Richard Harding: Break in Transmission

From top: Richard Harding, Plane Wallpaper, 2017, plan print, three strips of 310cm x 79 cm
Richard Harding, Silence, 2017, photographic screenprinted Gouache, 42.0 x 59.4 cm
Richard Harding, Border Control, 2017, acrylic mirror strips, 930 x 200 cm

Richard Harding’s new exhibition explores the idea of empathy in action for people seeking asylum.

Imprint: What was the foundation idea for this project, and how does it resonate with the current political climate in Australia?

Richard Harding: Over the past decade news bulletins, newspapers and the internet have intermittently spiked with images of oppression and abuse — times leading to death — of LGBTIQ people from various parts of the world. Currently graphic images are being streamed via the internet from Chechnya of brutal attacks on gay men ranging from beatings to electro-shock torture and death. My artworks are questioning what we do to assist our oppressed brothers and sisters around the world? Even though LGBTIQ Australians do not have the equality we seek through basic human rights we do have the power of demonstration and speech. It is through these freedoms that Break in Transmission hopefully activates empathy into action.

Imprint: In what ways have you been made aware of the plight of gay refugees trying to gain asylum in Australia?

RH: The LGBTIQ communities here in Australia and around the world are renowned for their ability to move into action rapidly when threatened. This comes in the form of information dissemination, demonstration and fund-raising as was evidenced at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Currently we have the speed of the internet and community radio and press such as JOY 94.9 Australia’s first and only gay/lesbian community radio and the STAR OBSERVER newspaper.

Imprint: You have written that Susan Sontag’s ideas expressed in Regarding the Pain of Others has helped guide this work – how so?

RH: According to Susan Sontag in, Regarding the Pain of Others, “something becomes real – to those who are elsewhere, following it as ‘news’ – by being photographed” (2004, p19). It is this becoming real from afar that Break in Transmission attempts to explore. She discusses notions of authenticity of staged images and “actual” or “caught” images and the effect of the viewer understanding the difference. In preparation for this exhibition my preliminary research and production experimented with this mode of making. Through this studio methodology I ascertained the found images were more powerful as they were from the time and place of image capture. Even with the movement into other mediums and they maintained their authenticity.

It is interesting to note here that Sontag also writes of how the titles within Francisco Goya’s The Disasters of War 1810-20 act as authenticators (I saw this or This is the truth) or captions as they do for the modern photograph.

Imprint: How have you occupied the gallery area at Trocadero Art Space?

RH: Break in Transmission utilises gallery two at Trocadero Art Space to surround the viewer in a U-shaped composition of mirror and image. The installation heightens an awareness of the borders and control points used by national institutions to limit the movement of people geographically and psychologically. The wall opposite the mirrored bar code is covered with faux wallpaper depicting planes flying left and right in a linear formation. Over this is placed a framed screen print depicting a crane hook and rope; a devise used for execution. Through the use of found image and reflection/refraction, the artwork attempts to mine into the identity of otherness through the ongoing plight of gay refugees seeking asylum in Australia. The viewer sees these images that are behind them in the mirror.

Imprint: How has printmaking informed the work?

RH: I view printmaking as a grouping of techniques and methods that are imbued with theories of reproducibility, repetition and multiplicity. The work is informed through these positions. For instance the giant barcode is made of acrylic mirror and there are multiple strips at 5cm, 10cm, 15cm and 20cm repeated to form a scanable code.

The found images are part of a larger archive of images that I have been collecting for some time from the ‘press’ (pun intended) both material and virtual or paper based and internet. Their use was activated by the ongoing distress of viewing similar yet different images from around the world. – Andrew Stephens

Break in Transmission is at Trocadero Art Space, Footscray, until 3 June.