Ninety-nine names of God
Depot Artspace, 28 Clarence Street, Devonport, Auckland
Saturday 16 January - Wednesday 3 February 2016
LOUD issue #65 (Nov '15 - Feb '16)
An exhibition about our world under surveillance whether by satellite, street cameras or smart phones. Ninety-Nine Names of God illustrates our acceptance, not only through the works themselves, but also by transformation of the gallery space into a surveillance area where the viewer becomes part of the exhibition.
In mystical ages God monitored our lives, our every move and even our thoughts. In this scientific age God has been replaced by satellites and the book of life is now digital, where information is stored on an unprecedented scale with dossiers on the lives of millions of people. Ninety-Nine Names of God, the second solo exhibition at the Depot Artspace by Michael Ferriss, depicts in abstract and surrealistic forms this age of technological surveillance. With the use of collage, paint and sculptural forms he gives them an ironic beauty not usually associated with the subject. Each piece of art is named after intelligence surveillance operations conducted by the ‘FiveEyes’ nations (an intelligence alliance between Canada, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom where information is accessed and shared thus subverting privacy and surveillance legislation in any one country).
Michael Ferriss studied art under Gavin Bishop at Linwood High School, Christchurch, New Zealand in the 1970s. He then explored electronic music for many years both through recording and live performances. He has released four albums to date along with the several recent live solo performances, including improvised music for theatre. (www.shima.co.nz)
He has returned to the visual arts and exhibited his first body of work in 2014 with the theme of cartography for the new millennium using ideas of cyberspace, mapping memory and imagination through pictures. With two successful exhibitions of this work - the Depot Artspace and in Sydney’s Platform 72 - he returns with a new exhibition based on the subject of surveillance. Opening Saturday 16 January 2pm to 3.30pm.
Exhibiting at Depot Artspace from mid-January 2016, Auckland-based artist / musician Michael Ferriss will be showing a selection of of detailed collage works, watercolour paintings and more based around the theme of surveillance. We caught up with the artist who kindly leant his time towards answering a few questions for LOUD. Interview conducted by Chris Cudby, all images by Michael Ferriss.
Can you talk a little about the process of assembling your large scale collages?
With these works I have started off with concepts and sketches. Some are modelled on satellite images of Earth, for example. It’s a very interesting process in that I am using the paper - usually from magazines and books - as paint, rather than the image on the page. So I am looking for colour, line and texture and the serendipity of stumbling upon images that then lead the picture in a new direction - rather like improvisation in music.
I like how you’re talking about the implications of mass scale information gathering while at the same time making works out of info that you’ve personally gathered / collected – could you please discuss the meaning conveyed by some of your collage works?
You’re right. We are in Orwell’s dystopia of the screen looking back at us. There are so many levels of this I find it intriguing, and this art is my attempt to capture its strange power as if the omnipotent God has been replaced by satellites looking down on us. I think there is a kind of iconography to some of these images only these are to science and its mysteries and power over our lives.
The exhibition features some fine watercolour images too – is this a recent development for you? Is the content of these images different to your collages (eg. more directly representational)?
Yes, I like the idea of the juxtaposition of high tech buildings captured by a low tech method, and so I have created a series of pictures of some of the government spy bases around the world in watercolours. It makes them look a bit surreal, which they probably are.
You’re a sound artist / musician / performer too. Does your sound work relate to your visual work, tangential or otherwise?
It does, both in technique and ideas. I approach creating music in terms of layering textures, rhythm, harmony and melody, in a similar way one might apply paint to create images. The pictures are also improvisational in their own way as I mentioned, allowing a fluidity and a sense of movement. Perhaps the images and a condensing of the soundwaves - that’s a nice idea.
What would you anticipate the fallout might be from the recent TPPA signing?
These trans-nation agreements are an extension of what Naomi Kline writes about in her book The Shock Doctrine. With corporate power now exceeding the power of governments we are seeing the breakdown of the nation state and a new corpocracy emerging with its own laws coming in to play. This of course is not new, governments have often gone in to bat to protect corporate interests. I think TPPA could also mean The Pharmaceutical Protection Agreement given how they are the most profitable and potentially deadly industry on Earth. It makes for an interesting future, because people will realize their vote is cosmetic as the real power belongs to elite - something we perhaps have always known at a certain level, but now the veil is lifting and we can see it for what it is. This also completes a circle when discussing surveillance, because really surveillance and the idea of a monitored police state serves the elite, not the people. It isn’t there to protect the people, it is there to protect the gated communities from the proles, to use Orwell’s term.