Being There

Dominic Redfern

catalogue essay, 200 Gertrude St., Melbourne, 2000
reprinted in A Short Ride In A Fast Machine, Gertrude St. Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne, 2005

In David Cronenberg's Videodrome many a visceral moment is lodged uncomfortably in the viewer's mind. Entrails, organs and colonic convulsions abound - yet surely the most septic is the television set itself. Not a 'monitor' or any other such neutral construct, but a family-size wood grain behemoth that sits in the loungeroom like an obese family member. Part radiophonic hearth, part gelatinous info-orb, it glows surrealistically like a baroque carved mantelpiece while dispersing electronically beamed information.

The TV set - like every utilitarian tool to aid the act of consumption - is a morphological mutant of industrial design. Any Myers sale catalogue overflows with penile toothbrushes coloured like baby pacifiers, wombic foot massagers textured like dentists' gas-masks, and chairs that replicate the feeling of placing your anal ring firmly on your aunt's cellulite while rubbing palms on your brother's bony elbows. In fact, the domestic environment - design-wise - is a hysterically mute terrain of the polysexual tactility which embalms one in that most horrifying thing: your family. Walk into any family loungeroom and you can smell anger, sex, death, pleasure. Those family snap shots and the TV playing Sale Of The Century (with the sound turned down) do little to quell the sensation.

Dominic Redfern's video work is the phosphorescent glow of that domain.

It is the skin of the televisual eye that cakes the domestic abode like the sickly sleep which gathers at your cornea over night. No electronic village globalism here for any stray media teachers to subject their secondary school class to. Nor any retardo diaristic portraiture for those who yearn for personal contact in their art. Dominic's 'imagery' is the granular spread of televisual moments and incidents which coat a space in the same way beige tends to colour-cast the loungeroom. It's not the sexy neon-lime of Hong Kong cinema, nor the distastefully-hip palette of yet more op shop art installations. It is the saturated chlorophyllous density of RGB activity: recognized, regurgitated, ritualized and rendered in a digital display which refuses to avoid the innate ugliness of all digital art.

Bert Newton, colour bars, smoking public servants, TV snow, people in the Bourke St. Mall - all swirl in the digitized mush that Dominic abstracts from their episodic details. It's a tradition that owes more to Rauschenberg's screen prints than any neo-neo abstract revivalism, because the presence of content is always figured as a decaying and degraded memory of that which was communicated. All mass media imagery is a compacted stool of digested data; it does not project but rather inverts itself in a display of repression, subterfuge and disinformation. It swallows its own smell. Dominic employs digital operations not to create a tacky techno perfume, but to recode the pheromonal activity which signifies the operations of closure that define the media apparatus.

What's on TV is not the question. The only thing to be asked is if the TV is on. Dominic's TV is always on. His solo and collaborative videographic corpus - and especially the aptly titled and referenced Being There - recalls that uniquely pregnant space in front of the glowing hissing TV set. Like the girl in Poltergeist who stares somnambulistically into the deafening TV snow and is reconstituted as a biomorphic receiver for its projection, the viewer/auditor in Dominic's work can bathe in the video aura. Its milky reflection is cast on your retinal skin; its compressed high frequencies tickle the furry canals of your ear. I feel at home - and surely that's the most uncomfortable feeling to have in any public space.

Text © Philip Brophy. Image © Dominic Redfern.