It's all about us - Press Release
Mark Gerada describes two uneasy dreams of America. In one, a recurring nightmare he had as a child, the Statue of Liberty chases him through the tree-lined streets near his grandparents' place in Wentworthville, almost Monty Python-like in its ungainly pursuit. The second dream centres on an ominous drawn vision of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, connected underground, a second set of 'twin towers' awaiting attack.
Mark's exhibition of paintings and video installations, It's all about us may be seen as a third uneasy dream of America.
Mark began collecting the images which inform this exhibition in the northern summer of 2001, a few weeks before that watershed day in September. He returned to the U.S. less than a year later and again in 2003. What he recorded, sketched and noted on these visits became the raw materials for It's all about us.
The exhibition title's deliberate ambiguity warns us not to think of America as the Other. Mark emphatically states that the work is about 'ordinary people everywhere.' Perhaps the most literal canvas in an exhibition in which words often speak almost as loudly as images, a painting titled 'Us and Them' repeats the words over and over until they cohere into a unit, a pattern, a flag, wallpaper. 'Us and Them' is arguably one case where the conjunctive divides more than it unifies. The people whose faces appear to us are black and white and brown, old and young, affluent and poor; Mark challenges us to see our faces in their own.
In It's all about us, Mark inserts himself – and us as viewers of his work – into the stories of others. Walking the pavements of New York with his video camera, looking down from a vantage point above, clocking the scenery from trains, visiting the Statue of Liberty itself with an American friend, Mark didn't so much search out images as allow them to flow into his lens. The result – viewable in the video installation part of the exhibition – is a collage of faces, signs, ads and even gum on the pavement. The soundtrack contains the spill of conversation, humming, the ambient urban buzz of air-conditioners, cars and musical fragments from shops and radios. These mesmerising images and sounds are like pieces in an unsolvable yet irresistible puzzle.
Blowing up and printing stills from the videos on his bubble jet, he affixes these frozen moments, with all the anxiety and pleasure and mystery they contain, to his canvas. He then layers paint over them until, in some cases, they're nearly obscured. He continues the rhythmic, grid-like layering with overheard words, advertising mantras and other signage. The result is a series of subtle flags in predominantly reds, whites and blues, not waving so much as streaming along the gallery walls like frames in a film or notes in a discordant musical composition. They are billboards that invite us to consume images of accidental glamour and messages of ambivalence.