SET AND DRIFT (unfolding as 2-4 constellations for/of Samstag Museum of Art), 2020

‘Adelaide//International 2020 - Effect In Three Movements’, Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide

various items of museum’s wall systems, various items of museum's materials from Level 3 built storage area, various items of museum’s audio visual equipment, Level 3 built storage area, Level 3 gallery allocation, Level 3 exterior courtyard, mild steel, Dulux etch primer, Montana spray paint, power leads, PSP spinnaker repair tape, Victorian ash hardwood, giclee photograph on Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308gsm (150x218cm), video footage with diegetic sound filmed/edited in the museum (durations variable and changing), existing plywood ramp used for the installation and transportation of John Wardel/Natasha Johns-Messenger 'Somewhere Other' (exhibited in level 2 gallery at this moment), various digital prints and copies, intermittent actions and re-spatialisations 28 February — 12 June 2020.

‘Adelaide//International 2020 - Effect In Three Movements’ is curated by Samstag Museum of Art curatorium. 

Installation View 4 by Sam Noonan, courtesy Samstag Museum of Art.

“Helen Grogan’s background in dance informs her understanding of space as process of exchange. Rather than architectures of the body ... hers is a practice that considers architecture with the body. Grogan considers her materials as apparatus, instruments of direction and examination. Accordingly, SET AND DRIFT (3-4 constellations for Samstag Museum of Art) makes sculpture from museum equipment—shelving, storage and audiovisual apparatus— arranged to encourage and guide the viewer’s movement through the gallery. Timing is kept by monitors and photographic prints which fold the installation process back into the display, making public the conversations and procedures of transformation normally held behind the scenes. Scale and interest are used as stage marks—where a large monitor might play a carefully edited dance of construction, another smaller less-obviously placed screen will undermine it by repeating the footage at a second designated viewing point. Similarly, the mundanity of photographs and sketches hold the viewer’s curiosity just long enough that they lose interest and notice a new sightline. The point of the work is not the content but the context.

Designed by John Wardle in 2007, the Samstag Museum galleries were purpose-built for the display of contemporary art. The placement and organisation of items such as power boxes, rigging points and concealed storage tell of a building built for purpose. But galleries are never used the same way twice; exhibition space, like all space, is not neutral, however much it aspires to be. In foregrounding the secondary architectures of display, Grogan records another dialect of design, one that adapts over time in response to use. The bright yellow steel fixtures that the artist has overlaid these items with represent the negotiation between objects and artist. It is not intended as conceptual conceit; in this work architectures and systems are exposed, not hidden. Scuffs and marks of use are shown. The steel supports are a part of a gestural language that can be read across her practice—a method of mediation the she frequently employs—but are also an answer to the practical questions of construction. How to accommodate bodies, to consider safe movement and longevity, to predict use?”

- Gillian Brown, Curator, Samstag Museum of Art (excerpt)

“Helen Grogan’s installation permeates the museum; it appears made from the museum. The structure, equipment, service closets, fire extinguishers & residual architectural details are all in the service of the work. Vistas & neighbouring architecture are insinuated into the installation. Leitmotifs of dangling straps & safety yellow planks move the viewer around the gallery. Small hints at the reassembled objects haunt the space on A4 prints like chimeras, déjà vu or choreographic notes. A scenography of some imminent or abandoned performance.

...This presentation as part of the Adelaide International 2020 is bracketed by two exhibitions also utilising architecture as its source material. The work by John Wardle Architects in collaboration with Natasha Johns-Messenger previously presented at the Venice Biennale & David Claerbout’s Olympia both successfully add that essential aspect to representations of architecture, time.

The works in “Effect in 3 Movements” add another essential element to the comprehension of architectural space, eponymously hinted at, the figure in motion. These 3 artists all have backgrounds with dance or choreography, & this is a useful harness for this exhibition.”

- The ReviewBoard,  Australia (excerpt)