It may well be that the stand out exhibition of this year’s SALA season is not even in SALA. Emerging photographer, Katherine Botten, has produced an extraordinary work that resides on the floor of the upstairs level of Peel St’s Format Gallery until 10 August.
We reviewed Kat’s first exhibition, twenty one, just before Christmas last year (Click here for that review). Then we commented favourably on the small scale of the photographic works and her clever use of montages to create effects both as to form as well as the objects depicted. This exhibition chucks away the first tenet of that and so expands on the second that the outcome is simply enormous, conceptually and physically.
Based on her recent experiences of a debut trip to India, the first portion of which was in the company of her father, fellow artist, Bill, Kat has used images taken then and enlarged, distorted, sliced and diced and otherwise manipulated them before reconstituting them, unrecognisable from the originals, on the floor.
Alternately lit darkly or under a strong red globe and accompanied by the most painful, piercing transcendental music, the result leaves it open to so many responses from the viewer, exactly as India itself does. Are these the scales on the skin of a crocodile or other reptile, a predator that knows not how to relent? Are we seeing a drone’s view of seething, waves of sub-continental humanity, rather like our indigenous painters look down on their landscapes when painting their dream time stories? No, it can’t be for the Format’s windows are partly plastered over, presenting only the potential of the outside world to escape to. So are we trapped amongst the ashes of a failed society where poverty, disease and malnutrition still dominate the land?
There is something other worldly about it all; a cosmic 70’s stuff up perhaps or a concept for Warhol in this Adelaide’s The Factory. Seeing Kat’s other works and reading her words (Click here for her tumblr profile) there is no shortage of the usual undergraduate angst and extracurricular undertakings to drive the emotions and the visions deeply embedded here. But beyond those things, we see not only her India but India itself, lying shredded but ordered on a cold concrete floor.
This is a most unsettling, yet compelling work from an artist who obviously possesses that rare ability to combine, through distortion and manipulation of photographs, the physical world and raw emotion.
Anyone who has been to India and been moved by the place must see this work.
Kryztoff Rating 5K