Monday, May 19, 2014

exhibitions | Michael Morgan "Impermanent Vessels - Rebirth"

One of the fifty head/vessels. Photo by Michael Morgan
During my daily walk to the Waterfront Campus I encountered Michael Morgan's "Impermanent Vessels - Rebirth" an exhibition important for its content and remarkable for the beautiful multimedia installation. A very unusual dialogue of video projections, sculpture and sound installation (the Muslim Call to Prayer) brings to life the notion of replication of the self (the artist's head) subject to time in space. The two-year project  (2012 to 2014) is a an artist meditation on "the transient and evolutionary nature of all aspects of existence and life."  

More from the artist statement: 
The Story of Vessels
50 copies of the artist's head produced in raku clay, significant through its use in Japanese tea ceremony, were placed in five locations along Corio Bay and Port Philip Bay - Swan Bay, Wedge, Point Lillias, Welsh's Jetty and Point Henry Back Lead. The vessels were subject to nature's forces to transform them through interaction with underwater environment.One year later, the artist began to recover the vessels leaving at least one at each site to symbolize the ultimate return of all things to nature. A total of 38 vessels have been recovered, while others were missing or left to continue their journey.
The Exhibition 
The exhibition presents the recovered vessels and the existence (or non-existence) of the lost vessels by the coordinates of their sites.The small screens rotate the images of vessels at four stages of their evolution: upon production, just as they were placed underwater, then a year after placement underwater, and finally after recovery in their present state.The vessels reflect the unavoidable change in the light of fundamental connectedness of all things as described in Zen Buddhist teachings. Fragile and impermanent- they are also the 'vessels of life' and part of something beautiful. The Muslim Call to Prayer is the spiritual reference to the sound resonating in vessels. A digital projection onto sculpture features the artist wearing hard hat diving equipment with the sound overlay of breathing and heartbeat as the helmet represents the 'vessel sustaining life'.'Impermanent Vessels - Rebirth' is artist's dedication to his late wife Carolyn.
The heads/vessels in the artist's studio. Photo by Michael Morgan
Excerpts from the opening address by Dr. Felicity Spear:
The entire cosmos is a cooperative. Lord Buddha was spot on when he made this observation all those hundreds of years ago, and while contemporary science also finds this to be true, and Michael and I would agree, sadly the politicians who run our lives mostly ignore it. Michael has had enough experience of life to understand something of the nature of this cooperative interconnectedness between things, but also the way things always change, how nothing stays the same,'how everything is in a state of flux. This exhibition Impermanent Vessels- Rebirth could be described as an autobiography in which Michael. through the experience of the tragic loss of his wife Carolyn, attempts to come to terms with the fragility and impermanence of life. His fifty vessels pay homage to the journey he has made in coming to understand the underlying web of connections between all things and their transient nature.Working with his own image, Michael has created what could be described as self portraits, fifty of them, one for each year of his life. He refers to them as vessels of life, fragile, subject to change, impermanent. He draws together the strands of time, memory and transformation in a process which he likens to archaeology, where objects scarred and marked by time are rediscovered, retrieved and rebirthed in another time. The transformative elements in Michaels' work are expressed through the tactile materiality of raku clay, its weathering over time beneath the sea by the flow of water and weed, and the experience of diving in a silent womb-like world.Beneath the sea he returns to an intimate world, connected like an umbilicus to a life line above, hearing only the sound of his own breath and heartbeat, and the flow of water over his body. Retrieving these vessels after a year in their underwater locations enabled their rediscovery, their reinterpretation and their rebirth. They reveal the changes that time has wrought on their surfaces by the process of chance. They are the material evidence for the inevitability of change and its unpredictability.To be an artist takes courage and perseverance. Artists who push the boundaries step outside the mainstream and dare to see the world with other eyes. This can be challenging or fascinating for we cultural consumers depending on what we bring of ourselves to the experience. But for an artist it is not only about courage. It's about a certain sensibility and sensitivity, it's about being attuned to things, and it's about the need to transform experiences into images while drawing attention to different ways of viewing the world. Michael's work raises our awareness of something absolutely fundamental about the cosmos and our own experience. It reminds us that we are more alike than different. We are all in the same boat. He engages with and celebrates the Buddhist observation of the cosmos as a cooperative, the melancholy beauty of the Muslim call to prayer, and the rationality of western science which demystifies the physical world. In doing this he pays respect to cultures other than our own and acknowledges our shared human experiences. This is the legacy of these thoughtful and beautiful vessels as they interact with each other and play with light, our medium of contact with the cosmos. They reflect Michael's courage, his determination and his talent.

Michael Morgan "Impermanent Vessels - Rebirth"
Deakin University Geelong Waterfront Campus
9-25 May 2014