‘Making ISLAND’

by Ian Strange – Originally published in Art Monthly Magazine, November issue, 2017

ISLAND is a body of work I started in the USA in 2015 and presented in my recent solo exhibitions at the Fremantle Arts Centre, Australia and with Standard Practice in New York. The exhibitions are anchored by three new large photographic works documenting interventions directly undertaken on foreclosed homes through Ohio’s ‘rust-belt’ region as well as research and work created in Detroit and New York between 2015 and 2017. The exhibition presents artefacts retrieved from inside the homes; found photographs, research, sound works, the reconstructed sections of now demolished homes, as well as drawings created in development of the work.

ISLAND aims to create a poetic connection between the specificity of each GFC affected home and the larger themes they have come to represent. Looking at the icon of the house as a deeply vulnerable object and personal vessel for memory, identity and aspiration. ISLAND reflects on the home through the metaphor of the desert island; a place of simultaneous refuge and entrapment. Beyond the context of economic foreclosures, the works touch on a wider idea of suburban isolation and angst. The use of text such as ‘SOS’ directly reference historical instances of entrapment and rescue; letters written in the sand of an island, on the roofs of nail houses in China or on homes following Hurricane Katrina. By presenting these large scale works alongside research and intimate artefacts found inside the homes is intended to transgress notions of scale and interplay the monumental with the intimate and intangible.

In its approach and presentation, it is a body of work I have been building to for the past 8 years.

Since 2010 my practice has largely focused on ideas of suburbia. I am specifically interested in the house as psychological symbol and the false sense of permanence it seems to represent.

In this time, I have created large scale sculptures, films, photographic works and site-specific interventions onto suburban homes between the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland and Japan. It is a body of work that has spanned a wide socio-economic reach, working in neighbourhoods in current conflict & disaster zones, affluent neighbourhoods & foreclosed suburban post-GFC housing.

These works are most often direct markings or cuts made into the homes, in an attempt to place the psychological interior of the houses onto their exteriors. Creating these works also involves collaborating with large teams, technicians and the local communities themselves.

The homes are almost always demolished after the work is executed, so it is the documentation process which gives the work its final form.

I work with teams to cinematically light the works, and they are consciously shot in hours of intense suburban isolation. This not only removes each home’s specificity, but also places each house in the familiar space of mass culture; the home seen in film and television. By borrowing the familiar tropes of commercial film and photography, it allows each work to remain a nod to its original context, while also standing as a broader symbol for all homes. This allows the works to be considered as a universal house; the idealised and imagined home. They are dwellings of projected memories from the viewer; of their childhood, of family, belonging and isolation.

While ‘ISLAND’ falls neatly within these years of work, it is also a departure. It is the first exhibition which presents the specificity of house locations alongside process, found artefacts and research. Working from primary documents and objects has allowed me to carve a collective idea of suburbia while remaining a testament to the individual homes and the narratives of their inhabitants. To present this within an exhibition, is to greater place my role as an artist creating connections between the research, process and larger poetic truths.