Axis MAstars

Axis MAstars. A review of the artist and 2009 Newcastle University MFA graduate Laura Cresser.

Laura Cresser’s exhibition The Hanging Gardens Project consists of four scale models of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, based on differing descriptions by ancient Greek and Babylonian writers and historians. Each model is displayed on a low plinth, resulting in the observer towering over them and having to crouch down in order to observe any detail.   

On first sight they give an aura of truth due to the nature of architectural models and the deliberate visibility of their construction. This is intensified by the height of the plinths, which offer the viewer a feeling of ownership and power over each model. Under further investigation, however, the viewer begins to realise that these constructs are based on an uncertainty, and as Cresser herself puts it, a ‘suspension of belief’.

The belief in this Utopian ideal can result in the projection of our desires onto what essentially is a fictional construct for which there is no real evidence. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon exist only in text and in our subconscious. By creating these scale models Cresser isn’t attempting to turn the gardens into a reality but to investigate how these descriptions have become the truth of what potentially is just a story.

Cresser’s previous work delves into the cabinet of curiosity, through botanical paintings and drawing of fictional and hybrid birds, museum cabinets full of unnatural surreal objects and Švankmajer like animations consisting of eggs coming to life. Here she takes a different angle, acting more like an archaeologist than a biologist, but with a similar vision, to investigate our willingness to believe more or less anything that is put in front of us and presented as fact.

Axis MAstars. A review of the artist and the 2009 Newcastle University MFA student Tom Schofield.

Walking into a darkened room in the bowels of the art department, as your eyes get used to the darkness you are confronted by three very different but connected objects. In the centre of the room is a lectern on which is a piece of instructional text. In front of the lectern is half a sphere attached to a wall with a map of the world projected onto it. To the right is a printer attached to the ceiling with fax paper dropping down and splaying over the floor. 

Tom Schofield’s work ‘newsGlobe’ (2009), with support from the university’s Culture Lab, is described as a live art project. The project uses open source software to process and collate newspaper rss feeds with the aim of searching the content for country and capital city names, and presenting the information on the sphere as spikes of colour. Previous presentations compared Western and East Asian newspapers, whilst this incarnation studied five prominent British national newspapers, concentrating specifically on countries that have been colonised or partly colonised by Britain. The aim being, to present the bias of British newspapers towards Western based news stories. This information is presented for each day and sporadically spewed out by the printer.

‘newsGlobe’ is a project still undergoing development. Sometimes with similar projects there is the possible problematic issue of the technology overriding meaning. However in this artwork technology is integral and does not, as a result, encapsulate the artist’s intent. One question that could possibly be directed at the project is that maybe the viewer is already aware of a bias in Western media towards Western news. However as ‘newsGlobe’ is an ongoing project there is plenty of scope for further development in terms of information collated and the technology employed.

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