Author: Andrew Kettle
The work of Igneous has long intrigued me. The diversity of experimentation and topic in their work is highly recommended to explore in their online archive. So it was with some consternation that I have been following their continued interest in WATER. Their dedication to WATERWHEEL is truly admirable, but had they focussed, like a medieval alchemist, on one element to the sacrifice of a greater work? My doubts and concerns for their artistic obsessions crumpled into the dust of misunderstanding that they honestly where in hindsight at the opening night of FLUIDATA. For in FLUIDATA by Igneous, the work is far from an insular single element. In fact it is through the strong foundation of their focus on WATER that they have been able to exhibit an extraordinary talent and diversity as professional artists. Within FLUIDATA is a de Vincian scope of genius. The FLUIDATA work combined honest and thoughtful community interaction and integration; competent and engaging use of digital media; an outstanding homage to a long history of installation art whilst exquisitely extending the genre; an environment that entices and genuinely invites a rewarding audience participation; and importantly, at the opening night a strong performance art component that reinforces the reputation of Igneous as a master troupe in the field.
Within the FLUIDATA exhibition are multiple installations. A digital waterfall that constantly cascades into a motionless, darkened pond, first greets the viewer. The two components of the initial display give a strong contradiction between the turmoil of the digital content, and a contract of the dynamic nature of the fluid element. Like fluid, data can be both dark and silent, or vigorous and scandalised. The central darkened bladder of the exhibition space has: black washbowls on exhibition plinths that gently speak or whisper fragments of recorded interviews; bottled water samples from numerous sources; numerous dreamlike video projections of watery landscapes, some timeless, some time-free through stop motion capture; and a unifying integration of many elements of artistic endeavour that convincingly engulf the audience into an other sense, transported by the glimpses of FLUIDS captured in DATA. Further exploration of the exhibition space reveals a hallway leading to intimate spaces of additional video installation. The small rooms enable a variety to the whole exhibition by permitting the audience a convincing privacy within a public area. Features within the exhibition also cater for joyful play, such as unexpected dark plinths containing concealed lids that when raised reveal additional video screens presenting more content and contemplation of the FLUIDATA ingredients.
For me, some of the stand-out features of the exhibition were: the seamless integration of complicated digital wizardry and content that made the technology disappear and the content stand central stage; the adept incorporation of community sourced content into the media of the exhibition that convincingly promoted the essence of a message across numerous voices; an exhibition in which I witnessed numerous audience members genuinely interacting with the artwork in unique and diverse ways, that reflected a viewer’s empowerment to thoughtfully engage and not simply mindlessly consume; and within the event of the opening night a thoughtful and powerful performance art act.
FLUIDATA was much more than a discourse of water, it was a reinforcement of the power that an element contains and enables. Igneous has yet again triumphed against waves of media irreverence to produce a space of deep contemplation. FLUIDATA, like the influence of water was both calming and erosive.