Madison Bycroft returns to Adelaide for her latest exhibition, Synonyms for Savages, at the Australian Experimental Art Foundation before she heads back overseas to Rotterdam, where she is due to start her Samstag residency.
The last time The Adelaide Review caught up with Madison Bycroft she was about to embark on a residency with the Nars Foundation in New York. Since then she has completed a number of overseas residencies. She’s returned to Adelaide for her latest exhibition, Synonyms for Savages, at the Australian Experimental Art Foundation before she heads back overseas to Rotterdam, where she is due to start her Samstag residency. Bycroft continues to explore ideas around animism in her latest body of work but in this instance she specifically delves into language and the process of naming. “It’s about the archive. The trace that things leave and how we understand that and how we appropriate that to human knowledge, and what does that mean for the things that we are talking about or thinking about.” The exhibition combines video work and sculptural pieces, which relate to each other on a number of different levels. Bycroft says that she thinks of the exhibition as one work and has created that feel with works flowing into each other. In some instances, it’s as if the sculpture has crept out of the screen or vice versa. The first work you encounter – the four-channel digital work, Unsung: The primordial – sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition. The four different screen projections explore ideas of symbolic expression and sound. As the title suggests they are very primal. It’s an interesting collection of sounds – a bird filmed at the Grand Canyon makes its own music, and MC raps without words, a jazz musician channels an alligator skull and Bycroft plays the violin. “It’s quite a cacophony of sounds. It’s a little overwhelming but it’s not meant to be an easy experience,” she says. The sounds are quite similar in tone, so instead of competing for your attention, they work together and draw you in. Another work, The First Encyclopedia of Tlön, explores the idea of language and what it means when we name things and whether it’s confining and limiting. The work, filmed at Dead Horse Bay in New York, includes narration from a segment of a short story by Jorge Luis Borges about a fictitious place where people don’t use nouns but instead describe things using adjectives. The work also shows some of the items collected by Bycroft to create the sculptural work First Alphabet Of… Bycroft’s alphabet is not your typical A-to-Z, she has turned the alphabet into fetish objects. “The A doesn’t look like an A. Part of that was that I wanted to embed in each letter something magical or something unexplainable,” she says. The work continues to explore the idea of labelling things and in this case breaking out of it. If you rearranged the letters to make a word, Bycroft suggests you would end up with a weird community of things that doesn’t make sense. While much of Bycroft’s work looks at the past and strips back language and symbolism to its most primal form, suggesting a world where all living creatures are equal, the flip side is her fascination with post-history and the apocalypse and what might happen after man. In the video work Alternate endings, Bycroft explores this notion. She says: “It’s an over the top way of saying let’s consider others as well. We are developing and evolving but in a lot of ways we aren’t developing at all.” Madison Bycroft: Synonyms for Savages Australian Experimental Art Foundation Continues until Saturday, August 16 madisonbycroft.com