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Nothing is Useless - Mark II - Wagga Wagga Art Gallery

When it opened in the Lismore Regional Art Gallery late last year, the Resistance Obsolescence: [nothing is] useless exhibition was described by reviewer for ABC North Coast, Jeanti St Clair as ‘…a fascinating adventure into the analog world of audio and redundant technology, which along the way explores our voracious compulsion to consume the new, our addiction to the upgrade.’

The project is partly funded through Regional Partnerships, an Arts NSW program that supports strategic partnerships devised and managed by arts organisations in regional communities.

In the second iteration of [nothing is] useless artists with and without a disability from the Riverina Region created new installations for the exhibition at the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery.

Eastern Riverina Arts Communications Officer, Kate Allman, reviewed the opening performance at the gallery last Saturday night at the gallery.

Review: [nothing is] useless – performance

Members of Wagga Wagga City Council and art gallery visitors heard the saws, drills and sound rehearsals over the past week, but no one quite knew what to expect from the install crew’s hustle and bustle. The space was kept under wraps so no one could even peek at what was going on. On Saturday night, all was revealed and the council building housed a very different kind of meeting. Artists and guests gathered in the council’s arcade waiting to witness [nothing is] useless, a sound, projection and interactive installation created by members of RealArt Works Inc, Tralala Blip and a number of local artists and tinkerers. The performance began with guests being ushered into the Margaret Carnegie space where they were asked to push a button until a small red light turned on. What guests did not know was that the button they pushed triggered the shutter of a surveillance camera hidden somewhere in the depths of the space.

‘… it was made out of oxygen tanks and piano hammers …’

Once inside, the Carnegie gallery turned into an intricately constructed control room where guests watched as six artists turned knobs, tweaked switchboards and worked around a central tower on top of which perched a glowing orb. Each turn and tweak conjured a different sound produced by synthesizers and other recycled analog sound machines. Down the corridor from the control room was a contraption made out of music stands and lamps that held books created by members of the crew. Next to that was a projector that shot vivid colors through a large hand-made kaleidoscope and into the initial control room on the other side of the wall.

The fourth construction resembled something you might see in a butcher shop or back in a 16th century torture chamber. However, it was made out of oxygen tanks and piano hammers that when played together made a loud but clean clang, like a church bell. The final piece that sits at the back door is an old surveillance picture printer. This is where the photos taken at the front door print out at a slow pace so guests have a chance to see their faces on a receipt-like paper trail. These are the main parts of the exhibition that are all open for public interaction, but some of the most beautiful and thought-provoking elements are not as monumental.

‘… judging by the guests’ willingness to play with each device and make a bit of noise, the crew might have reached their goal.’

The useless crew collected cassette tapes for a while before install began. The tapes were placed on the walls of the control room in an analog mosaic that revealed the shape of a boombox on one side and a space invaders-esque shape on the other. Behind the tank and hammer machine and along the wall of the corridor were strips of braille statements and their written, English meanings. Some of these statements read, “All you are doing is killing culture,” “as the world skips” and “a piano like a rotten log.” Lastly, the space was covered in brightly colored screenprinted wallpaper. These elements served as the literal and conceptual glue for the exhibition as a whole. It was apparent that the useless crew worked hard on this show and put their brains and muscles to the test. The show sought to prove that nothing is useless and judging by the guests’ willingness to play with each device and make a bit of noise, the crew might have reached their goal. The re-purposing of outdated and seemingly useless technology created a multi-sensory playground for visitors and encouraged them to rethink the lifespan and uses of their analog devices. Perhaps the show’s participants will have a new respect for what older technology can create and how useful it is in a creative and interactive project.

The exhibition is open until Sunday, 8 November at Wagga Wagga Art Gallery. 


Logos for Nothing is Useless Riverina