SPARE ROOM / 18 May to 21 June 2018 (Opening Thursday 17 May 5-7pm, with opening remarks by Peter Westwood)
Lucie McIntosh is interested in the process of signification and, more specifically, in how the process of signification might be made visible through the content of an artwork. Her practice emphasizes the inherently plural and personal nature of meaning—reminding us of, and celebrating, our agency in its creation.
“to disregard symbols is to disregard a part of human perception”
— Torbjørn Rødland
Lucie McIntosh is interested in this process of signification and, more specifically, in how the process of signification might be made visible through the content of an artwork. Her practice emphasizes the inherently plural and personal nature of meaning—reminding us of, and celebrating, our agency in its creation.
Lucie’s practice relies on photography for the semiotic middle-ground that it offers; her indexical images—sometimes found, sometimes formed and often both—exist somewhere between the complexity of reality and the limitlessness of the imaginary. The works rely on their plurality and intertextuality, compulsively referencing their many varieties of self, content, history and maker. Inside of this situation the notion of an absolute or original meaning is frustratingly and consistently deferred—while it might feel close, “truth” is always kept just out of reach.
Rødland, T, 2011. Sentences on photography: After rationalism and mysticism—twenty lines. Triple Canopy, [Online]. Issue 12: Black Box.) Available at: https://www.canopycanopycanopy.com/issues/12/contents/sentences_on_photography [Accessed 13 September 2017].
B. 1990 in sunny Queensland, Lucie McIntosh is a visual artist and curator based in Naarm (Melbourne), Australia. Lucie completed a Bachelor of Art (Fine Art) (Honours) with First Class at RMIT University in 2015. Lucie has a deep commitment to the independent arts community and has volunteered her time to a number of not–for–profit and contemporary art projects. She is currently a Director of BLINDSIDE, an independent, artist–run space based in the heart of Melbourne.
Lucie's exhibition and research based practice explores the politics of the photograph and the materialities of the image as object. Her work utalises themes of authenticity and representation to reflect upon the nature of perception and the meaning of the contemporary image. Through exploring contemporary practices of image production and consumption, Lucie's work acknowledges notions of beauty as paradoxical, elusive and complex yet also significant and indispensable to human experience.
What is it about photography? Why does it contain such an uncertainty about itself? Maybe it results from being being a stand in for what it isn’t for too long. Being a tool of representation that in its sharpness often eradicates its own visibility, as we look past it to the subject represented. We see a cat not a photo of a cat.
Maybe it is because of the tools that are used to make it. These mechanical devices that produce an image of such greater visual fidelity than what any hand could do. And made so accessible that ‘anyone can take a photograph’—because they aren’t actually taking it. The tool is.
Maybe it is because for so long in its history photography was asked to record the world, to provide an orientation point around which we could manoeuvre our understanding and ourselves.
This is the dichotomy that photography contains. It presents so certain. It is present, sharp, clear, it provides vision and seems so sure in that vision. Like all good blowhards though behind all this bluster is a deep sense of its own inadequacies. It knows its vision is limited—really limited. It knows it is deeply unclear and it does more to conceal then it does to provide sight.
For so long the front of photography has seemed to hold. Sure, people questioned it, pretended they got it but deep down we all still gasped when faced with an image of ourselves (do I really look like that?). We believed in the photograph. We believed in the reality it presented. The image allowed us to see the ground. In pulling away and also being cut out from the ground the ground became visible. Without the image the ground “is not distinct… [without the image] there would only be indistinct adherence”.
But this has changed and photography is uncertain, even anxious. Why? Because the image no longer records the event of the world. It creates the event and the world moulds itself to the image. Through a combination of accelerated distribution and dissemination as well as technological advancement in photographic generation, images have reversed their functional relationship to the world. As a result every photograph also begins as photographs. Every image has existed before. There is now only “indistinct adherence”. It is a flip that privileges the action of seeing in the creation of photographs. Rather than going into the world and ‘taking’ photographs, images are made through being seen first and then brought into being.
“We are both seers and part of the spectacle of the world”.
This is where Lucie McIntosh works, in the exposed underside of uncertainty that is photography. In her exhibition Walking Backwards (Towards the Precipice) six elements combine to provide a location of visual certainty and then upend, tipping us out of this location into a never-ending oscillation between formation and collapse. Uncertainty.
McIntosh’s exhibition is entered first through the act of seeing. From outside of the gallery space, through the doorway a large red rectangle painted across the corner of two walls can be seen. Hung onto this is an image with a red cast inside a red frame. It is striking, bold, loud; it calls you in for closer inspection. As the image is approached it forms into a photograph of the head of the statue Hecate Chiaramonti. As one gets closer still this singularity starts to dissolve into multiples. It is not one image of the famous head, rather it is a number of heads, as though the photograph has been shaken and we are seeing it mid-shake. Diagonally opposite is another rectangle painted onto the wall in yellow. Overlapping this is a yellow toned photograph inside a yellow frame. To the left of this there are two works—a grey toned photograph inside a grey frame and a moving image, hanging in portrait orientation, of a waterfall, falling.
Wherever there is erasure the image aspires to arise. The erasure doesn’t precede its appearance; it inheres in it and is the condition of its possibility. For an image to appear, something else has to be erased.
McIntosh’s work understands and articulates the relationship of using photography as a medium in a time when photographs generate more photographs-- when images signify themselves first and foremost. Her work presents as surety, inviting closer inspection but when this invitation is taken up the work begins to dissolve. Her video The Country Bears Down Under is a clear example of this. The water so clearly seen flowing over the edge of the precipice at the top of the screen’s frame literally dissolves into white nothingness by the time it reaches the bottom third of the frame. The image is dissolving into the image in a never-ending flow. Made and obliterated through its’ own majestic, hypnotic power.
It is a position of simultaneity. Both present and absent. It is certain in its uncertainty. It is the condition that photography finds itself in and one being explored by artists working with photography as a medium (Aspen Art Museum – The Anxiety of Photography, Hamer Museum - Perfect Likeness, MOMA – Christopher Williams, MOMA – New Photography as an example of exhibitions exploring these ideas). It is into this conversation that McIntosh is entering. A conversation based on thinking through photography as both seeing the world and seeing itself as the world.
McIntosh talks about her work saying nothing is fixed. It is a funny word to choose—‘Fixed’. This has always been both a noun and a verb within photographic production describing the chemical agent and the process of using that agent to hold the development of the photographic image in its formation. The Fix held the image protecting it from the debilitating exposure that it was about to undergo when brought out of the darkroom to be seen for the first time in full light. Maybe she is having a joke with us. Nothing is fixed. Everything is fixed. Simultaneously both.
All that is seen is present and no more. The rest is in our heads.
- Dr Kiron Robinson, 2018
 Jean-Luc Nancy, The Ground of the Image, (New York: Fordham University Press, 2005), p 12
 Kaya Silverman, Miracle of Analogy, (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2015), p 88
 Arillea Azoulay, Deaths Showcase, (Cambridge, MIT Press, 2001), p 93