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Susan Norrie: notes from the underground

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)


21 Jul 2003 to 12 Oct 2003

Curator: Rachel Kent

About the exhibition

Susan Norrie: notes from the underground spanned five years of the artist’s career, from 1999 to 2003. This exhibition included two existing installations and one major new project.

Susan Norrie is well known as a painter, and painting remains integral to her wider practice as an artist. Based in Sydney, Norrie has exhibited her work both locally and internationally to acclaim since the 1980s. During the 1990s her work underwent a considerable shift, embracing diverse media including sculpture, installation, photography and moving imagery. Film was a recurrent reference point in the installations included in this exhibition, each of which featured edited and manipulated excerpts from popular cinema, as well as archival footage and the artist’s own filmed documentation.

Norrie’s work concerns itself with what lies beneath the surface of things. The tension between exterior and interior, or visible and unseen forces, has been expressed in a range of ways through her installations. Since the mid 1990s Norrie has explored natural and man-made disasters as a metaphor for humanity under crisis. Nuclear issues and environmental themes such as global warming are a feature of her most recent works. These and other related concerns were given expression in Err (1999), which explored the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl and its aftermath; and in Thermostat (2001), which examined temperature change, its indicators and consequences.

A new work made especially for this exhibition, passenger (2003) comprised archival material and the artist’s own filmed footage. The image of the cave (New Zealand’s Waitomo Caves) was prominent, suggesting an interior, bunker-like space in which to take shelter from an increasingly perilous world. Images of insect swarms, laboratory experimentation, and air conditioning systems evoked the threat of airborne contagion. ‘Bugs in the system’ has become a constant refrain in our lives, from the threat of physical contamination to the glitches and inefficiencies of bureaucratic systems, to computer viruses. A further work by the artist, Undertow (2002), was presented at the Art Gallery of New South Wales to coincide with this exhibition.

This exhibition was made possible through the generous support of MCA Ambassadors