Maureen Burns - Garden Interiors
Exhibition: 31 October to 24 November, 2007
E-Bay can make people obsessive. Maureen Burns' latest body of work began with an 'Eames Era' search for some retro furniture, with her own home in mind. It has since elevated to genre an e-phenomenon that extends the field of 'found' photography out of our living rooms (for the right price) and into the digital era. Re-presenting photos taken by an unlikely bunch of e-bay-sellers-come-international-artists (look out for Shabby*Shack and Sunset-Load) Burns appropriates their shy masterpieces as curator/collector/conceptual artist.
Garden Interiors presents a multitude of 'mug-shots' of (not) wanted iconic Modernist furniture displaced from their usual settings into the context of front lawns, backyards, and a post-Modern aesthetic. The collection forms an extensive library of miscellaneous data, recalling Walter Benjamin's 'optical unconscious' - those things seen by the camera, but not focused upon by the photographer. No more an archive of Modernist design than of clotheslines or rubbish bins, this surplus of visual information and overlooked signifiers encourage multiple readings, mis-readings, cross references, and crossed wires. It culminates in a collision of elements that trace the history of photography - from instrumental purposes such as in anthropological, forensic and product photography, through the photo as fine art to virtual travelling of the world, albeit the world of the everyday and anyone.
Far from a po-faced museological exhibit, Garden Interiors is a treasure chest of visual gems that resonate an unavoidable humor, often at the expense of traditional photography and 'high-art'. We are forced to admire the perverse beauty in a photographic faux pas, as a photographer's shadow darkens the item they want to sell, and enjoy the Mondrian-esque motif of a sideboard that compartmentalises the shrubbery behind. We see a shadow of ourselves in the dysfunctional family of 4-piece suite; 3 wiry models in bikinis; and, misleadingly at home in a countryside setting a floral patterned couple stuck in the 70's, naively dreaming of peace and love away from suburban overdevelopment and Ikea flat packs.
Beyond the absurdity of personified seating, Burns' work intimates the politics of desire and rejection. It's not you, it's me. These images are the sad displays of affections past, testament not to the unwanted, but the no-longer wanted; because I have moved on, because (how to say this nicely?) you never were quite right. These photographs speak of a rejection not bereft of hope. Whether they are simply sophisticated arrangements that understand to shoot inside with small flash does not produce a sumptuous advertisement, or considered compositions which serve to reignite new desire, to paint a picture of a happier future, Garden Interiors reminds us that one person's trash is another's treasure.
Maureen Burns lives and works in Sydney. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in 1982, and Graduate Diploma in Visual Arts in 1986, at Sydney College of the Arts. She went on to receive a Master of Fine Arts from COFA in 1995 while establishing her career by exhibiting nationally in both solo and group shows. Long fascinated with the images of the mid-20th century furnishings, the 'domestic uncanny' is a recurring theme in Burns' work, and as a current PhD candidate at COFA she continues to make a significant contribution to Australian contemporary art.