Hidden in Plain Sight March - November 2022
Install 1, March - June 2022
The project used an exisiting work, Trauma Chevron (wallpaper treatment) to anchor a new series of object and text iterations to the exisiting creative outputs. The opportunity of displaying works across multiple floors also meant that several QR codes could be positioned amidst the artworks - to redirect individuals to a recent video work "Watchwords from Them" (2021) and to the project's online info directory via this website. Positioning works within this education environment also allows an entirely new audience to engage with the project - thus far (to date) the project has been viewed by 3000 individuals including online works + information directory (website).
Detritus Objects series.
In the series Detritus objects, a selection of motifs extracted from earlier wallpaper designs are considered as an alternative ‘subject’ to the physical body. The vivid palette fractures across the pictorial plane highlighting the displacement of parts, the malfunction, a predominant characteristic of the jarring glitch. The punchy hues are accentuated with sections of hyperbolic neon sprayed across the surface plane indicating a loudness, a tension, an underlying dis-ease ready to rupture. Lipsticks are paired with medical scalpels while PTSD medications are doubled to signal that disposability in reference to the female experience is not an anomaly but the norm.
A series of "portraits" were hung from banners over wallpaper and across multiple floors. Objects and text replaced the traditional 'figure' and thus given elevated status and point of prominence usually reserved for the 'select' few. Portraits are also a documentation device, a record of a specific time within history. The digital prints were also treated with chalk spray paint, a blend of raw materials which are not a permanent - designed for 'temporary' marking, and generally used on building/construction sites and surveying.
Trauma Chevron wallpaper + Pill Portrait 10th floor Faculty of Law (Richardson Building), University of Otago, Dunedin, 2022.
Pill Portrait II, Detritus Objects, 10th Floor Faculty of Law (Richardson Building), University of Otago, Dunedin, 2022.
Textual Portrait series.
In this series, the project Hidden in Plain Sight collected first hand accounts connected to mental health and body autonomy from its online focus group of 160 women. The information was collected via an online google form to offer a veil of anonymity, and to encourage uncensored information as an expression of reclamation. Images are constructed from a succession of narratives which sync up like a universal parable steeped in trauma. Sections of text are overlaid then repeated in parts abstracting pronounced elements and obscuring definitive signals. Vibrant tones give way to glitch,
the modifying vicissitudes of miscommunication which operate as an unintended artefact, delaying the information in an intent to corrupt it.
M. Covell, Anonymous Diptych II, Textual Portrait series, 2022
Anonymous Diptych I, Textual Portrait series, 9th Floor Faculty of Law (Richardson Building), University of Otago, Dunedin, 2022.
Like the Pill Portraits these are also treated with chalk spray paint. The 'chalk' based treatment alludes to education, what is 'learnt' and what is 'taught'
Install 2, June - September 2022.
Continuing on from install one's introduction of 'chalk' as a temporary indicator three new series were created as education devices - Blackboard tiles were constructed from the Billboard and protest sign materials from phase one of the project. By reframing these object it also brings attention to the concept of 'destruction' and 'production' - by destroying the object means that the work can only exist within history, and cannot be or become 'collected', thus operating outside of art and commerce as a true piece of activism/political declaration.
Protest signs + Billboards installation at Museum Reserve, Otago Museum, Dunedin - from phase one of Hidden in Plain Sight, 2021.
Over 120 hours were spent prepping plywood with latex paint, researching and drawing. For the three new series the project extended upon the notion of what is 'learnt' and 'taught' within education/social systems in an attempt to connect history to contemporary society. The notion of 'reframing' exisiting cultural artefacts linking the project's conceptual framework of 'The Yellow Wallpaper' to current socio-political issues as well as, contemporary artworks including British artist Cornelia Parker's 'text works' and Antidote series - Parker reframing or 'reconfiguring' items/things from exisiting systems to highlight power dynamics, while exploring opposing ideas through new perspectives. Much like Cuban American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Parker asks the viewer to contemplate the political.
Projected definitions from Oxford English Dictionary are chalked onto blackboard tiles. Sections of the definition are mirrored while other 'parts' are cut off. This presentation of opposing systems also mimics PTSD, trauma, and mental health distress.
Altered States [text works] series.
In the text works Altered States, specific definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary (1989) are presented as both an act of semantics (meaning and logic), and as non-linear narratives. The latter an attempt to mimic how time and rational (cognitive ability) evade individuals who have experienced trauma, ptsd, and psychiatric disorders/illness. The work was written and erased multiple times to create impressions across the surface, the remnants of an action or a contrasting effect which has no real endpoint. This also highlights the importance of language as a communication device, and as a marker of social hierarchy (privilege of education).
M. Covell, Altered States III, IV, 9th Floor Faculty of Law (Richardson Building), University of Otago, Dunedin.
M. Covell, Altered States I and Trauma Chevron, 10th Floor Faculty of Law (Richardson Building), University of Otago, Dunedin.
The project co-created this series with the assistance of its online focus group, selecting key words women connected to mental health and body autonomy. Of the 160 participants, the following words appeared the most from multiple responses - Distress, Autonomy, Trauma, and Narrative.
The project openly invited individuals viewing the works on display at the Faculty of Law to erase any and all contents of the works. Neon pink dusters were positioned throughout the exhibition to aid in this exercise. However, the project also asked the viewer to contemplate 'actions' their own + others. Because actions have consequences, even actions with consent - thus, by participating in the exercise meant that the viewer would be contributing to a long entangled history of women's narratives being erased from history.
In total there are 13 blackboards on display to represent the 13 decades since Charlotte Perkins Gilman published 'The Yellow Wallpaper' that totals 130 years. The short story is a semi-biographical account of a young woman's descent into psychosis at the hands of the patriarchy. Perkins Gilman would later lecture on social reform, women’s rights, and mental health advocacy. Within contemporary society this work holds an uncomfortable relevance - particularly in relation to the attitudes involving women’s mental and physical health.
M. Covell, Interpretation/Interrogation V on display 9th Floor, Faculty of Law (Richardson Building), University of Otago, Dunedin
Reframing the Rorscharh test
The Rorschach test is a projective psychological test in which subjects' perceptions of inkblots are recorded and then analyzed using psychological interpretation, complex algorithms, or both. Some psychologists use this test to examine a person's personality characteristics and emotional functioning. Developed in 1921 by Hermann Rorschach a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst these inkblots have infiltrated many spheres outside of medicine including political, social and pop-cultural. Perhaps some of the most recognized and influential imagery of the 20th and 21st century with an eerie and enduring power.
To learn more about Rorscharh's click here;
M. Covell, Interpretation/Interrogation V (digital print) 2022.
In the series Interpretation/Interrogation medical devices connected to women, mental health, forensics, and other body related issues are grouped in a reframing of the Rorschach test. The presentation of objects highlights the long history of power dynamics between, device and duress, control and conformity, gender and oppression scribed in chalk. The indexical trace conjures a ghostly realm between present and past in an exercise of what has been ‘taught’ and what has been ‘learnt’, what’s expected, and how gender is measured. Instruments touted as ‘life-saving’ were also used (barbicarly) to experiment on countless women, becoming the foundations of modern gynecology. Other devices are used to measure ‘worth’ through gender like motherhood. In contrast, forensic instruments inextricably bound to violence slot in comfortably alongside domestic objects like keys. The drawings also underline a disordered symmetry, forming abstract patterns which oscillate between the paragons of power and the fragility of existence.
M. Covell, Interpretation/Interrogation I with Trauma Chevron, Interpretation/Interrogation III, IV, V - 9th Floor Faculty of Law (Richardson Building), university of Otago, Dunedin.
Speak. Hear. See series.
"For most of History, anonymous was a woman" - Sylvia Plath
In the series Speak. Hear. See, the pictorial maxim “speak no evil, hear no evil, see no evil” is re-orientated to; “She speaks, you hear, we see” in an attempt to subvert societal-stratification and the proverbial principle (codes of conduct). First hand accounts connected to mental health + body autonomy issues were collected from the project’s online focus group (160 women), where the act of re-writing one’s own history becomes both a reclamation of agency, and production of thought in reciprocity (activist strategy). This interactivity between the project and members of the online focus group forms not only a ‘collective’ experience but, a ‘temporary community’ where individuals transform into ‘ethical subjects-in-relation’ reflexively aware, utilizing personal narratives as interventions - Lived experience as auto-biographical record and a measure of truth. The notion of the ‘blackboard’ functions as a communication apparatus drawing attention to the opposing systems of liberation and oppression.
M. Covell, Speak. Hear. See I - 9th Floor Faculty of Law (Richardson Building), University of Otago, Dunedin.
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