Stranger than Fiction, in Gallery 2 and in public spaces at FACT, presents a number works that reference sensory deprivation, the unearthing of memory, objects and history, where the audience is invited to build their own connections in confronting the void.
All the artworks contribute to the wider themes of abstraction and storytelling explored in MADE UP at FACT. Sometimes the narrative is seemingly evident, but the truth is distorted or abstracted. In other cases historical stories are merged with a re-working or a gradual disintegration of meaning, to place the audience once more in the position of articulating the spaces in between.
Stella Brennan’s South Pacific (2007), plays with the links between technologies, making images from non-visual sources. Medical ultrasound and text are used to explore how the legacy of the Second World War changed not only the culture of the South Pacific region but our perception of oceanic space itself.
Terrence Handscomb’s Der Himmel über Kalifornien (2007) is a sardonic critique of Californian culture, an obscure dreamspace. Handscomb, based in Los Angeles, takes some fundamental Californian cultural tropes – a fascination with the body, cosmetic surgery and the prolongation of youth, science-fiction mysticism and the suspension of death – and stirs them all into a thick mix of low-resolution Film-Noir stylistics. Having also lived in Germany, Handscomb compares these two great nations and their cultural identities.
Michael Bell-Smith also creates imagined or fabricated dream-spaces. His two painterly wall-mounted pieces Glitter Grade (2007) and Glitter Bend (2008) each creates feelings of inter-galactic travel, skimming over the surface of the earth or soaring over an electrified cityscape. The two pixilated landscapes are similar, but while Glitter Grade is composed of ordered rows, Glitter Bend is curved, suggesting a radical shift in scale. This simple bend, coupled with the minimal, reduced structures of both compositions, suggests how representation can be built from smaller abstract elements and formal gestures.
In the building’s non-gallery space, outside Gallery 2, Lisa Reihana’s sound installation Colour of Sin: Headcase Version (2005) takes its place amongst the normal bustle of the bar. 1970’s hair dryers have been converted to relay an intimate dialogue, exploring internal passions against the banality of external life: the details become increasingly fractured, while the compelling and provocative story probes conventional perceptions of gender, sexuality and identity.
Downstairs in FACT are two images by Muchen, Legend No 1 & No 2 (2008), depicting artefacts in the Revolutionary Historical Museum in Yan’an. Both images bear witness to the mythology surrounding the charismatic leader. No 1 shows a replica of a meeting room where Mao gave important speeches; now with altar-like status, this replica resonates with the presence of someone who was never there. No 2 is an image of a stuffed horse purporting to be Mao’s legendary faithful mare who saved his life many times in war. These ‘made up’ historical artefacts from Mao’s life are fragments in the service of creating and sustaining a myth to meet people’s different needs.