January 25, 2012

Grand Chasm

December 3, 2011

Kenzie Larsen, William Mansfield, Eddie Sharp, Grand Chasm, Wood, Mirror, Foam, Acrylic, Sand, Dimensions variable, 2011


A special thank you to Jeremy Hansen, this work would not have been possible without your generosity and expertise. Thank you from the bottom of the bottomless pit.

Thank you

Angus Hudson, Julian Morrow, Claudia O’Doherty, Patrick Dagg, Dominic Broadhurst, Dominic Kirkwood, Angela Raven, Rick Mansfield, Lucy Parikhina, Frances Barett, Ben Stone Herbert,  Sean McElvogue, Mike Smith, Dara Gill, Jasmine Ellis and Naomi Van Anen at Whirlwind Print, James Brown, Kali Reid, Coralie and Jeff Mansfield, Chrissy Sharp

Ayres Rock Roadhouse & The Grand Chasm

Imagine you’re skimming the south Pacific at a ballistic speed, you flash past New Zealand’s eastern shore, and then suddenly you begin to slow. As you glide across the Tasman a grey green smidgen appears on the horizon and gradually expands between the cobalt ocean and kerosene sky.

Now you’re slowing right down. You float over an ocean break wall, past a seaweed-flecked beach, and land with an unceremonious ‘plop’ in an outcrop of mangroves. Covered in grey mud the rotting corpse of a long dead pelican lays wedged between the shard of an esky lid and an oyster-encrusted rock. A ripped CC’s packet glints in the sun as it floats on a thin film of silvery water.

As you slide further down a narrow coastal creek all you can hear is the blowy coastal breeze ruffling the leaves of the Avicennia marina and the minute lap of water as it washes and recedes over the sandy banks. In tiny increments you’re pushed towards the mulchy flotsam that lies scattered on the shore. Tall blades of grass cast long fingers of shadow on the sand in the pink light.

You pass a long strip of frayed car tire lying on the shore; a shopping trolley lies half submerged in the mud. Off in the distance you can hear a mad thrashing. It looms closer by the second. Crashing through the scrub appears a man with a burnt look in his eyes, dressed in loose track pants and a singlet, clinging to a depleted pallet of water. He madly dashes in the direction of the creek dragging a wedding train of shredded wrapping plastic behind him like some demented bride. Between the casurina and banksia the wind is starting to quieten; the din of lorikeets is building. And then you see it.

A rock. Tinged ochre orange and flecked with rivers of greyish white it looks like a half sunken meteor. As you float closer you see it is surrounded by a concrete perimeter that’s utterly unkempt and crumbling; huge cortaderia selloana grow between the cracks. A trio of rusty petrol bowsers stand guard over a pair of shattered glass doors that lead into the craggy mound.

The dying light of the day illuminates the inside of this rocky apparition. A store emblazoned with the sign ’AUST. SOUVENIRS’ has been dismantled, its floor littered with postcards. ‘Road Stop Diner’ is putrid; a chair’s been thrown through the glass window of a bain-marie filled with stinking, decomposed chicken wings. As the stench wafts through the air you can hear Burt Bacharach’s ‘Do You Know the way to San Jose’ floating from the tinny speakers stationed in the cavernous ceiling. Outside the air is still; there is absolutely no movement at the station.    

Ayres Rock Roadhouse is the result of a mythic, white, Australian romanticism refined and distilled into a heady fragrance of hot chips and urinal cakes. ‘Grand Chasm’ is an installation that plays on a similar vain of crumbling Australian iconography; it harnesses its vernacular of myth and turns it into an experiential, cavernous space. Australia has been continually ‘opened up’ by mining and pastoral interests for the better part of 200 years. As the economic structures that blight the landscape grow exponentially so to does the mind’s potential to distort the unreality of our own country.

In their previous theatrical production, Larsen, Mansfield and Sharp, immersed their audience in psychotic, cinematic delusions via lo-tech effects. They also gradually exposed the mechanisms behind these effects as the play progressed.

‘Grand Chasm’ pushes these ideas to the point of total slippage; there are no bounds between illusion and effect, mystery and myth, the deluded and the sane, natural amphitheatre and artwork. So roll up! All you have to do is come up the stairs.

Dominic Kirkwood is an AWM.

You Are Invited!!

November 6, 2011

The Final Countdown

November 6, 2011

Hard working artists

For their latest artistic collaboration Kenzie Larsen, William Mansfield and Eddie Sharp present ‘Grand Chasm’, an installation and naturally occurring wonder. File in. Be amazed. Leave quietly.

Human intervention of special effects to change or enhance natural wonders is a magical union in the eyes of our collaboration. We think that theatric devices (lights, stories, ghost tours) coupled with natures own mystical displays distort our experiences of natures majesty and align them more with the uncanny rather than the natural.

We love of Fun Houses, Expos, cheap thrills and anything that is somehow mysterious or experience oriented, these thing can be either man made or nature made. Naturally occurring wonders that have been contained or claimed so that their access can be enjoyed by all for a tourist friendly price are the synthesis of these interests. We are particularly interested in natural wonders that have been claimed for tourism and theatrically enhanced.

 Eddie is a big fan of the Jenolan caves  and Kenzie recently experienced the majesty of the Grand (Grandest) Canyon. The Jenolan caves are just outside of Sydney and they are really big and old and made out limestone. They create a naturally occurring amphitheatre and you can go on tours and all that. In some parts of the caves you can experience the majestic caves amplified by theatrics, as there are lights set up to reinforce the caves natural occurring romanticism and mysteriousness. This use of stage lighting could be quite effective but I’m sure you could have your own mystical experience of these caves without the special effects.

You can also go on a ‘ghost tour’ of the caves, which none of us have been on but is also hilarious and would definitely use the grandeur and mystery of the cavernous forms to invoke a different experience of the caves.

The Grand Canyon is a bit different as it is so big (or grand even…) that there is not much that humans can do to enhance it. It is all the more mysterious for its inability to be contained. As a viewer you have control of how you want to experience it. You can go to the man- made lookouts or you can find a very good view from your own point somewhere around the rim.

The Canyon invokes a feeling of the mystery and ancientness of nature. Seeing the logic to which the earth has been changed by itself over the years is surprisingly overwhelming. It is this feeling of time passing and the many unknowable facets of nature and the human desire to contain or frame the the experience of these wonders that we want to explore further in out collaboration.

The human intervention of special effects to change or enhance natural wonders is a magical union in our eyes. As natural wonders are already a wonder but it is interesting that humans feel they have to control and frame the viewers experience of something that any human would already have a reaction too. We are wondering if these theatrics coupled with natures own mystical displays distort our experiences and align our natural experiences more with the uncanny rather than majesty of nature.

The feeling of the familiar and the strange we are working towards, fun houses, ghost trains and lo- fi special effects also resonates with the ‘unheimlich’ for us. In the case of B horror, limited means or poor production that exposes the mechanism of the special effects which breaks the illusion. Creating an effect of seeing the obvious means of production coupled with the illusion or effect that is being simulated.

Kenzie's 'AOTD' Winning Drawing

Our caffeine intake has increased dramatically and we have each had a turn of winning artist of the day. Eddie won ‘AOTD’ the first week for drinking the most coffee and spending the afternoon talking rapidly and coming up with excellent research as well as rearranging all of our colour pencils in a perfect rainbow gradient. Will won ‘AOTD’ the second week for doing the most talking and research on a normal amount of coffee and drawing an intricate architectural plan of our room sized installation which he then transferred into some fancy architecture software to make more accurate. Kenzie won ‘AOTD’ the third week for being grumpy after drinking three coffees and deciding to not talk to anyone and instead draw a giant picture of the demon cat from the movie ‘House’ on the studio wall (Reproduced in stunning quality above). Which is where Japanese B horror comes in…you find this intriguing?

Read on…

The movie ‘House’ was bought to our attention by the miraculous Kate Jinx who did an amazing talk about the ‘portrayal of cats in movies’ at the Surry Hills library recently. Apparently ‘House’ was based on a little girl’s dream and features, what i think, is truly the weirdest/ best horror sequence i have ever seen. This film has renewed our interest in schlock and B grade horror because, really, the three of us love tricks and special effects, the grimier and tricksier the better!

Day one of Will, Kenzie and Eddie’s Firstdraft residency

Eddie- “Floating golf”

Will- “Yeah floating golf, that would be a mad thing to make”

Eddie- “Yeah…. also we should look up that moon movie we all like”

So far we have discussed movies, Jurassic technology involving inventions that feature plants, sunflowers and tiny cannons that fire when the sun hits them and whether past predictions of the future are still valid seeing as the time that they were predicted for has now past.

Apparently an ‘Exoflop’ is 1000 ‘Petoflops’.

We have had a lot of coffee and have made a lot of jokes about Hip Hop and attempted to start a ‘mind map’ as you can see depicted in the above picture. We have started to make a time line of all predictions of the future made in movies and books. When we get distracted we play ‘sketch the rhyme’ (Which is a game involving one player sketching what the other player is freestyle rapping). When that gets boring Eddie makes ‘Cathy’ jokes and I (Kenzie) write them on post- its and attach them to the mind map in an attempt to map time through jokes.

Here’s what we have sorted through today


Prepare your eyes and minds for the breathtaking world of animatronics with a ride on Walt Disney’s “Jungle Cruise”

Recently we’ve been discussing what to make and why we would want to make any such thing (typical ex- art student banter). With our first collaborative work “Some film museums I have known” we devised a complicated set of models, live feeds and cameras that facilitated a scripted narrative but also functioned as a visual art installation.

The tiny set

So with the approach to our second work we have decided to pare back on our maximal genre inclusive tendencies and make a work that is void of live performance but that functions ‘perfomatively,’ if this is at all possible and also amongst a plethora of other interests.

We are interested in inverting our last work and making visual art that explores and borrows heavily from theatre. So in this very early stage I have started looking into animatronics. Mainly because I am attracted to clumsy, analogue technology and because I have a fantastic memory of going on the ‘Gremlin ride’ at ‘Movie WorldTM’ as a child.

The only Gremins' ride picture i coud find has Alf in it for some mysterious reason

This memory was made poignant by the fact that the ‘Gremlin RideTM’ (at Warner Bros Movie World on the Gold Coast TM) was dilapidated and un- maintained. Many of the gremlin puppets had come off their robotic mechanisms but the robotics were still performing to a spooky movie sound track. This made the ride actually terrifying as opposed to what it was probably intended to be. My guess is that the original intention was to be mildly entertaining and a little bit ‘creepy’ with a few minor ‘frights’.

As I was doing this ‘research’ i did get the idea that animatronic puppets could be thought of as some kind of middle ground between live action and sculpture. Inanimate objects manipulated into live performance, through life sized hardware. Although this technology seems clumsy now it was quite groundbreaking when Walt Disney started to feel the need to bring animation into physical reality.
Walt Disney was a pioneer of animatronic technology, whilst I was crudely researching animatronic history online, my heart was filled with joy to read this Walt Disney quote, which was mentioned as a joke that Disney made to one of his ‘Imagineers’.

“I’m tired of finicky actors. I want to develop a fully animated, articulated human being to use in place of motion picture actors and actresses.”

Ha! Actors, who needs ‘em! Good one Dis!

Disney got his hands on some declassified technology from NASA to make his first animatronic, which was a life sized Abe Lincon. Disney put to use this insane technology called ‘Inertial Reference Integrating Gyro’ or ‘IRIG’ for short, which I think, used sound to complete circuits and activate movement in a certain sequence so that ‘life like’ movement could be achieved. I think it sounds like actors would be a little less complicated to operate and they are very life like without needing declassified technological involvement from NASA.

It also dawned on me that most of my favorite movies star animatronic characters, “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park” all hold heavily nostalgic (not my favorite word to use when talking about visual art) trappings. What could be cooler to an eleven year old mind than an animatronic shark who wants to kill Rob Schneider? He’s a shark who is capable of jumping up on to boats AND holding grudges.

Hi Mum!

Or Dinosaurs that have been cloned to exist in the present day (the present day being the 90’s) and live on a secret island that only top scientists and philosophers (what was Geoff Golblums character meant to be?) can visit. But eventually, if all goes to plan (and somehow I think it won’t!) Then ordinary humans like you and an eleven year old me could visit this dino super- fun park! Or at least the animatronic version of it.

Jurassic fear

Animatronics are really just glorified puppets that stand in place of an impossible or past reality to create an illusion of theatre. They are the perfect clunky embodiment of a desire to animate the inanimate in real time and a solution to a no employee theatre.

I doubt that we will attempt to create anything as technologically complicated as an actually functioning animatronic scenario or creature