Art Guide Australia is continuously monitoring gallery and museum responses to COVID-19 with our daily gallery update. While this article originally appeared in our March/April 2020 issue, at this time The New Sun is not open to the public. You can find out more about the artist and her work here.
In Agnieszka Polska’s immersive video The New Sun, an emoji-like sun looks down at the Earth, observing its environmental destruction while uttering a combination of love songs, monologues and jokes. This work is part of her video installation What the Sun Has Seen, which won the 2017 National Gallery Prize at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, establishing Polska as a significant early-career artist.
Programmed at Heide Museum of Modern Art as part of PHOTO 2020, an inaugural biennial festival of photography in Melbourne, the work bears a sophisticated relationship to the festival’s theme: how photography has a complicated relationship to ‘truth’, and images themselves. The New Sun could be conceived as ‘post-photography’. “Photography these days can mean more than capturing images through the use of a traditional camera,” says Brooke Babington, curator of the exhibition. The construction of the work began with a child’s face, which Polska animated using facial recognition software and photographic textures, bringing to mind emojis and gifs, features of our current digital lexicon.
The work is a product of, yet also subverts, the ‘post-truth’ era where public opinion is shaped by emotion as opposed to facts and reason. The sun connects to its audience by encouraging sympathy and trust with its childlike features. “Polska’s practice has long deliberated on the role that truth plays in art. I think the work’s layered narrative offers a very multi-faceted version of reality—drawing in elements of scientific theory, poetry and the language of comedy routines to reflect upon our current conditions,” says Babington. “In its complexity, I think it inherently goes against the kind of simplified right and wrong versions of events that we hear so much of these days in the media; a feature of what many call ‘post-truth’ politics.”