Marco Fusinato – The Zero Point

October 20, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: Oyster #84, October/November 2009.

In an international art landscape so often bound by concerns over style and technique, the work of Australian multi-disciplinary artist Marco Fusinato reduces the notion of art to the very essence of the idea. He chats with Dan Rule about his new collection Double Infinitives and his attempt at recreating the big bang.

There is a tranquillity to the violence. The masked faces, the fires, the hurled rocks are motionless, voiceless. An upturned car burns silently by the street-side; flames wrap and entwine its shell. A young man aims a rock, his body captured in the beauty of motion. Billowing smoke and street debris are his backdrop.

The towering, white ink on black aluminium pieces that comprise Marco Fusinato’s latest body of work seem stranded at a point of dichotomy and flux. Exhibited at Melbourne’s Anna Schwartz Gallery in July this year, Double Infinitives juxtapose the most violent and visceral of imagery with a mute, aesthetic calm.

“I find it really fascinating how that moment of great anger and violence can be distilled into this moment of beauty,” says the 44-year-old, sitting in his home studio located in a vast warehouse building in the inner Melbourne neighbourhood of Richmond. “The body in motion – it almost looks like ballet in the end.”

Using newsprint photographs of rioting, which are then blown-up to a massive scale (the largest work in the collection being two and a half metres tall and over six metres wide), Fusinato’s apparently referential works prove anything but. While the images are essentially unaltered, their scale gives rise to a kind of abstraction.

With proximity, these seemingly evidentiary documents disperse – their compositions and construction become explicit. “The title Double Infinitives refers to the idea that in each of the images there’s someone throwing a rock and there’s fire,” says Fusinato.  “It’s to throw and to burn, and that’s happening in each of them.”

“I was constantly surprised at how often that similar image would be thrown up whenever there was a conflict in the world. I could go out and buy the paper and pretty much every time there would be that exact image. It would be a single figure – the hero shot.”

The idea of recontextualising such media dogma was at the heart of the project for Fusinato. “This series is about that media construct. What we don’t see in these images is not just the row of police, but the even larger row of photographers – photographers waiting for that moment, waiting for you to throw that rock,” he says. “This is about selection, firstly by the editor and then by me.”

The fact that the photographs are essentially unaltered only adds to their strength. “There’s no tricks,” he says. “It’s just a straight transfer. A lot of things I do really have that purity to them. The aim is to present the idea as clearly as possible, so we’re just left with the pure idea, as opposed to being concerned with technique.”

It’s a quality that has come to define Fusinato’s two-decade career, which has seen him show work internationally across forms as disparate as painting, photography, sound, video and installation, collaborate with the likes of visual artists Callum Morton, Mutlu Cerkez and Rose Nolan, sound artists Oren Ambarchi and Anthony Pateras and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore. Across the breadth of his material, Fusinato has railed against the contrivances of style and methodology.

“Not many people ask me ‘How did you do that?’,” he laughs. “It’s pretty clear. I’m just interested in conveying the idea as directly as I can; I don’t want to get caught up in the craft. The craft is just how you get from A to B, and how you employ or use the best people to get you there.”

Indeed, Fusinato’s studio doesn’t bare the hallmarks of the stereotypical artist’s space. A computer, a scattering of seemingly random objects, papers and notebooks adorn the space rather than tools, implements and materials.

“The excitement, if you will, is in developing that idea and working out what form it will take,” he says. “It’s theoretical instead of process-based for me. It’s just nutting it out. By the time it gets exhibited, I’m already gone.”

Fusinato – whose parents and elder brother (and fellow artist) Luigi emigrated from Italy in the years before he was born – studied at the Victorian College of the Arts, though he remembers gaining more inspiration from scrounging around for bootleg punk records than his time at art school. “There was this very painterly focus on figurative abstraction,” he says, “which just really wasn’t good or right for me.”

He found kinship in the community surrounding Store 5, Melbourne’s first recognised artist-run space, which flourished in the late 80s and early 90s, with the likes of Rose Nolan, Kathy Temin, Constance Zikos and a whole community of now prominent, contemporary Australian artists cutting their teeth at the Prahran space. “There was a nucleus of artists who were primarily engaged with a conceptual type of practice, which just wasn’t being shown in commercial galleries, so it was really important to be involved in that community.”

While his early works consisted of a form of reductive painting – standard, red enamel hastily applied to a canvas and titled after how long it took to cover the surface – his more recent propositions have turned the focus on the viewer and the passivity of their relationship with the work. Central to this is the notion of engaging the viewer in a “zero point”.

2002’s Sun Series featured 10 direct, unfiltered photographs of the sun, taken from various positions on different days. While the conditions, the sun’s enormity remained explicit, its white light creating giant blind spots on the prints’ surfaces. 2005 35mm work Avalon, meanwhile, saw Fusinato and collaborators Mutlu Cerkez and Callum Morton hurling rocks directly at the camera lens amid 5.1 surround sound. In each case, the viewer’s focal point was something far beyond their control.“There are certain links between all of these projects, even with some projects that aren’t so obvious or literal,” he offers.

Indeed, Aetheric Plexus – which showed at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art earlier this year – took this same concept of the zero point to visceral, even brutal lengths.

Comprising of 56 staging lights arranged in a monstrous star-like configuration of alloy scaffold, not to mention a power speaker, the installation blasted 13,200 watts of white light and 105 decibels of white noise at unsuspecting viewers who inadvertently stepped past a sensor in the corner of gallery space. “It was sort of about turning the spectacle onto the audience,” he offers. “So that the audience becomes the spectacle.”

“The contemporary art audience is all about being in control and this completely subverted that. Here was something that was completely beautiful on the one hand, and on the other, can rip you apart.”

“I’m really fascinated by that zero point,” he pauses. “A lot of the works do have that implosion/explosion thing.”

“It’s just like ‘BANG!’” he laughs. “The audience becomes activated.”

Marco Fusinato will be showing works from Double Infinitives as part of Photographer Unknown at Monash University Museum of Art until November 28.

He will perform at the National Gallery of Victoria on October 18.


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