The Messenger, Propositions - Graduate Exhibition, Adelaide Central School of Art, Glenside, South Australia, 2015
City mags & string
43 x 212 x 240cm
photographer by James Field
Kings ARI Melbourne, 2016
The CityMag is a quarterly magazine covering emerging business and lifestyle trends in the city of Adelaide. For residents of the city, it’s our community newspaper. In spite of this, I guiltily ignore it when it arrives at my front door. It’s strange to write this piece now, reconsidering the publication as a cultural document, an artefact of community-making and keeping. While the magazine enjoys broad readership, there are still elements of its community that can’t find the time to engage. I—like Jane Skeer—encounter the untouched bundles of CityMags, stacked and bound on the doorsteps of apartment buildings. These unnoticed bits of our world, however, give rise to Skeer’s work.
In The Messenger, the amassed magazines speak less of the paper support and more about its packaging; the excess wrapping accumulates as a cloudy layer above the written city below. It’s impossible not to view this with some dismay; the sheer weight of unread matter recalls what the poet Theodore Roethke describes as the ‘endless duplication of lives and objects’. This dismay evaporates quickly, however, when faced with Skeer’s unbounded playfulness. Her studio is a motley collection of things with no good reason for being there. Boxes of stuff wait to be laid out on the table and shuffled, stacked, folded, and woven at the whim of an intuition that defies language.
There is a ‘critical mass’ that features in Skeer’s work, an obsession with collecting, repurposing and making. Ultimately, her practice features frenetic repetitive acts that see the materials she uses (often found objects) transcend their own utility. Multiplicity and materiality are key here—Skeer sees in ‘formal’ qualities, catching and bringing forth a richness otherwise lost in the noise of our everyday encounters. Through the work, these humdrum things are emancipated from ‘doing’, and turn to offer unanticipated readings (ironically, turning unremarkable materials into the spectacle). This is the heart of Skeer’s practice, a playful meaning-making that disarms us and takes us along for the ride. It’s easy to forget that the work captivating us now originally began with things that we once deemed undeserving of our attention.
Ash Tower, October 2016