Remaking the World with Julie Rrap - Art Collector

Julie Rrap, Re-making the world: Artists’ dreaming (video still, 2015. 20-channel HD video installation. Courtesy: the artist and Arc One Gallery, Melbourne, and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

Emily Cones-Browne talks to Julie Rrap about her current exhibition Remaking the world- an ambitious project that examines the role of the artist and creativity in a contemporary context.

Remaking the World is an ambitious exhibition featuring video installation, sculpture and photography to investigate society’s stereotyping assumptions and misconceptions about artists and the creative process. You’ve been practicing since the 1970s- what has been the most frustrating assumption you’ve encountered about what it is to be an artist?
I don’t think I have encountered frustrating assumptions about what it is to be an artist except perhaps a naïve interpretation of the ‘genius’ of the creative act or something. I think of artists as artisans and thinkers but that they are very much part of the world around them. Oh…and perhaps one frustration maybe…. that most great artists are men!

Since the 1970s you’ve been investigating the ways in which the human body has been perceived and represented, and you have contributed hugely to the cultural ‘remake’ of the world and the Australian art landscape. During your career, how has the role of the artist changed, in particular within Australia?
I think in general the art scene has changed internationally and Australia is a part of that change. Art is seen as an industry, which is very different to the art world that I entered in the 1970’s in Australia. The role of the artist therefore has changed in accordance with this shift, although I don’t believe artists themselves change but the cultural, commercial or other contexts in which they find themselves or their work interpreted, reflects these changes.

You’ve used the museum’s architecture and the two spaces in the gallery to create two spheres or ‘worlds’ of the brain, with one gallery Remaking the world: artists’ dreaming an asleep world, and Remaking the World: in her image the awake world. What provoked you to turn such invisible spaces into physical ones?
I like to work with space as a component of the artwork; even another character in the work. The Ian Potter space creates a mirroring in the two downstairs spaces, which I have always noticed when visiting the museum. This doubling conjured a sort of bi-polar world, which reflected as it were the two sides of the brain. It seemed a logical place to start or certainly to consider as the making of the various elements of the exhibition began to unfold. The processes of making and then conceptualizing the whole show move in and out of one another. The space becomes a sort of theatre of projection in which the work will exist. Particularly in a big show such as Remaking the World developing a ‘narrative’ allows a parameter in which the different aspects of the work can begin to co-exist. These associations are often as intuitive as they are calculated.

Which ‘world’ do you think is most important to you as an artist- the asleep or the awake, and why?
Remaking the World in its two parts was intended to reflect these dual states in which art exists. One is private, the other public. When any artist is conceiving an idea, a process, a making there is an openness and a sense of risk that is a necessary component of the shift between thought and action, between an idea and an actual ‘thing’. While these processes are engaged the work has a sort of infinite potentiality, which I identify as ‘art’. Maintaining this potential once the work is installed within a cultural context; a museum, gallery, private collection, outdoor space etc. becomes entangled with audience expectation, historical imperatives and social engagement. What I wanted to highlight in Remaking the World were these different ‘environments’ in which the work exists; one quietly invisible, the other visibly intense.

This exhibition encourages a poetic and contemplative reflection on dreaming, the imagination and creativity. How important is art in provoking and nurturing these three aspects of the subconscious?
A lot has been made of the Artists Dreaming space as some poetic response to the creative process but in fact this underlines the sort of ‘myths’ developed around the idea of creativity. In fact I wanted to convey something quite mundane in that we all dream but the difference with visual artists who are artisans is that they produce something ‘actual’ from their musings. These tangible outputs exist in the world and through time in museums etc., which are actually giant storehouses of individual reflections on the world through these material ‘things’. The names of the artists are listed in the room because I wanted viewers to source these artists’ work online and imagine for him or herself what each artist might produce. If anything it breaks the myth of creating into something real and tangible.

To re-enforce this the other room
In Her image provokes the great creative myth of remaking the world in His image as proposed by certain religious sensibilities. This room is intended to be intense but also ironic in suggesting image reproduction and cloning as contemporary models for populating the world. The room is like a Plato’s Cave of the imagination with moving and static images almost tumbling over one another. The darkness in the room makes some works almost indecipherable which reflects the “Double Eclipse” of the large video work in which metaphorically the eyes are at times all seeing and then completely blind.

The exhibition allows spectators to voyeuristically watch the artists’ solitary bodies deep in their dream states, creating a high level of intimacy. Viewers are connected to the dreaming element of the artists’ creative process through their ability to relate to this very human experience- to what degree are you hoping non-artists will feel immediately connected, and thus change their perception of the role of the artist?
From what I could ascertain, I think audiences find the room deeply relaxing. Because the bodies are hanging upside down in some middle space of the room they are somehow elusive, abstract even, and their sleeping becomes more dream-like for the audience. In fact the whole room feels really dreamy which [I think] creates a state of tranquility. Because there are 30 different sleepers who rotate over the 20 screens they are elusive in their appearance so they are more like specters from our own dreaming.

To make Artists’ Dreaming, you invited 30 artists to your studio to sleep and thus dream on the concept of remaking the world. What was their response- did this process affect any of their art making, or provoke new works of art?
This was something I chose not to follow up on…it would be interesting to speculate if they did create any new work from the experience but again this was not discussed as part of the project. Their sleeping was really a private event and in the intention of the work it always remains a latent space of creative speculation.

In what way does the sleeping and dreaming process affect your practice as an artist? Did this exhibition idea spark from a dream?
The idea sparked more from musing on when art becomes art. I was reflecting that the space of dreaming, or simply toying with ideas for work or mucking around in the studio with different materials, is really where the rawness of art happens… and that when it is exhibited it becomes part of culture. I know many artists have worked with including the process of making into the presentation of the work itself, i.e. someone historically such as Joseph Beuys, but I just wanted to share this contemplative space with an audience. In this sense the audience imagines what each artist might make as they dream on the concept of remaking the world through the realization of an artwork.

In
remaking the World: Artists Dreaming, I am just one of the artists depicted dreaming. I guess in part the work did also stem from the fact that I often do use sleeping/dreaming as a place of reverie where ideas do surface for potential works.

Going back to the theme of intimacy, in what way do you think our 21st century extreme digital dependence has increased our interest in voyeurism and altered our need for fundamental human intimacy?
I actually think that our prevalence in spending so much time in these virtual digital spaces could also intensify our encounters with the real world. For me this means that the material presence of visual art could become more important for people to experience. In fact a lot of photography students now want to work with analogue processes over digital ones purely because of its material processes.

I’m not sure if our digital dependence promotes or lessens intimacy but if we think back to earlier times when people might have corresponded [in writing] over some years with a potential partner, intimacy was still shared through these written encounters without physical contact.

As you’ve said previously, the practice of visual artists manifests a type of remaking of the world through their perceptions and realisations. What do you hope the main response to this exhibition will be?
In the first instance I would hope that people experience the spaces and works as magical and mysterious; that wonder might be opened up for them. To reflect on the capacity of the human imagination to conjure the world in many different ways can become an empowering position and one that we can all share. This can be done through conventional myths of creating the world but it can also be an individual aspiration. Obviously I am also partly making a parody of mythological stories of creation and stressing the switch between His and Her remaking of the world, but I would like to think that the whole exhibition is a conflation between dreaming, the big bang theory, science fiction, religion, feminism, the material and the virtual… a contemporary gesamtkunstwerk!

Remaking the world exhibits at The Ian Potter Museum of Art until 15 November 2015.
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