In his photographic work from the early 1970s, Australian artist Robert Rooney exploited the camera’s status as a mechanical apparatus capable of documenting systems of repetition. Using a standard Kodak Instamatic camera, Rooney recorded gestures and everyday rituals incrementally, displaying each sequence as a gridded photographic composite. Amid the deadpan uniformity of these black and white photographs we witness patterns of cyclical modulation.
Disinterested in the expressive potential of the photograph, Rooney described the camera in 1975 as ‘a dumb recording device, it’s not the same as seeing. The camera often seems to organise the material itself’.1 In Corners Rooney subjects Melbourne’s Pinacotheca gallery, an important landmark of the Australian conceptual art scene, to the organisational imperative of the camera.
Rooney has photographed the empty gallery from numerous angles, producing a tour of the space in discrete segments. These photographs are displayed alongside a small drawing that functions as an abstract map of the space. This work, as with Rooney’s other sequential photographs, depicts patterns of circulation. The movement of the camera is cyclical but so is the nature of the space itself. An empty gallery is a site of constant transformation, altered with each exhibition and then returned to its empty state. In Corners, Rooney’s interest in documenting his own everyday experience extends to a close examination of the context in which his own work circulated.
1 Robert Rooney, Project 8: Robert Rooney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1975
36 gelatin silver photographs and ink on paper
8.6 x 8.6 each image; 8.3 x 15.2 cm ink drawing; 58.1 x 104.7 cm visible sheet; 60.6 x 107.6 x 2.6 cm frame
Signature & date
l.r. recto sheet pencil '...1972 ROBERT ROONEY'
Gift of Peter Tyndall 2015
Not on display
© Robert Rooney