IN AND OUT OF THE LOOP.

Review by Robert Nelson.
Publication - The Age-The Culture,
July 9, 2003, page 6.

Recently there was an exhibition at Monash called-Feedback. It would have been a suitable name for the prosaically titled PROJECT ONE at the VCA Gallery curated by John R Neeson. The best works have a kind of feedback loop as their key motif.

In a work called fidelity, Leslie Eastman aims a security camera at a translucent screen on which a digital projection casts an image from the other side. The source of the -projector's image is the security camera. The feedback loop is complete.

But, the zone of light on the screen flickers, for the impulses recorded by the camera and relayed by the projector are not quite constant but chaotically shift by strange pulses, as if the closed circuit machine has a primitive kind of life; it doesn't behave in a totally mechanical way.

The intrepid viewer may also intercept the beam with a hand which interrupt the projection. The image changes in notably different ways if you disrupt the input or the output, which makes you realise that the symmetry of the machine isn't predictably mechanical either but, strangely elastic. The fact that the central image is a fuzzy zone makes you speculate about some romantic ghost in the machine.

There's further feedback with MichaeI Graeve's monumental tower of old speakers and amplifiers. They take their signal from microphones in the air-conditioning duct; and much as I tried to influence the sound that loops through the system, I could only hear lots of air -conditioning. That's exactly the feeling you have in a modem building, haunted by the ubiquitous insensible hum of fanned air.

Natasha Johns-Messenger has created a beautiful maze of passages and mirrors. You enter a corridor that proposes a long straight perspective; but you soon encounter a mirror at the corner- as if you're in a periscope- then another mirror and another, until you come to a terminal wall with a little oculus at eye height. This is a kind of vanishing point for the perspective that you first imagined. If you peep through the Iens you see the rusty buildings of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, which, at the moment has an exhibition called The labyrinthine effect.

The feedback loop operates on many levels. One gallery looks at another (and vice versa). One labyrinth answers another. One representational system reflects another: single-point perspective is answered by a lens. The infinity of the vanishing point is answered by the intimacy of the peephole. And the straight is convoluted, confounded and disconcerting, while at the same time being entirely rational and optically well engineered.

John Neeson's own work also involves reflection. He paints four abstract pictures next to a glass wall. On the other side, the same pictures are mirrored by another four. You read this symmetry as a reflection in the pane of glass. So you shift your position to sort out the feedback systems before you realise that the other four pictures are real.

Some of the work tracing the loops of electricity and fire hose and the wall transfers seem thin; and when you first enter, there isn't much to see. But if you stay with the best works, you're certainly left with plenty to think about.