Tensions in the Screens Presence

By Grace Kirk/ Visual Art
Louise Bennett is a visual artist whose creative work examines human experience in an increasingly digital environment. It is the tension in the screens presence that drives her exploration.

Bennett is a Brisbane based, solo artist whose exhibition All At Once was held at the Media Arts Asia Pacific (MAAP) space in the Fortitude Valley last year. Bennett was the first local artist to have been offered a residency at this space, which predominantly exhibits established new media artists from Asia.

Bennett was offered the residency over March 2015 by the MAAP director, Kim Machan. Speaking on this decision, Machan says, “I was drawn to her work because of her approach to digital media that she captures and meets with some kind of analogue response”.

I was lucky enough to visit the intimate space with Bennett to see her predominantly video based works that draw on human experience with our environment, in particular our fascination with disasters and how our world intersects with technology.

The main piece of video installation is a mesmerizing video that draws on the impact of the 2014 Brisbane hail storm. The footage is blurred and hypnotic as it slowly draws away from the filming of the laptop screen to bring in the distorted surroundings of the artists kitchen and Brisbane city view. It leaves the audience with an eerie sense of calm and sedation.

Louise Bennett, Brisbane Hail Storm, 2015

Louise Bennett, Brisbane Hail Storm, 2015

The exhibition All At Once, similarly to Bennett’s other works, explores screen-based mediation and the internet as both human and technological phenomena.

“I am inspired by my day-to-day experiences and interactions with people, nature and screen based technology. If I experience something that resonates with me and I think about it for a long time I start to consider it as content to respond to through an art work,” Bennett says.

Bennett’s work revolves around the common theme of mediated experience, that is, how we engage with technology and how we “view and experience the world through screen-based devices”.

This is an intensely rich area for a visual artist to explore. Bennett uses a combination of digital and traditional methods in her artwork. These pieces question the intersection of the physical and online environments, which we all seem to straddle in our lives.

Louise Bennett, White Noise, 2015

Louise Bennett, White Noise, 2015

Through personal experience, Bennett captures the essence of the everyday tensions faced by the increasing use of technology.

The internet plays an important role in her life, however, her interest lies in how screen-based media and modes of representation more broadly have the potential to simultaneously draw people together while “creating and maintaining a distinct distance… like questioning if there is a difference between ‘real’ and simulated experience is so hard to pin down and I enjoy that!”

“I handle digital media in a tactile physical way in an attempt to get closer to the crossovers between the physical and virtual,” she says.

Bennett uses “screen-based interactions with the moving image, text and sound as an interrogation of media in relation to the subject, as opposed to an interrogation of only the subject itself”.

For example, when maneuvering the digital video camera in a hand-held way, she purposefully points to the presence of her hand as a physical object in order to “grapple with the physical aspect of my investigations and hopefully make the viewer aware of their body in relation to what they are experiencing”.

Louise Bennett at All At Once Exhibit

Louise Bennett at All At Once Exhibit

Undergraduate study and life as an artist

Bennett says that her creative space is the world. “A lot of my making is thinking in response to what I experience day to day – online and offline… my studio space is transient and adaptive, at the moment it  is my living room and kitchen bench overlooking the city!”

Bennett has been exhibiting actively for nine years, since she started a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Art at QUT. At QUT Bennett relished the time spent in the open studio classes, where, she explains, “I had the opportunity to translate my ideas over multiple mediums”.

“This time was crucial to my development as an artist as it was here I learnt how to visually analyse art work through peer critique sessions. This also gave me a language to articulate my readings of art and began to fine tune the ideas and reference points in my own work.”

Bennett graduated with honours in Visual Arts from QUT in 2009. In the five years since graduating she has exhibited in solo shows in Brisbane with David Pestorious Projects, Boxcopy, MAAP; and overseas with the Ionion Centre for Culture & Art in Greece and in the Beijing Film Academy International New Media Arts Triennial exhibition.

She has also been a part of group exhibitions at Spiro Grace Art Rooms Gallery and other Australian artist run initiative’s, including feminist ARI Level in Brisbane and Screen Space in Melbourne.

The Brisbane art scene and expression through art

During her honours year at QUT, Bennett co-directed Accidentally Annie Street Space, an initiative that brought an alternative exhibition space to Brisbane.

She explains, “the artists and art work we engage with are experimental, ephemeral or otherwise non-traditional in nature… our model is site-specific, in the community and outside of the white-cube gallery… giving artists an alternative to commercial or institutional art spaces”.

Bennett did not always know she actually wanted to be an artist. “I’ve always been a critical thinker with a desire to express myself but I only knew making art was for me when I found art making… and that was through the practice-led, non-discipline specific studio classes in my BFA at QUT”.

It was throwing herself into her studies at QUT where Bennett began to express herself in relation to the world and develop her own approach to art making.

“I relate ideas of continual data overload to my personal narratives and desires; the relentless task-shifting coupled with an urgency to embody meaningful experience.”

Louise Bennett, I want to be here, 2014

Louise Bennett, I want to be here, 2014

Ultimately Bennett uses her artwork, such as the solo exhibition All At Once, as a voice for representing the intersections between the physical and virtual worlds.

“I aim to produce work that many people can relate to, and create a discussion or question around.”

“With this in mind I think it is very important to communicate my ideas through art, as art works can trigger questioning, feelings and debate in a way that is complex and open rather than a literal didactic prompt.”

While this question of how humans can exist in an increasingly digital world is a big one, it is certainly one worth asking.