Endless Present at the NGV

Robert Rooney, N.E.W.S., 1975

I have a theory that the medium of photography needs seriality to make it’s point. Unlike in painting, a photographic idea is often mute or incomplete in one picture, and needs the reinforcement of other photographs in a series. Endless Present, an exhibition at the NGV of conceptual photography from the 1970s, shows serial and sequential photography at work.

The exhibition features the work of Melbourne artist Robert Rooney and others such as Ed Ruscha. The artists show “an interest in ideas or concepts rather than in the physical form of the work” (-NGV). In Conceptual Art “the idea becomes a machine that makes the art” (-Sol LeWitt). Each idea requires its own form. In many other areas of art making the medium precedes the idea: an artist paints, and along the way discovers new ideas.

In Endless Present, it is the bland imagery and repetitive grids that first strikes your eye. Rooney’s monotonous explorations of the minutiae of everyday life, his parody of boredom, include photographing what he was going to wear each day over a month, or the exact measurement of the contents of a packet of scorched almonds. The small amateur photographs are presented in precise grids which seem to mock scientific method. They are funny, surprisingly beautiful in their own way, and they tell you something about the ‘endless present’ of daily existence.

At the NGV till March 27.

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