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.

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) 2016 Pigment print. 33.3x50cm.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) 2016 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

Installation Polygon
Installation view, 2020 exhibition, Stills Gallery, Sydney2015
Installation Ground Zero
Installation view, 2020 exhibition, 2015
Installation
Installation view, 2020 exhibition, 2015

Long Life (Dungeness)

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)

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 Pigment print. 50x250cm. Edition of 5
Plateau
Plateau (Ubirr, Kakadu National Park) 2016 Pigment print. 50x250cm. Edition of 5

Plant Life (Chernobyl)

The photo series Plant Life (Chernobyl) depicts areas around Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant – site of the catastrophic accident of April 26, 1986.

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

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

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

Aqua/Script

A series of photographic fragments of abandoned film-scripts.

Aqua/ script 1
Aqua/script #1 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.

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

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 comprises 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

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

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

Moving Image

BIRDS

Single-channel artist film, stereo sound
Duration: 28:27

BRIEF SYNOPSIS

BIRDS is a tale of radioactive pigeons, two pairs of twins and a massacre, set in a seaside village in the shadow of a decrepit nuclear plant. In this blighted environment all is entangled — birds, humans, plutonium — and nothing will be spared.

Reading omens
Screen capture, BIRDS 2020

ARTIST STATEMENT

BIRDS is an artist film by Merilyn Fairskye, the latest in her series of photographic and screen works that explores the contemporary realities of nuclear sites.

BIRDS humanises the connections between the nuclear and the everyday at a time of great environmental threat and nuclear uncertainty. It was inspired by real events that took place between 1998-2010 in the area around Sellafield, a large nuclear reprocessing site close to the village of Seascale in Cumbria, England. Imagery builds around the sanctuary, the seaside and the nuclear plant and accumulates and dissipates in different ways to build a sense of a blighted environment where all forms of life are entangled. The over-arching motif is the environment that the nuclear plant seeps into — land, sea and air — metamorphosing and mutating because of human actions and now, beyond human control. The birds are the constant presence. Actors relate different accounts recorded in the media at the time.

Ava and Birdie
Ava and Birdie (Monette Lee), BIRDS 2020

SYNOPSIS

Radioactive pigeons, two pairs of twins and a massacre bring chaos and catastrophe to a sleepy seaside village in this tale of life and death in the nuclear age.

There’s a decrepit nuclear plant down one end of the beach, and a nuclear waste dump up the other. Every day thousands of pigeons congregate at a pink house overlooking the sea. Ava lives there with her twin sister, Birdie. Their home is a pigeon sanctuary where they provide food, and tend to sick birds. When the numbers increase the trouble starts. Every night the birds fly back to the nuclear plant. There are holes in the roof and the birds like the ponds.

Samples are taken and the pigeons are found to be radioactive. Despite Ava and Birdie’s efforts to save them, the entire flock is strangled and the corpses are buried in lead containers at the waste dump. The sanctuary garden is dug up and Ava and Birdie undergo medical tests. They are, apparently, just over the safe limits.

When swallows and seagulls are tested and traces of plutonium found, sharpshooters are hired. Carcasses pile up in a huge deep freezer at the plant. A small submarine cruises around the bottom of the ponds gathering samples. Who knows what’s buried there? The management tries to reassure the community. People walk their dogs on the sand but no one swims in the sea.

Flocks of birds cruise over the plant, the village and the waste dump. Warning alarms routinely blare out from the plant alerting workers and local residents about what actions to take if a nuclear incident occurs.

The birds are smarter than you think. Small cameras were attached to pigeons over a hundred years ago to take covert photos of wartime sites. A slideshow depicting aerial views of nuclear sites and neighbourhoods, captured by a new generation of pigeon photographers, unfolds. Ava and Birdie marvel at the birds’ intelligence.

Deryn, a driver at the plant, used to breed birds, and thinks of himself as an authority on all things avian. Low in self-esteem, he’s pleased when his boss relies on him to capture birds and wildlife trapped inside the plant. After he loses his job for stealing equipment, he drives a taxi. Apart from the plant, there’s not much work around here. Things start to spiral downwards. People gossip about him—he’s a moody loner, unsuccessful in life and love. He and Robin, his twin brother, are estranged. He’s jealous of Robin’s success and popularity and blames his brother, who he thinks is conspiring against him, and the plant, for his cascading problems. A woman he’s seeing scams him for a large sum of money and the other taxi drivers ridicule him. His nickname amongst the drivers is ‘The Dog’.

On his last night at the taxi rank, Deryn drops not-so-cryptic clues that something is about to happen. His workmates, as usual, don’t pay attention. This is his big moment, and no one sees it coming.

The next day, Ava and Deryn’s paths cross when Deryn sets off on a shooting spree, coldly killing nine people, his brother the first victim, and Ava the last, before driving to a scenic beauty spot outside of town and turning the gun on himself.

The community is devastated. No one can make any sense of what has happened.

All the main protagonists except Birdie, are dead. The birds have the last word. Evolutionary survivors from the age of dinosaurs, they are harbingers of a nuclear future. With their ability to evolve and adapt, can they teach humans how to survive?

Deryn and Robin
Deryn and Robin (Dane Carson), BIRDS 2020

NOTES ON THE SOUNDTRACK

The actors’ voices are woven through a soundtrack that draws on experimental processes to give a voice to the birds and the environment. It was created by musician and composer Meg Travers, who constructed a 21st century interpretation of the Trautonium, a 1920s German synthesizer.

The original Trautonium, the first instrument capable of sculpting electronic sounds, was used by German composer and electronic music pioneer, Oskar Sala, to create the non-musical soundtrack for Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’.

To find out more see: UNLIKELY

In small doses
The Official (Mayu Iwasaki), BIRDS 2020

CREDITS

executive producer
direction, editing, camera
soundscape composition and performance
dramaturg/assistant director
sound mix
online editor, title design and grading
production assistance

OGNIAN PISHEV
MERILYN FAIRSKYE
MEG TRAVERS
GREG GIESEKAM
ROBERT HINDLEY
GREG FERRIS
TONY TWIGG

CAST

ava/birdie
robin/deryn
official
announcer

additional voices

MONETTE LEE
DANE CARSON
MAYU IWASAKI
MICHIEL DOLK

SONJA BENNETTO
GREG GIESEKAM
DYLAN MCKIMMIE
LUCY MCKIMMIE
MEG TRAVERS
TONY TWIGG

CAST

additional UK photography

NICK SHIMMIN, CLIVE PARKINSON

Dedicated to Martin Forwood & Janine Allis-Smith

© 2020 A PLUS & MINUS PRODUCTION | www.plusandminus.net

White on White (after Malevich)

White on White
Screenshot, White on White 2016

VIMEO link

Radiant

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

VIMEO link

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

Life Still

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

VIMEO link

When the Wind Blows

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

VIMEO link

MARCH

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

Long Life (1)

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

Precarious

Precarious
Poster, Precarious 2011

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

Aqua/ocean 2009

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

2-channel video installation. Colour, silent
Duration: 3 minute loops.

My Favourite Australian 2008

Ruth Lewis
Still from Ruth Lewis 2008

Duration: 02:30, stereo sound
Single channel video.

Sir William Deane
Still from Sir William Deane 2008

Duration: 03:00, stereo sound
Single channel video. VIMEO link

Dian Wellfare
Still from Dian Wellfare 2008

Duration: 03:00, stereo sound
Single channel video.

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

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 2007-2011
Single-channel HDV. Duration: 24:34
5.1 Surround Sound, Stereo sound

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

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
Color, silent, 04:00 loops

Connected

CONNECTED Vimeo link

Connected
Image: Composite screen captures, CONNECTED

Connected 2003
1. SD single-channel video, stereo/surround sound, 25:00
2. 3-channel video installation, surround sound, 25:00 loop

Alice Springs is one of the most isolated towns in Australia. In December 1966 an agreement was signed that allowed the construction of Pine Gap, a US-Australian Joint Defence Space Research facility, as a base for global satellite technology and one of the largest ground control centres in the world, just 17 kilometres outside of Alice. The base connected the world to Pine Gap. This work considers how disembodied and shadowy the experience of being constantly connected can be. The work adopts a Pine Gap modus operandi. Sites are monitored, from the air and from the ground - Anzac Hill; the airport; the Pine Gap exit; Ormiston Gorge; Hermannsburg Mission; Kata Tjuta - to create a sense of a town and a landscape inhabited by shadows, mirages, and reflections. People inhabit this space tenuously. You never get to see them. You hear from them, or about them. Every one around Alice Springs has a story, or a friend with a story, that connects to the base. These anecdotes interweave with intercepts from recent news reports; ambient sounds; static; Morse code from Telegraph Station, the roar of road trains speeding down the Stuart Highway; a lone didgeridoo.

CREDITS
MERILYN FAIRSKYE (c) 2003
Post production: GREG FERRIS@MSV
Voices: William Beattie, Frank Chien, Michiel Dolk, Neville Field, Russell Goldflam, Patrick Hayes, Rose Landes, Pamela Lofts, Pip Mc McManus, Lesley Savage, Lisa Stefanoff, Bill van Dijk, Trish van Dijk, Michael Watts, Mandy Webb
Pine Gap protest stills, 2002: Mandy Webb, Trish van Dijk
Dingoes audio - courtesy of Listening Earth
Satellite images - Australia, Afghanistan, China, India, Korea, Pakistan: images courtesy Jacques Descloitres and Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC
Iraq: Image provided by the USGS EROS Data Center Satellite Systems Branch

Thanks to Alice Springs Art Foundation, Araluen Arts Centre, Aurora Resorts, Robert Hindley, Beth McRae, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, Rod Moss, Ognian Pishev, Trish and Bill van Dijk, Michael Watts, Mandy Webb, Iain Campbell, and Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney

Merilyn Fairskye acknowledges Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park as a World Heritage Area and Living Cultural Landscape, and Anangu culture and ownership of this Park.

Produced in association with the Australian Film Commission
(c) Merilyn Fairskye and the Australian Film Commission 2003
Three-channel production assisted by the Australia Council for the Arts

CONNECTED 3-CHANNEL VIDEO INSTALLATION
THE EXPERIENCE

Two side projections show a range of apparently unedited scenes and outtakes that appear to assemble and disassemble the images on the centre screen, which is the core program of the 25-minute single-channel digital video of Connected. As people enter the space, their shadows interrupt/intercept the images on Screens 1 and 3 in a simple gesture of low tech interactivity.

TECHNICAL
A digital video/database installation, 3 channels, surround sound. Duration: 25-minute loop.

Eye Contact

Eye Contact
Production still 1992 (gianna, administrator, italy)

EYE CONTACT 2000
Installation version: DVD. Duration: 40min
colour with stereo sound
Screen version: Betacam SP Duration 8'17"
colour with stereo sound

Eye Contact is the culmination of a long-term investigation of the landscape of the face. Since 1990 I have been exploring the way the face has moral meaning for us, especially when we read a caption or a story that claims to identify the person's relationship to 'something'. Previously, I worked with painted images based on media images. This work focuses on the photograph and the near-anonymous subject. Since late 1992 I have systematically photographed people with whom I come 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.

These still images are presented in their final, complete form as a video installation with soundscape. This work was exhibited during 2000 at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; Stills Gallery, Sydney (included in the Olympic Arts Festival) and Araluen Galleries in 2001-2002. It won the 2001 Alice Springs Art Prize.

CREDITS
Producer/ director MERILYN FAIRSKYE
Camera MERILYN FAIRSKYE
Soundscape REACH AROUND & CHIT CHAT VON LOOPIN STAB @ AUDIO SWEET
Post production GREG FERRIS @ MSV
Post production partially assisted by The Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, MSV Media Services and DVM International.

Public Projects

Stati d'Animo

Sydney Airport at Work Program. Commissioned by Sydney Airport Corporation Ltd. Installed October 2006.

Stati d'Animo public

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). 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. 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. 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. 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 1980-83
Woolloomooloo2
Victoria Street 1980-83
Woolloomooloo 3
Waterside Workers 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

Painting

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.

VIEW FULL CV

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