Scaffolding, re-purposed car alarms, car batteries, electrical wire
Photo courtesy of the artist
Alex Gawronski is a Sydney based artist, writer, gallerist and academic. His work frequently focuses on the institutional dynamics that underwrite and determine how we see and consume art. Recent exhibitions of Gawronski’s include The National, an Australia-wide survey of mid-career and established artists for which he produced site-specific installations at the Art Gallery of NSW, the MCA and Carriage Works and Call of the Avant-Garde: Constructivism and Australian Art, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne. Elsewhere, Gawronski’s works have been shown at Artspace, the Performance Space and UTS galleries, Sydney; the Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA) NSW; 200 Gertrude St, Margaret Lawrence gallery, Westspace, TCB inc. and 1st Floor, Melbourne; the Australian Experimental Art Foundation (AEAF) and Samstag Museum, Adelaide; the Institute of Modern Art (IMA), Brisbane; Contemporary Art Tasmania (CAT) and Plimsoll Gallery, the University of Hobart, Hobart; the Physics Room, Christchurch and the Aratoi/Wairapa Museum of Art and History, Masterton, NZ; Tokyo Wonder Site (TWS), Japan; Plato’s Cave, Brooklyn, New York; the British School in Rome (BSR) and the Tsagaandarium Art Gallery and Museum, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (among other venues). In 2014 Artspace Sydney published a monograph on Gawronski’s art and writing. Gawronski is a lecturer at Sydney College of the Arts (SCA).
Alarm is hidden away under a busy highway overpass facing Lake Burley Griffin. The work audibly calls attention to an otherwise peripheral urban zone. The appeal of the location, and others like it, resides in its inherent liminality, the fact that it is centrally located but simultaneously secret, ignored, discarded, potentially eerie. Meanwhile the brutalist architecture of the site lends it a paradoxical monumentality enhanced by its severe symmetry: two sets of concrete stairs leading to a raised ‘stage’. Mounted on three vertical scaffold posts there, three repurposed portable car alarms pulse a continuous (and ‘alarming’) audio signal. Each signal is out of synch with the other rendering the collective auditory effect abstract and ‘compositional’. Nevertheless, Alarm, as the title suggests, could also be read as a distress beacon, a call to stop and consider the habitually unconsidered, to break the conditioned ways we inhabit urban space. The work aims to encourage the viewer (and listener) to rethink their relationship to the city and the daily pressures (of work and other life responsibilities) that typically fix our ‘use’ of it. Alarm additionally emphasizes the physical stretch of the highway overpass, as the audio signal travels (like the busy traffic overhead) over the water below connecting one bank to the other.