Ash Keating is a highly productive artist whose work embraces the ancient and simultaneously contemporary process of utilising/modifying the energy flow of a system in order to alter/subvert it. Think judo masters using an opponent’s own strength against them. Think redirecting tonnes of waste and making a sculpture/performance out of it for a few weeks in the middle of an art festival, like Keating did for Next Wave 2008.
Keating also deals in residues. The consequences of our lifestyles, our behaviours, expressed in our material residues and our latent social interactions. First by taking something messy and unwieldy, then by circumventing it with potentials.
For this show at Shifted, Keating has displayed a large flag hanging perpendicular from the back wall. The flag, in its creation and presentation, is completely authentic. Given the loaded semiotic nature of flags – the fact that they carry with them such a deep well of information, hidden inside a simple sign of shape and colour – makes it important whether the flag is ‘real’ looking. Hanging, as it does, perpendicular, it takes on import in the way a flag on a court-room wall, at a large international event, or even international hotel would.
The flag itself is recognisable as the Eureka flag, but is green where it would normally have been blue. At once two spiralling thoughts are triggered. Eureka meanings and green meanings. Eureka has come to represent rebellion, the beginnings of a new culture, and property. Green, in the current cultural climate, emits ecological pronouncements.
The spiralling thoughts ultimately converge and you find yourself standing before a declaration of intent. Somewhere there is a group of people who see an authoritarian greediness and disregard. A people ready to make a defiant stand on behalf of those oppressed. This is their flag, serving as it does, as a material residue of that energy.
The flag is also a residue in a different way. This flag was part of a group of flags flown above iconic buildings in Ballarat, as part of ‘Sustainable Fusion Reactions’ curated by Jill Orr. This presentation in Ballarat, the location of the Eureka Stockade, injects a site specific intensity to the body of work. This flag at Shifted, becomes a relic of that process-based artwork. Like the original flag/s of the original stockade, this flag is infused with the energy of its past, a past of action and social engagement.
But, through its evocation of green, greenery and greenishness, it also declares itself a form of growth and a declaration of intent. A sign between two actions – initiated through a process driven event, created as material form, presented to invite process driven response.
By Kent Wilson
Kent Wilson’s interdisciplinary work traverses drawing, video, animation, sculpture, sound and installation. With a passion for the promotion of the arts Kent ran a successful artist run initiative with art school friends, has turned his hand to curating and writing, occasionally tutors in art theory, and has recently served on the curatorial committee of c3 Contemporary Art Space. Whilst pursuing the exhibition of his own work he is in the final stages of a PhD candidature at Monash, studying Fine Art in studio research, under scholarship.