The genesis of the group exhibition Slide Show was a box of slides found by the artist Elly Kent in a deceased estate sale. This curious archival material from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s was tourist snapshots set in locations in Asia including Hong Kong, Manila, Bali and Java.
Visual artists Hannah Bath, Karen Golland, Elly Kent, Heide Lefebvre and Rose Montebello, and the poet Ali Jane Smith, have made work in response to particular slides that drew their attention. “The archives evoke ideas and associations such as memory and time,” says the exhibition’s curator Patsy Payne. “They were important in their time, but they lose their importance once their time has passed. Their meaning opens up and new stories can be told.” The anonymity of the slides created a springboard for the artists to consider diverse themes: alternate realities, the implications of tourism, non-linear time, and the dominance of images on social media platforms such as Instagram.
Ali Jane Smith has written a short set of poems in response to a photograph of a shrine in Kyoto. Acknowledging the classic 35 mm slide film, she has made five poems that are seven lines each coming to 35 in total. Written on the gallery wall in pigment that will fade over time, Payne explains that Smith wanted to evoke the sense of transience and ephemerality of slide photography.
Elly Kent, who has a long-standing connection to Indonesia, considers how tourists are often oblivious to the current events in the countries that they visit. Referring to the fact that East Timor was about to be invaded at the time when some of these slides were taken, she has created gouache paintings which incorporate imagery from her family’s collection of Indonesian travel photos, and of East Timorese soldiers. The resulting fusion of imagery covers drink coasters, an allusion to tourist leisure activities.
The fact that digital photography has superseded slide and film is also considered. Hannah Bath is interested in the fact that although Instagram offers the opportunity for individuals to take unique photographs, they often end up posting similar subject matter. Sourcing Instagram posts of Mount Fuji taken by a variety of people, she has made detailed drawings the same size as a phone screen that contain small differences, but which assert overarching sameness.
The works in Slide Show will be installed in a darkened space, reminiscent of slideshow presentations in family living rooms of the past.