives as one of only two known indigenous place names in the Townsville region.

In the context of the Emergency Department site, the artwork is evocative rather than descriptive or narrative. There is no set story here, rather a field of possibilities. The visible traces of the glare of the sun hitting the camera lens, and the fragment of wing in the exterior panel, reveal that this is no cosmic heavenly apparition, but rather, the familiar view from the inside of a plane, looking down through the clouds, this time to Townsville, visible as glimpsed fragments, and earthed through the solid materiality of the red granite of Castle Hill that sits amongst the image.

fabrication/construction

The artwork is in three parts.
Exterior and interior photographic sections using high resolution, Vivid Image Exterior, red granite section.
All with specialist lighting.

Aqua (unrealised)

Aqua
 
Aqua Model
 
Aqua 2009, 123 Albert Street, Brisbane. Artist: Merilyn Fairskye
the concept:

Aqua - a site-specific public artwork incorporating time-lapse imagery, glass, reflected light and colour, and the movement of people. From a distance you see an abstract field of aqua, then, closer, an image forms an aerial view of a swimming pool, the horizontal field anchored by the black lane markings, and, even closer, a man floats in time and space across the surface of the water. The image provides an unexpected conceptual interruption to the busy streetscape. An iconic Queensland image, at the same time abstract, painterly and figurative. Appearing out of the blue like a mirage, it offers an oasis of cool in the heat of Brisbane.

The large tree near the wall on Albert Street becomes part of the work, a living screen that reveals and conceals, depending on where you happen to be. As you get close the image dissolves into a grid of pixels. A glass mural, one tile per pixel, covers the entire wall. The overall effect will be to glow and reflect intense colour in the shade that falls on the wall, and to sparkle in the sun. An intense vibrancy creates an effect that recalls the gestural and painterly qualities of Impressionism.

A transformative exchange takes place between the image, the adjacent walls, the surrounding streetscape, the movement of vehicles, weather conditions, the position of the sun, people in overlooking buildings, people passing through/using Albert Street. A sense of duration is embedded into the photographic moment of the swimmer in the pool.

fabrication/construction

The image, reworked for this context and codified into pixels 20mmx20mm each, transforms one of the images from the Aqua series of 2007. Each pixel of the image translates onto the wall as a single, monochromatic glass tile. The tiles are 20mmx20mm, installed directly onto the wall.

Wallsend in Sight (unrealised)

Wallsend 1
 
Wallsend 2
 
Wallsend 3
 
Wallsend in Sight 2005 Brickworks Park, Wallsend.
Commissioner: Newcastle City Council.
Artists: Michiel Dolk and Merilyn Fairskye
the concept:

The proposed art-work featuring 'brickwork', consists of 3 interrelated elements:

  1. A brick sphere or monumental eyeball with 'red-belly' iris and aperture (pupil) oriented to the setting sun above the western entrance to the park. Aperture on the opposite pole of the sphere will form a spotlight at designated time of day/year.
  2. A brick wall(s) on the north/south axis frames the sphere and forms an entrance to the quarry enclosure of indigenous bush-parkland. The height of wall is determined by adjacent mound/ground levels on either side of the central avenue. This establishes a strong horizon line below the elevation of the quarry wall.
  3. Soundwork, (telephonic access to audio recording) for heritage interpretation and website for educational purposes

The proposed design brings clarity to a complex design brief and embodies the history of the site with a sculptural and architectural celebration of bricks in a bold signature motif. The use of brick is consistent with the Design brief. Few bricks with clay sourced and manufactured on site are available to the project. It is proposed to source commons pressed and coal fired in the same manner, from a brick manufacturer such as Namoi Valley Bricks. For both sphere and wall, bricks will be selected to resemble the original red-belly, and the sandstone and coal seam strata of the quarry wall, in particular the relationship between three colours - red ochre, pale yellow ochre, and grey.

The principal site identified for artwork, on the main axis, the avenue between the school playground and the lake observation platform is framed by trees. The plan therefore appears to require a work, sign, object or monument towards which the gaze is directed along the axis.

The brief suggests the use of bricks, which are not available on site. There are few extant bricks on site other than those in residual structures submerged in the quarry lake. At the risk of bringing coals to Newcastle, it may be necessary to bring bricks to Wallsend.

Artist Books

alphabets
alone

Toxicity

Arch
Arch (1:100), 2011 Acrylic paint, builders chalk, oil pastel on canvas 168.5x300cm

With audio track, 4 track audio remix, loop duration 05:00.
Adapted from an original sound composition by Robert Hindley.
Exhibited Toxicity, Sydney College of the Arts Galleries, 2011

In this collaborative project (4 artists, one writer), toxicity has been encouraged to take a handful of its potentially infinite number of forms. The surest thing about toxicity might well be this: it can never be eradicated from any world we live in, we have to live with it.

Proposals for Rooms with Columns

Around 1990 I was working a lot with the image of the face, depicted in a away that tried to evoke what I thought of as a 'space in between' (sleeping and waking, breathing and not-breathing, the conscious and the unconscious). I made a series of large diptychs, paintings from the series smoke of various people smoking. The phenomenon of breathing interested me, as did the non-scientific idea of the idea of smoke being unverifiable, loose in the air, unable to be seized, like a shadow. These paintings hovered somewhere between photography and painting.

My very early interest in anamorphosis remains, here translated into a possibility that is hinted at through the spaces that exist between the material planes or surfaces of the work.

from the site-specific series Proposals for Rooms with Columns

Boris Columns
Boris(Sarajevo 1992) 1993, 3 pulp columns, 300x50cm, oil paint, acrylic painted wall
Boris Columns 2
Installation view: Boris(Sarajevo 1992) Institute of Modern Art Brisbane 1993, 3 pulp columns, 300x50cm, oil paint, acrylic painted wall

Smoke

This series of works was exhibited in New York, Sydney, Brisbane and Townsville between 1991 and 1993.

Crack smoker
Green (Crack Smoker, New York 1992) 1992 diptych, oil, canvas, 72x96cm
Freud
Blue (Sigmund Freud, Berlin 1928) 1991 diptych, oil, canvas, 72x96cm
Jerry
Tourquoise (J.Robert Oppenheimer, Washington, 1950) 1991 diptych, oil, canvas, 72x96cm

Natural Science

Natural Science
Natural Science (Alchemy) 1988 Oil, dry pigment, bronze powder, damar on canvas, 7 panels, 220x579x94cm
Iran Air
Natural Science (Iran Air) 1988 Oil and aluminium powder on canvas, 7 panels, 216x440x105cm
Leibschaft
Natural Science (Leibschaft) 1988 Oil on canvas, 7 panels, 220x579x94cm
Alchemy AGNSW-1
Installation view, Alchemy, Art Gallery of NSW 2006
AGNSW-2
Installation view, Alchemy, Art Gallery of NSW 2006

Exhibited at Roslyn Oxley Gallery9, Sydney, 1989 and Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 1989, and individual paintings were later exhibited at Art Gallery of NSW, Art Gallery of Western Australia and Artis Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand. They were acquired by Art Gallery of NSW (Alchemy), Art Gallery of Western Australia (Iran Air), and Queensland Art Gallery (Leibschaft).

About

Merilyn Fairskye is a visual artist living in Sydney whose recent video and photographic work explores the effects of powerful events of real life on humans and the environment. Current projects that explore the relationships between technology, atomic landscapes and community have taken her on location to the Polygon in Kazakhstan, Sellafield, Chernobyl, and other key nuclear sites. This has resulted in an art film, video installations and photographic series that have been exhibited in Australia and internationally.

Her work has been presented in over 180 exhibitions and festivals, including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern London; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Art Gallery of NSW; Songzhuang Art Museum, China; the National Palace Museum, Taipei; Al Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival, Doha; the International Film Festival Rotterdam(6 times); Videobrasil; Kassel Documentary Film Festival and the Sydney Film Festival. Her feature-length art film, Precarious, was nominated for the 2012 Al Jazeera Documentary Channel long-form film award.

Merilyn Fairskye

Videos and text about Merilyn Fairskye's screen-based works can be found here: Plus and Minus Productions and Precarious.

Contact

PO Box 590
Newtown NSW 2042 Australia
e-mail: Merilyn Fairskye

Her work has been recognized through artist residencies in the US, Italy, France, UK & Australia, numerous Australia Council and Australian Film Commission grants and a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship. It is held in most public collections in Australia, the Museum of Modern Art, NY, and the Getty Center, Santa Monica. It featured in the three-part television arts series The Good Life, (ABC TV), and My Favourite Australian, (ABC TV) and has been extensively written about in the art and general press including Sydney Morning Herald, Artlink, Cahiers du Cinema, Asia Pacific Arts, Art & Australia. It is the subject of a book chapter in A Secret History of Australian Art (Rex Butler).

Fairskye has been invited to submit proposals for numerous public art works with substantial budgets. These invitations provided opportunities for research and development of her artistic ideas on a conceptual and material scale not possible in gallery contexts. She has been awarded a total of 12 major public art commissions, alone or in collaboration with other artists, since becoming a professional artist.

She is Honorary Associate Professor at the Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney.

Catalogue

Claustrophobia
Long Life (Kazakhstan)
Long Life (Dungeness)
Long Life (Ranger)
Plant Life (Chernobyl)
Aqua/Pool 2007
Aqua/Script 2007
Stati d'Animo/Seconds 2005
Stati d'Animo/Seconds 2005
Connected 2003
  • Connected #7 2003 RA-4 Prints on Duraclear, steel hooks 175x87.5cm Edition of 5. Available as pigment prints, 168x84cm
  • Connected #8 2003 RA-4 Prints on Duraclear, steel hooks 175x87.5cm Edition of 5. Available as pigment prints, 168x84cm
  • Connected #9 2003 RA-4 Prints on Duraclear, steel hooks 175x87.5cm Edition of 5. Available as pigment prints, 168x84cm
  • Connected #10 2003 RA-4 Prints on Duraclear, steel hooks 175x87.5cm Edition of 5. Available as pigment prints, 168x84cm
  • Connected #11 2003 RA-4 Prints on Duraclear, steel hooks 175x87.5cm Edition of 5. Available as pigment prints, 168x84cm
  • Connected #12 2003 RA-4 Prints on Duraclear, steel hooks 175x87.5cm Edition of 5. Available as pigment prints, 168x84cm
  • Connected #13 2003 RA-4 Prints on Duraclear, steel hooks 175x87.5cm Edition of 5. Available as pigment prints, 168x84cm
  • Connected #14 2003 RA-4 Prints on Duraclear, steel hooks 175x87.5cm Edition of 5. Available as pigment prints, 168x84cm
  • Connected #15 2003 RA-4 Prints on Duraclear, steel hooks 175x87.5cm Edition of 5. Available as pigment prints, 168x84cm
  • Installation View 2003 Connected, Araluen Galleries, Alice Springs, NT
  • Installation View 2003 Connected, Stills Gallery, Sydney
  • Installation View 2003 Connected, Stills Gallery, Sydney
Sea and Sky 2000
Material World
After Image 1995