sites by Marley Dawson
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sites by Marley Dawson
On display until April 2022
Location: Dame Quentin Bryce Gallery, Embassy of Australia, Washington DC.
Sites links two places that artist, Marley Dawson, has lived – Washington, DC and Bethanga, Victoria in Australia. The artworks reference a moment in time when each of the sites represented were seemingly abandoned. This is achieved using signage, topography maps, and images recreated as woven tapestries.
The Washington DC site represented is the empty retail space, previously a liquor store, on the corner of 18th Street and California Street. The site was abandoned long before Dawson encountered it in 2012; it appears as though someone had locked up one evening and never came back, with bottles still gathering dust on the shelves. The security screens and graffiti (the pair of tapestries) hark back to a less homogenized and sanitized time than the space locals now see.
For the Bethanga site, the tapestry image is from the centre of the small town, which is built around an old gold smelter. The ground is stained purple with arsenic from the extraction process. Again, a reference to a different time with the town as Dawson knows it now, developing around this historical site. This smelter site is the reason Bethanga exists where it is - The mining industry left in the early 20th century and, as with the old liquor store, the remains were abandoned. The town erected fences and signage around the historic area and left it. It is a strange alien landscape full of holes and purple sand, broken bottles and decaying infrastructure...
‘I have always felt that my environment has affected the way I work, both in terms of logistics (size, materials, techniques, etc) and also 'vibe' or feeling. This show is an attempt to interrogate the hidden vibes. Taking these two sites and trying to find connections.’
This artwork works in conversation with Marley’s installation of ghosts at the Phillips Collection (May-Sept 2021).
“Our apartment, for the 2.5 years we spent in DC, was right around the corner [from the empty retail space on 18th Street]… whenever I would ask people about it, they didn't know it was there, even if they had walked past it hundreds of times - like the chairs at the Phillips [Collection] - once it was pointed out, it was impossible not to see the past.’
About the artist
Marley Dawson is known for using physics, chemistry, and engineering to construct experimental sculptures and installations that highlight the uncanny or surreal aspects in our everyday life. Combining readily available hardware, electrical components and scavenged materials into art that often resembles mechanical prototypes or architectural constructions, Dawson’s works replicate an aspect of real-world labour to isolate and better consider its implications.
Dawson’s work has been exhibited at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Kreeger Museum and Phillips Collection, Washington DC; MONA, Hobart; Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne; Para/Site, Hong Kong; Vox Populi; Philadelphia; Embassy of Australia, Washington DC; Pointe Ephemere, Paris; Caboolture Regional Gallery; Penrith Regional Gallery, Casula Powerhouse, and in public spaces across Australia and the United States.
He received a Bachelor of Visual Arts (2004) and Master of Fine Arts (2008) from Sydney College of the Arts, Australia. He was born in Wellington NSW (1982) and currently lives and works in Bethanga, Australia.