Jill Orr: Between Somewhere and Nowhere (2011)

Jill Orr

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Between somewhere and nowhere is Jill Orr’s new photographic series. This body of work explores society’s obsession with authenticity and further discusses photography as a means of illusion. We are surrounded by photographs which are based on false ideals or fictions and to some extent we accept them as truth.

The photographs exhibit a staged theatrical performance with dramatic scenes of ghost like figures emerging from a haunted wetland abyss. Elusive women wear costumes of lace and white linen while props such as canaries and canoes balance an ambiguous line 
between gravity and humour. The ominous background fades into smoke, while bringing to your attention the artificiality of the scene. The photographs revel in the past, appropriating a macabre 19th century daguerreotype portrait.

Since the 1970’s Jill Orrs work has grappled with psychological and environmental issues within contemporary society. Moving between performance art and photography, her works explain human intervention with the non-human environment. Orr’s previous and significant works such as Bleeding Trees, Faith in a faithless land and Southern Cross: to bear and behold explore Australian history and culture in the context of the natural landscape.

Jenny Port Gallery, 2011.

 

This current body of work involved children from the Avoca Primary School as active participants in Orr’s performance.   The result is a series of high contrast black and white photographic portraits, which are shown as diptychs portraying the different states of seeing both outwardly and inwardly. One of each pair frames the child looking directly at the camera. The gaze meets the viewer. Who is looking at whom? The second captures the child whose eyes are closed. An inner world is intimated, but not accessible to the viewer.

In terms of the ‘gaze’ these works turn to the child as conveyer of the imaginary engaging both within and without. ”I have found that creative acts require the visionary sensibilities of both the inner and outer world to operate simultaneously, consciously and unconsciously as dual aspects of the one action. In this instance the action is that of active imagination as a means to visualize sustainable futures.”[1]. The portraits also reflect the present relationship to place that is etched into the faces of youth as already kissed by the harsh Australian sun.

Avoca is one of many townships that has been socially, economically and environmentally affected by drought and climate change. The portraits are created against this background.