Bennett, A 2013, Shifting Skin, giclee prints with augmented reality overlay, held at Wyndham Cultural Centre, 2 September – 3 November 2014, a Deakin University Art Gallery touring exhibition.
- 2014 ‘Augmented Reality tattoo artworks at Wyndham Art Gallery’, Digital Meets Culture (Italy) 2 September 2014 http://www.digitalmeetsculture.net/article/augmented-reality-tattoo-artworks-at-wyndham-art-gallery/
- Mitchell, L 2014, ‘Seeing Tatts in a different light’, Wyndham Star Weekly 10 Sept 2014.
Alison Bennett: Shifting Skin
Deakin University is pleased to present the work of artist Alison Bennett in the exhibition Shifting Skin, opening soon in Werribee.
Alison Bennett’s exhibition Shifting Skin, was organised by and shown at Deakin University Art Gallery, Melbourne Campus at Burwood in 2013. It then toured to Deakin’s Waterfront campus in Geelong, a venue in Sydney for the Mardi Gras, Swan Hill Regional Gallery and is now at Wyndham Art Gallery, 177 Watton Street, Werribee from 3 September to 2 November 2014. The official opening is Tuesday 2 September, 6.30 to 8.30pm. The exhibition will then be open daily from 9.00 am to 5.00pm admission is free.
The exhibition displays the work of Alison Bennett and presents a dense unpacking of the rapidly expanding and changing relationships between the body and technology. Centred on the internet and social media, the exhibition has so far received both local and incredible international coverage, examples of which can be found at: http://shiftingskinonline.wordpress.com/.
The works in the exhibition were made using a re-fashioned flatbed scanner in order to directly capture her subjects. Rather than her subjects being at a remove from the apparatus, they were literally touched by it, as the scanner was painstakingly rolled around their bodies to capture their image. The large scale resulting prints then had an added element of augmented reality, in which visitors could view Bennett’s reconstituted flattened, unfolded scans as novel 3-dimensional entities to the gallery through the interface of a smartphone or tablet screen. Visitors to the exhibition downloaded a free app called Aurasma Lite onto their iPad, iPhone or android device to view the works.
ALISON BENNETT INFORMATION
Alison Bennett is a visual artist investigating the theme of ‘negotiated inhabitation’. Bennett holds a BA (visual arts) majoring in photography from the UNSW College of Fine Arts and a research Master of Fine Arts from Monash University. She is currently undertaking a PhD creative practice research project at Deakin University on the topic of the shifting surface in digital photography.
Previous solo exhibitions include:
- ‘Shifting Skin: transforming fabric’, a moving image projection work commissioned by http://www.whitestreetproject.org with the support of Frankston Arts Centre and Arts Victoria in 2013;
- Cavity’, also supported by the Victorian Government through Arts Victoria, which toured to a number of regional galleries 2009-2010 and was discussed by Robert Nelson in The Age 22 July 2009;
- ‘to occupy’ series exhibited at the Vivid National Photography Festival in Canberra August 2008, featured in the November 2008 issue of Indesign magazine and reviewed in issue 2.2 of Un magazine;
Bennett has works in the collections of the National Museum of Australia, the Historic Houses Trust of NSW and the City of Geelong.
In addition to her visual arts practice, Alison teaches photography at Deakin University. She worked as a scene photographer documenting the Melbourne queer performance and party scene for several years and her editorial and fashion photography has been published in magazines such as Treadlie and Cherrie magazine.
Through her most recent series of works, Shifting Skin, Alison Bennett presents a dense unpacking of the rapidly expanding and changing relationships between the body and technology. While the trajectory of this new body of work marks a shift in context and content, it continues the broader conceptual concerns of her creative and critical investigations. Bennett’s practice…is an analytic and inquisitive enquiry, fundamentally concerned with interrogating the very nature and possibilities of the [photographic] medium.
Bennett’s Shifting Skin confronts and destabilises these complex sets of relations between surface and depth, digital imaging and communicative practices. To this end, it is ambiguous as to whether her large-scale digital photographic prints are even to be considered ‘photographs’, at least in a traditional sense, for they are not made with a camera at all. Instead, she has used a re-fashioned flatbed scanner in order to directly capture her subjects. By appropriating this technology, Bennett stretches to the extreme the relationship between surface and depth. She also introduces a crucial, corporeal element to the work that complicates the ‘pure’ dematerialisation of digital images. Rather than her subjects being at a remove from the apparatus, they are literally touched by it, as the scanner is painstakingly rolled around their bodies to capture their image.
Bennett puts [the flatbed scanner] to work at capturing that most purely individual of entities; human skin. When printed at more than life scale, her prints confront the viewer with a visceral and exceptionally detailed portrayal of the skin’s creases, hairs, freckles, pores and other uniquely distinguishing features.
Skin has inherent qualities that make it a marker of individuality and subjectivity—our fingerprints being the perfect example. However, humans also routinely interrupt and disturb the ‘unity’ of their skin, and thus Bennett’s work in fact focuses not predominantly on the biological details and imperfections, but rather the scars and tattoos of her subjects. Whether unintended disruptions or deliberate inscriptions, these features become markers of individual history and personal expression. Scars and tattoos manifest depth on an individual surface. Scars are traces of a rupture—the exposure of depth and bodily strata—as well as the evidence the wound’s resealing. While scars can be the result of accidental or intentional actions, tattoos elude explicitly to a conscious piercing of the skin, creating a surface image that intimately reflects an act of self-expression and embodies a sense of emotional depth.
By scanning these marks, Bennett is literally flattening them, removing them of depth, not only through the physicality of the scanner but also through its imaging qualities. Unlike traditional photography where light is reflected and refracted unevenly according to the textures and shapes of the subjects, Bennett’s scanner creates an even distribution of light across the skin’s surface. There are no shadows in Bennett’s prints, no chiaroscuro, and this produces an effect of negation that viewers are not accustomed to seeing, whether in art or in real-life. This gives her prints an otherworldly effect, instantly removing them from the realm of pure ‘representation’ and transforming them into examples of a ‘digital uncanny’. The distinct ‘humanness’ of the subject is still clearly visible, yet it becomes altered and extended by technology and digital imaging.
Given the complex interrelations between skin, surface, materiality and the virtual that the project evokes, Bennett has not limited her investigation to her larger-than-life photographic prints, but has also incorporated into the installation an element of augmented reality, which visitors encounter in the gallery through the interface of a smartphone or tablet screen. Bennett has reconstituted her flattened, unfolded scans as novel 3-dimensional entities. These digital objects do not recreate or mimic the physical or representation contours of the subject. Rather, they are constructed through the information embodied within the image, the data, pixels and binary code that themselves allow for a form of reconstitution. Dark tones of the scans recede sharply, while light areas are thrust forward, creating uneven and undulating digital ‘topologies’.
These dematerialised (or perhaps, rematerialised) images are overlaid on top of the physical prints, projected outwards for the viewer to observe and navigate around through the screen-based interface. This is the crucial element of the nature of augmented reality; unlike ‘virtual reality’, it is not entirely immersive. It is a superimposition, in which the ‘real’ world remains perceivable and palpably present, but is engaged in a differential relationship with the virtual. Bennett does not replace one surface with another, rather she reveals and emphasises their interconnectedness. This underscores her consideration of the skin as not only an interface for experiencing our physical surroundings, but also as providing a visceral connection to the virtual. The physical prints are extended through, but also constitutive of, the element of augmented reality. Rather than embracing a totalising form of the virtual, Bennett envisions a virtual that is reliant upon, and an extension of, personal subjectivity and individual realities.
Source: Kate Warren, catalogue essay
More posts about SHIFTING SKIN here: https://alisonbennett.net/tag/shifting-skin/