Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - UPFRONT - WITH AN­DREW HARPER


Se­lena De Car­valho Moonah Arts Cen­tre Un­til De­cem­ber 22

Se­lena De Car­valho has been pol­ish­ing an artis­tic voice over the last few years, de­vel­op­ing a work­ing method and cre­at­ing an aes­thetic that de­rives from per­sonal ethics and ex­pe­ri­ence. Pre­vi­ous shows from her have been in­ter­est­ing in the very least — and of­ten more than that. She has shown a pas­sion for a kind of work that is in­formed by en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivism. That in it­self is not un­usual, par­tic­u­larly in Tasmania, but where De Car­valho dif­fers is in her avoid­ance of di­dac­ti­cism: her art does not rant. It takes you by the hand and sug­gests there is some­thing that we need to talk about.

Per­haps De Car­valho’s great­est tool is a sur­pris­ing use of in­ti­macy. Her mul­ti­me­dia in­stal­la­tion Be­ware of Im­posters, a cen­tral work of this new ex­hi­bi­tion, is de­signed to en­gage with one per­son at a time. You en­ter a dark room, sit at a desk, and lis­ten on head­phones as the artist whis­pers. Even­tu­ally, you are guided to an op­por­tu­nity for per­sonal par­tic­i­pa­tion and have the chance to take part in a record­ing process that will ul­ti­mately be played to a par­tic­u­lar plant. I won­dered whether the art was for me or for the plant, and then de­cided it was prob­a­bly for both. De Car­valho is try­ing to forge an emo­tional link from one life to an­other, per­haps with the aim of cre­at­ing a more con­nected re­sponse from the hu­man realm.

While this work is the one where the in­ti­mate is re­alised in the most com­plex and im­pres­sive man­ner, this tac­tic of per­sonal in­ter­ac­tion with the au­di­ence is used through the show. We are asked to open a box and touch and smell leaves adorned with gold, or wear head­phones made of seashells and lis­ten to that whis­per­ing, trick­ling sound, which we were told as chil­dren was the sea it­self.

An aes­thetic emerges as you ex­plore the work. De Car­valho looks at the pat­terns and sounds of the nat­u­ral world and con­sid­ers the ef­fects of the in­ter­ac­tions be­tween hu­mans and na­ture, be that a record­ing of a melt­ing glacier or the beau­ti­ful cor­rup­tion of chip­ping paint and rust on the de­cay­ing body of a car. We’re asked to look and lis­ten, and given ways to re­spond with emo­tion. This is easy enough to do, be­cause the artist her­self has poured so much emo­tional con­tent into the work.

This is a pleas­ing show that mar­ries so­phis­ti­cated tech­no­log­i­cal tech­niques with rich sto­ry­telling and sen­si­tive ob­ser­va­tions to cre­ate a se­ries of works that shim­mer with a wet, fer­tile beauty. De Car­valho is clearly an artist to watch, as the big­gest thrill here is how strongly she is re­al­is­ing her ideas, and how her abil­ity in­creases with each new out­ing.

Join Se­lena De Car­valho for an artist talk to­day at 1pm at MAC.

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