The virtual world of digital art and the physical world of public art seem very far apart. So Troy Innocent was one of the last artists that I expected to have done public art. Public art in the sense that it is in a public space belonging to a privately owned building in Melbourne’s Docklands.
I remember in 1996 Innocent produced Psy-Harmonics a 50 minute video combining synaesthesia and electronic music. It achieved the pop height of being played on MTV in Europe and Australia. He is now a Senior Lecturer in Games and Interactivity at Swinburne University of Technology. For more on Innocent read my review of a group exhibition, Melbourne Future in 2014.
Innocent uses codes and icons to give unknown meaning to the entrance way of another anodyne office block. In Colony 2008 unknown symbols appear on lights, etched into the concrete walls and as coloured forms on the wall. The symbols even appear on the name plate for the art. How to interpret the symbols in the code is the key to how interpret Innocent’s art. It is all about semantics and the relationship between symbols and meaning.
This is not the first public art that Innocent has done. I have vague memories of a project that he did for Melbourne’s Laneway Commissions. It was an interactive work that built on both Innocent’s digital art and his way-finding “urban codemaking”. And Colony builds on that project in a more permanent form.
I was interrupted in contemplating and photographing the parts of Colony by a security worker. I was asked to stop photographing. There were no signs saying no photography. I have never been stopped from photographing sculpture on display in building lobby’s before. But discussing the matter with a low-paid security worker was pointless. As I walked through the car park the reason became clear from the signs on the doors of the trucks; the building housed part of Australia’s fascist department, the paranoid psychos of Border Force.
What ever happened to Troy Innocent? In the mid 1990s Troy Innocent’s computer art was the talk of the town, or at least amongst the people I was spending time with, Melbourne’s Clan Analogue and one of my housemates. His art was on the cover of World Art #12 magazine in 1997 and the article inside started by noting him as “one of the most acclaimed and internationally recognised artists working in his medium.”
I didn’t expect to find the answer at Brunswick Art Space but more on Troy Innocent later. I went to Brunswick Arts on Friday night to see the opening of two exhibitions; Melbourne Future and Metsä Pako that are both part of the Brunswick Music Festival. The converted factory space on Little Breeze street is now almost surrounded by new construction, except for the back of Alasya Restaurant.
Metsä Pako is an “immersive environment file with ambient, experimental sound”. It didn’t help that the neither pair of headphones were working and the ambient music from the two speakers could barely be heard. It wasn’t that immersive, just two video projectors and some clay leaves hanging from the ceiling.
It is hard to be that immersive when in the next room there is a virtual reality experience; Roger Essig’s North South East West that is far more spectacular especially as it was my first VR experience. Not that all of the art in Melbourne Future is all that great, some of it, like Essig’s virtual reality or Pierre Proske’s Voiceprint, voice activated custom software is still in a beta version. If the future was fully realised then it would present but the exhibits are fun and worth considering.
What is not a beta version but has been completely realised and looks and plays spectacularly is Benjamin Kolaitis and Troy Innocent’s interactive installation Play Parameters. The large sandbox on which the game is projected is surrounded by a wooden fence with wire stretched around it that the two players, in opposite corners tap on with metal bars. It is an amazing and fun creation… lights flash, the game is on… So this is what Troy Innocent is doing now, as well as, being the Senior Lecturer in Games and Interactivity in the Faculty of Life and Social Sciences at Swinburne University and represented by Hugo Michell Gallery in South Australia.
Melbourne Future is a reference to Melbourne Now at the NGV but it is not just a prediction about the future of art but also “borrowing from the successful format of the ‘Melbourne Now’ program we will be running a mix of exhibited works along with engaging the public with free talks and workshops.” (See their Facebook page for details on the talks and workshops, a must for all artists working with technology in Melbourne).
What the future of art will look and sound like? Will the future of art look like a computer game? Will we still even recognise it as art?