Colony in Crystal Palace, Flinders University Gallery
Colony investigates the idea that an archive or collection must be activated in order to consider the limits, values and choices of another time and to enable a perspective on the present. Like a kind of archaeology then (Agamben, Foucault), artists (who are familiar with found objects of all kinds including ready-made objects, and assisted ready-mades as elemental to reprogramming artwork) might potentially be conceived as eccentric archivists. The work is constructed with found objects and assemblage that evidences their past utility.
In Colony the works refer to the architectural containment of collections in the original Crystal Palace in London, citing the auction document that details the structure’s functioning through a basic kind of atmosphere or air-conditioning.1 Ventilation of the original Crystal Palace occurred through louvred glass panels (only just possible through discoveries in the manufacture of larger scale plate glass) and it was heated by water that ran from huge copper tanks and through pipes under the floor.2 Like a circulatory system tempering the weather, the water generated congenial conditions like those in warmer climes.3
In this way, the original Crystal Palace could be seen as metonymic of steam power, the driver of industrial colonisation. Significantly, the work also questions the pervasiveness of colonisation processes that fix and precondition to create prejudicial views and expectations. These expectations and constructions obfuscate any sense of alterity; the acceptance of all kinds of difference in the colonised.
The work offers a ‘promenade’ through the “organism” of constructed passageways and atmospheres; the artificial organism of the warm weather tourist of that time and of the present. This is for a contemporary world in a state of dispersion, displacement and ecological reckoning.
H Frank & JR Lancaster, The Crystal Palace, Sydenham: to be sold by auction on Tuesday 28th day of November 1, Frank, Knight & Rutley, London, 1911.
2 ibid. One of these water tanks is known to have burst flooding the floors.