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We are made of stardust | Camille Serisier

Start transmission.

This morning I am thinking about time, the speed of light, and something clicked….1

I have been involved in an intensive email conversation with Michaela Gleave for a number of years. We write back and forth about the projects we are working on, the types of works we dream of making, as well as our personal dreams more generally. I have always adored her work, so please be warned this is by no means an unbiased text. Michaela’s work touches me. By isolating a specific atmospheric subject, her works turn the peripheral into the particular and offer the viewer a very precious physical and tactile experience.

In writing about Gleave’s upcoming show at Boxcopy, I won’t talk exclusively about what she will display – you will experience that for yourself. Instead, I would like to give some insight into the considered and developed realm that surrounds and reveals her practice. If the work is different at the time of display than at the time this piece was written, then all the better. This text will indicate a section of the path towards the finished piece.

At this stage the work would be called ‘I am made of stardust’ and be something really primal and sensorial, thinking back to the moment when my dad told me I was made of stardust as a little kid and it being the most beautiful and amazing idea ever. I think it was the same conversation where I found out about the Universe constantly expanding into nothingness.2

Michaela Gleave grew up in Tasmania on a small property. Her parents, from what I can gather, are kind-hearted hippies who seem to have taught their daughter a type of D.I.Y. farming skill base that although makeshift at heart, is also quite neat. Michaela as a result has the ability to make works that require robust physical strength and the determination of a ‘can do’ attitude. I have seen her flip walls3, make it rain indoors4, and snow in Sydney5. All of these ideas are ludicrous and require a certain amount of problem solving to conquer. However, they also have something else in common: a deep respect for nature and an interest in the immense effort gone to by humans to control it.

….I want to be working with things which are greater than human control and intervention….I’m not interested in making work about people, but rather in creating connections between an individual and the forces and systems which are far beyond our control, creating some sense of connectedness with the vastness of infinite time and space and the sense of perspective that comes from this.6

This idea of ‘vastness’ is an important element in Gleave’s work. Hers is not a practice of simple accomplishments and minor subversions. She would like to grasp as much as possible and make it her own. Not only are her works consistently large in scale, they are also large in scope. Each one is a study of an element within a larger structure.

I have to figure out how to work bigger.7

Michaela is the only artist I know who has spent over two thousand dollars on glitter. She also needs to rent two studios in order to store all her past works. If you need to know anything about industrial size air balloons or snow makers she is the woman to ask. However, it is the way she brings her large ideas into actuality that amazes me. It is difficult to make large-scale work that is still poetic and magical. Being bold and quiet simultaneously is a Gleave trait. Amidst a very loud field of fake snow I found solitude8. Within a throng of people at a massive street art festival, I had a moment of silence as I watched hundreds of bubbles rise into the air and pop one at a time9. Her small works speak loudly and her large works hold quiet.

There’s something about these rapid expansions of mental space which have happened at various points in my life that are really significant in what I do, the idea of the space being more important than the physical reality…. as I don’t think we can ever fit the real space in our brains anyway.10

As I stand before Gleave’s work, I imagine each one at the stage of conception. I imagine the way the idea was formed and the practicalities that were considered. I check the physical manifestation of the work for some sign of compromise. The mistakes, which Gleave openly admits, become integral to the work. They are part of the process of discovery – a line of compromise between the human creator and the physical force that she is attempting to tame, manipulate and unleash on the public.

When recently showing me a work of hers at Artspace, Michaela smiled and said the work had helped her conquer the art of air compression11. Although facilitated by the use of an electrical air compressor, the work under discussion utilised manipulated gas to create a glitter machine – a pointless machine, but one whose very abilities relied on the controlled navigation of a natural force.

I recognise the subject, but each work seems to me a record of the intervention. The subject is often soft and insubstantial – gas, water, light. But the built elements required to hold and bind that subject within the parameters of the work are more solid. An equilibrium is reached within the work between captor and captive. The viewer sees what Gleave sees. We can take the journey with her as she tracks through processes of controlled exper imentation. Yesterday the air compressor, today soldering electrical wires in order to better control the distribution of light.

Each work makes me reconsider things I take for granted. Forces I thought neutral acquire tangible feeling. I consider a fragment of the world afresh and have a sense of wonder.

I’m waffling sorry.12 Me too.

Transmission complete.

by Camille Serisier

1. Gleave, Diary of a work in Progress: II, Hotmail, 14 October, 2011, 7:24am
2. Gleave, Diary of a work in Progress: I, Hotmail, 30 September, 2011, 12:30pm
3. Gleave, Wall Reversal, Firstdraft Gallery, Sydney, 2009
4. Gleave, Raining Room (Diamond Dust), Tin Sheds Gallery, Sydney, 2007
5. Gleave, Snowfield, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2009
6. Gleave, Diary of a work in Progress: I
7. Gleave, Diary of a work in Progress: I
8. Gleave, Snowfield
9. Gleave, Mobile Democratic Communication Device, Art and About Laneway Festival, Sydney, 2008.
10. Gleave, Diary of a work in Progress: I
11. Gleave, Persistent Optimism, Artspace, Sydney, 2011 12. Ibid.

© Copyright 2011. Boxcopy and the writers and artists. Not to be reproduced without permission from Boxcopy.