Droplet - Spawn - Laura Duffy (2021)
Courtesy Laura Duffy
Stories & Ideas

Tue 01 Mar 2022

A gentle, little universe: Laura Duffy on the making of Spawn

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Serena Bentley

Curator

We spoke to the Te Whanganui A-Tara based artist about user-friendly online exhibitions, making art during the pandemic and the textures and layers of her Gallery 5 work.

Serena Bentley: Did creating Spawn exclusively for an online space affect your approach to making the work?

Laura Duffy: I was excited by the limitations and expansiveness of showing online. In a way, it’s more freeing for audiences to show on a digital platform which allows people the autonomy to view however and whenever they like. I leaned into the lack of control of not being able to dictate when, where and how audiences might encounter the work by creating a world within the work itself. My thinking was that regardless of the scale of people potentially watching on phones or laptops, audiences can opt into entering this little universe through the imagery itself.

Recently I have seen some impressive online exhibitions which have utilised the online space by creating digitally immersive environments. This is hot, but for Spawn, I wanted to use a subtler strategy and prioritise easy access with a one-click motion. I don’t enjoy experiences when there is a glitchy barrier of technical issues when trying to view the art. I personally feel tired of clicking about through online spaces. This time, I went for simple and strong over complex and confused.

My work visually references filmic techniques used in digital advertising as well as satisfying video reels and pop culture. I think it’s apt and it is also fun for the work to exist within Gallery 5 which sits separate to, but is a couple of clicks away from these floating references.

While I was making Spawn I was thinking about the online space having the ability to reach wider audiences outside of gallery settings. I felt that I wanted to have some gentleness in my approach to this wider audience who has potentially had a really bad year amidst COVID-19. The intention of holding sensitivity shows up for me in the decisions made within the process of making.

Although the work was created to be shown online, this is just the first iteration. It could grow legs and go anywhere!

SB: You have also described Spawn as a "material exploration not dissimilar to the likes of a painting or sculpture" – can you elaborate?

LD: Exploring materials through video making is one of my favourite things to do. I really enjoy seeing materials come together and mutate, decompose, react, melt. Layering textures up and experiencing an element of surprise within reactions or combinations is exciting. The hope is that a feeling of chance is carried through the work.

The categorisation of the process of making is not necessarily important for me to pin down. It is fun to think of how when working within video I can be painterly or sculptural. I guess I am interested in using techniques that could be found in painting, in video. Maybe it could be that my videos are an imagining of the inside of a painting.

I think of my video works in relation to my understanding of secret codes painted into historical still lifes. I remember coming into contact with a Francis Hodgkins at The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa almost ten years ago and being attracted to the encoding of sexuality and desire that I was reading from their work. I enjoyed the tension between explicitness and subtly.

SB: This work was made at a time of significant global tempest and speaks clearly to the themes of both decay and rebirth. Has the pandemic made you more inclined to embrace the former or the latter?

LD: The pandemic is awful and relentless, lol. I feel like I do not have the perspective to be able to see the impacts on my practice clearly whilst being in the tornado itself. I feel it will be interesting for time to pass and look back on works created through this time to see what is revealed. What I have been leaning towards is creating works that are invested in joy, bliss, desire, friendship, dancing and love within the hellscape of this reality. Maybe you could call that rebirth, decay, or both.

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