(1970 – )
Cate Consandine's practice explores aspects of embodiment and the physical expression of psychological states. Her installations typically combine video loops with sculptural objects, framing their arrangement in the gallery as a 'scene' within which the viewer becomes immersed and implicated. This subtle reference to the conventions of staging is often extended by elements that draw more explicitly on the languages of dance and theatrical performance.
The dual-channel video 'Cut Colony' 2012 is Consandine's first work to eschew objects entirely, although a sculptural sensibility is still evident in her treatment of form. Marking a further departure from her studio-based process, the work was filmed on location in the in the clay pans and semi-arid lakes of western New South Wales, where Consandine spent time during her youth. In the context of these unforgiving and spectacular environments, two staged performances unfold.
In one video, a female dancer performs a series of fouettés on a barren plain - a classical ballet movement that translates literally from the French as 'whipped'. Although she is nude, she does not seem vulnerable; her movements are confident and commanding and her gaze direct. Reinforcing these allusions to control and empowerment, her performance is looped to create an impossibly continuous cycle of turns, which produces an atmosphere of anxious suspense.
In the other video channel, two muscular young men (workers from a local mine) stand thigh-deep in the shallows of a vast inland lake. They remain still while the water ripples around them, their stasis mimicking the dead trees that punctuate the scenery. Although the men are not entirely exposed, their body language suggests a degree of self-consciousness and reticence. The ambient sound of the lapping waves mingles with the more aggressive, menacing sound of the dancer’s foot turning relentlessly on the rough ground.
In dialogue with one another, these distilled and highly charged scenarios suggest a series of binaries that remain in tense interplay - masculine and feminine, barren and abundant, nature and culture, assured/uneasy, and so on. These concepts provide an entry point into 'Cut Colony's' broader commentary on the desert is a place of 'uncertain regard' in the Australian imaginary, where a constructed sense of affinity is played against the reality of alienation. The work invokes the spectre of colonialism that lingers in these landscapes, while prompting viewers to contemplate their own relationship to the remote expanses of central Australia.
Chantal Faust., Cate Consandine: Cut Colony, 'Looking out of place', Sydney, 2012, n.pag. (colour illus., video still).
Alexandra Gregg, Look, 'Spinning associations', pg. 11, Newtown, Nov 2012, 11 (colour illus., video still).