craig walsh & michael yuen
Multiple projection and audio installation
Throughout the 1700s, magic lanterns - the forerunner of the slide projector - were a popular form of entertainment. By the end of the century, showmen transformed the experience by hiding the technology from their audience, creating images which seemed to spring to life from the darkness itself. These phantasmagoria, so called because they were themed around ghosts and the afterlife, used magic lanterns set up behind the screen. As the lantern was moved back and forth, the projected figure grew and shrank in size, appearing to rush towards the audience then quickly retreat. The illusion was compounded by the use of smoke, sound effects, narration or eerie howling; accounts from the time speak of audiences going pale with shock, unable to rationalise what they were experiencing.
The development of the science and art of optics and the moving image has always produced a two-fold pleasure; the satisfaction of knowing how things work, and the thrill of not knowing, of being 'in the dark', in the realm of possibility and uncertainty.
Swarm, in the tradition of the phantasmagoria, hides the technology by which its effects are created. Multiple projections, motion sensors and speakers create the sense that the gallery is inhabited by insects, which emerge from a throbbing hive in a dark corner of the building to fly across the displays or swoop around visitors to the gallery. The work is unable to be seen in its entirety from any one place, it has no frame, no apparent beginning nor end. The bugs are free to move through the gallery space, just as we are. Swarm reacts to our presence, yet is beyond our control.
Walsh and Yuen embed their work not only in the architecture of the gallery, but in the social and psychological space it produces, introducing into this temple of intellectual endeavour an element of the natural and instinctual, the blind, dung-loving, teeming underworld.
Fiona Trigg, ACMI
Craig Walsh works across a range of art forms including theatre, architecture, public works, gallery exhibitions and festivals. His hybrid/site-specific projects often utilise projection in response to existing environments and contexts. Michael Yuen trained in composition at the Electronic Music Unit, University of Adelaide. He explores the sonic and the visual through technological innovation and audience interaction. He is also a new media curator and sound engineer. Swarm is their first collaboration.
Swarm (2006) Artists' acknowledgement: This project is funded by the Australia Council as part of the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy.