SafARI artist Profile: Ally Bisshop & Gemma Messih
Bisshop and Messih are artists residing in different continents but have come together to collaborate for their SafARI 2014 work, ‘An Old Chaos of the Sun’. Messih is a visual artist based in Sydney, Australia, and Bisshop is an artist and researcher living in Berlin, Germany. Although this is their first collaborative piece, the two attended the College of Fine Arts (COFA) together.
Tell us about your art practice.
Each of our practices explores our collective relationship to, interaction with and understanding of the natural world. Aiming to slow down human perception and our experience of environmental phenomena, ideas of curiosity are investigated through open experimentation, both with ideas and the raw potential of materials. For SafARI 2014 we have joined forces!
What inspired your body of work for the SafARI event?
‘An Old Chaos of the Sun’ fell out of a shared interest in exploring the threshold moments of sunrise and sunset.
Last year we were both living in Berlin, it was the thick of winter, and we were suffering - along with the rest of Northern Europe - from a prolonged absence of Sun. Months spent without any punctuation to the start of the day, or the end of it, have a different kind of duration. A heavy, grey saddle-blanket of cloud hangs just above your head, compressing the atmosphere, bearing down on the horizon. You start to notice how you're carrying that weight on your body; the deadening of your limbs, the pinched way in which you hold yourself. Eventually, you realise that this atmosphere-body contortion is carrying through to a constriction of your openness to ideas, and experiences. You miss the Sun, in a way that has nothing to do with nostalgia, and everything to do with urgency.
Anyway, leading up to that Berlin winter, we'd both come into contact with the work of the anthropologist Michael Taussig, who had spent something like 20 years living and recording cultural practices and mythologies in South America. Drawing from this, he had written about the ritualistic, 'shamanic' importance of sunrise and sunset - events he described as threshold moments, bristling with some kind of transformative potential. He gave a talk ‘The Berlin Sun Theatre’ at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin that we both attended together and which in a way provoked this body of work.
What can we expect to see from you at the exhibition?
For SafARI 2014 our work, ‘An Old Chaos of the Sun’ will be played out in three different ways. On opening night there will be a performance at sunset (7:15pm sharp) at The Corner (116 Abercrombie Street Chippendale). There will also be a publication and a series of temporary structures which aim to bring our attention to the experience of the sun. Check the SafARI Facebook page (www.facebook.com/SafARI.Initiatives ) to find the locations and dates of the temporary installations.
How can people follow you?
We both have websites; www.gemmamessih.com and www.allybisshop.com or better still come and see the show!
By Daniella Previtera