John Gillies: Video Work
22 April–27 May 200622 Apr–27 May 2006
Queensland-born Sydney-based John Gillies is one of Australia’s longest-standing video artists. This show features key works stretching back over twenty-two years that collectively highlight his exploration of the languages and materials of film and video and his ongoing collaboration with performing artists. A catalogue of hysterical gestures, Techno/Dumb/Show (1991), produced in collaboration with The Sydney Front, is one of Gillies’s most celebrated pieces. The Mary Stuart Tapes(2000) evolved out of a performance Gillies developed with Clare Grant and presented at Performance Space in 1998. Gillies has Friedrich Schiller’s Mary Stuart, played by Grant, walking through present-day Sydney’s streets and underground walkways at night declaiming to the camera. The most recent work, Divide (2004), draws on the genre of the Australian outback ‘western’ and is the most conventionally cinematic piece in the show. Gillies describes it: ‘A voice speaking from the Old Testament, of the colonisation of the land of Canaan through the genocidal acts of the Israelites, is juxtaposed over a group of non-indigenous male figures journeying into an Australian landscape. The cultural layering and ambiguity in the work speaks of the foundation of Australia, its current fears and neuroses and the intruder as both destroyer and powerless witness. Sheep flock together in fear and panic, but are easily led by leaders who wander across the country, unreconciled.’ Indeed, sheep play a crucial but ambiguous role in Gillies’s allegory. Do they refer to indigenous people being herded across the landscape, or the incoming European culture? Do we understand them as pathetic lambs-to-the-slaughter or as hooved descecrators, trashing the land?