Review: Smokescreen -a collaborative installation across the spaces of TCB


It's everywhere.

We can't taste it or touch it or even smell it but we need it to survive. 

Air- it's serious stuff. 

But Elizabeth Pedler and Jeremy Eaton's work currently on exhibition at TCB, Melbourne, until February 9 takes a different approach. Utilizing the prime mission of TCB as a space for experimental installation and sculpture, these two emerging artists experiment with us, air, and the concept that while air is vital, necessary and all things solemn, it can still be playful, ironic and entertaining.

Pedler and Eaton have created an air playground where we, boxes full of mini polystyrene balls and air all combine in a post-adolescent playpen. 3 structural walls painted turquoise are sectioned off by a wooden frame coated in plastic, to create an enclosure where fans blow around precious air and tiny white balls.

This magical snowscape immediately transports us back to our childhood. 

Once inside the enclosure we leave reality behind- we are free to make polystyrene snow angels, stomp around and let the tiny plastic globes fly in our faces, swirl all around us and even find a place between our toes! Here we are thriving and playing with memories, fake snow, nostalgia, polystyrene but, most importantly, air. The enclosure leads us like to engage light-heartedly with strangers in this wondrous air-filled pit, at the same time Pedler has enabled us to play with air itself. 

We immediately become an equal part of the design and success of the installation. We too become sculptures, both amongst and along with the polystyrene, all reacting to the air. Our part is perhaps more complex in its layers and emotions- reacting to the reaction and bringing with us our memories and imagination.

Most significant, however, is our ability to turn air into fun. Perhaps you could argue that we become as integral an element in Pedler's design and concept as air itself.

She seeks to demonstrate how we can play with this vital component of survival, how we can take enjoyment from it. The success of the concept relies on our ability to play amongst the air propelled floating foam. 

We are as vital as the air. This demonstrates that Pedler's work in fact consists of some serious structural stuff- it’s not all airy-fairy. What appears as such a playful installation actually reminds us that we too are vital components of the world and that our reactions count.

Eaton's work consisted of more than just giving Pedler a helping hand in creating the structure to make her air-playground. Eaton's work occupies the first room of TCB and, while it invokes less hype, it is no less two-fold in its design and concept. 

Seemingly serious at first, this pot plant upon an oval shaped podium speaks immediately to our ideas of growing one’s own herbs and using home grown timber to build natural shaped furniture. This piece seems to draw on the current language of 'organic' products and environmentally friendly creations and appears to exist in opposition to the artificiality of Pedler’s polystyrene. 

However, upon closer inspection Eaton is as playful as Pedler. The lovely pine timber plant-stand in its organic simplicity bares a large hole, through which air blows and over which a grubby blue tarp flaps. One cannot help but feel that the exuding air is the dirty kind from air conditioners, as if the broken stand belongs in some hostile and claustrophobic office. This seems to be what Eaton is encouraging us to think, as what other kind of air vent would be covered clumsily by grubby, dancing, plastic?

Eaton reminds us that not all air is clean, even when associated with plants and timber- a playful piece that offers a sardonic twist to our trust in ideas of 'organic' and 'natural'.

Take the opportunity to consider the intelligent humour and layered design while jumping around as living sculptures.



By Ariele Hoffman

Ariele Hoffman

Ariele Hoffman is undertaking a Masters thesis in History, at the University of Melbourne, which focuses on avant-garde film maker Maya Deren. She is a curatorial assistant at the Jewish Museum of Australia and also volunteers as a tour guide. In her “free” time she is a freelance art critic, photographer and volunteer at Contemporary Centre of Photography, while trying to cram in the many other cultural activities that Melbourne constantly has on offer!