December 2022
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Empty Plot, Haggerston

In 1992 at the 9th Biennale of Sydney, Melanie Counsell had already adopted her more immediate, realist strategy of drawing only on the present moment, and allowing the memories and perceptions of the viewer to interact with the space and time of the installation. Her site was an old room to one side of the main entrance that had been used as a warehouse, and still contained the original wooden lift shafts and lifting apparatus. For fire safety reasons, the room had long been disused, and was closed to the public. Counsell’s solution was to build a simple glass wall supported by a steel frame in the form of a cross. This wall completely blocked the entrance to the space, sealing off all the objects and the evidence of their use. The glass was punctured by drilled holes in the shape of a diamond, not unlike the speaking holes in a bank teller’s window. At first glance the frame of the ‘window’ looked like a hologram of a room, as if the real room had become a representation of itself. Looking through the holes, however, one could see – and smell – the space directly, thereby experiencing the glass as a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of representation. Counsell’s installations have an indelible logic. The fact that we can subsequently analyse our first impression and even name the material components that gave rise to it in no way detracts from the poignancy of that fleeting moment prior to recognition and evaluation. The artist has developed a site-specific work for a space in Liverpool.


24 September – 07 November 1999