Madison Bycroft’s latest exhibition, CatDog, features the video work Bureau of Neutrality and the Half Sung – her 2016 graduation work from the Master of Fine Arts she undertook at the Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam, thanks to a generous Samstag Scholarship.
CatDog also features a couple of new digital collages, and a second video called Separations Inc.™. The title of the exhibition comes from the American animation series from the 1990s which Bycroft describes as a “slightly tongue-in-cheek take on mystical languages of the collapsed paradox”.
Bureau of Neutrality and the Half Sung is a 24-minute video work that explores the ideas Bycroft researched for her thesis which focused on the middle voice. “It’s narrated by two digital animations of my head,” Bycroft says. “They weave together fragments that include Sappho, Hegel’s half-stuck lizard, Marilyn Manson and Adam and Eve, Caravaggio, Narcissus, the clam and the cephalopod, which is present as always.”
The two heads in the video discuss a desire to find a middle ground but difficulty arises because the line is often blurred by influences from each side – “when does the strange become familiar?” Bycroft is pushing beyond boundaries into areas that have no language or description, where names are limiting.
Bycroft’s latest work continues to be influenced by ideas around animism and, like the works in her 2014 exhibition, Synonyms for Savages, she is focused on the language associated with relation and modes of being-with. “It’s a grammatical function and verb that is both active and passive at once,” she says. “I have been thinking about ways in which this verb form could become a lived methodology. How might effacement and self-making co-exist, for example? How can I take space to make space? How can I talk about something without saying what it is? How can I be host and guest? Can these polarities collapse into third space?”
In this recent work Bycroft continues her fascination with language and communication. She analyses the constraints and restrictions of language and strips it back to its most primitive form.
“This new work is following on the same trajectory of pulling apart language, finding loop holes (THE PUN!! HOMOPHONE!! THE TRIPLE ENTENDRE!), and trying to think of new ways that I can use it, without falling back on separative, reductive or divisive tendencies,” she says.
Studying in Rotterdam was a great opportunity for Bycroft and will undoubtedly have a lasting effect on her career. “I feel very lucky to have worked alongside my classmates, and my practice definitely benefited,” she says. “Katherine MacBride from Scotland, for example, held listening workshops as part of her practice, and Kari Robertson and I self-imposed a mini-residency at the world’s oldest operating planetarium in Friesland.”
After graduating in July last year, Bycroft returned to Australia and exhibited work at The Lock Up in Newcastle before heading off overseas again. In May she will begin a three-month residency at Triangle France, a non-profit contemporary arts organisation in Marseille.
During her residency in France, Bycroft will focus on a project looking at translation as an expanded methodology. She will be exploring the difficulties of translation particularly when texts are unable to be translated and how this can skew the meaning. Bycroft will apply this to a specific untranslated French text by Helen Cixous, about Medea and Elektra.
Madison Bycroft: CatDog
Friday, March 31 until Sunday, April 30
Images: Courtesy of the artist