I enjoyed AGORA, the recent show from Alex Selenitsch, held last month at Place Gallery. Place is an intimate and tranquil venue, tucked away in Richmond’s industrial backstreets. With a fresh exhibition program that covers a wide range of media and contemporary themes, it is well worth seeking out.
AGORA was installed upstairs. The work featured two striking timber “shields” (created from offcuts from the timber workshop in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne); a series of mixed-media drawings and collages; and a further series of acrylic and timber sculptures (the polis series). All related to questions of architecture and urban form, particularly in relation to two key sites: the Stoa of Attilos at the site of the Agora in Athens, and Arthur Circus in Hobart. Two very different spaces, borne of different cultures and times; yet each place could be said to represent (or reproduce) a certain ideal of social encounter as it occurs in public space. Each space is, of course, overlain with buildings, people, human activities, roads, rubble, and representations—such as photographs. Together, these activities and objects ensure the persistence of space in individual and collective memories over time and across distance.
The meaning of representations shifts over time, and accordingly I appreciated that many of the works could be read in multiple ways. The timber “shields”, for instance, could easily be read as three-dimensional plans or models of an imagined urban landscape, with buildings scattered around bold Graeco-Roman geometric axes. In the contemporary Australian scene, the proposal that a city might be read as a shield also takes on an unexpected and highly ambivalent political meaning, for this viewer at least. For the measuring and mapping of space may work hand in hand with processes of social inclusion and exclusion, particularly for recent arrivals to the community.
Unlike Selenitsch’s previous show, flotsamandjetsam, AGORA did not foreground ideas of migration, movement, and displacement, but instead highlighted measurement, mapping, and drawing. There is continuity in the work that reveals itself in Selenitsch’s preoccupation with form-making—or with what he terms assemblage—as an act of translation.
AGORA: shields, maps & transparencies
3 July to 27 July 2013
Place Gallery, Richmond, Melbourne