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Merilyn Fairskye

Author 
Andrew Frost

In Merilyn Fairskye’s work the human body is a ghost adrift in the landscape. In a sequence of video installations that utilised a time-lapse video technique that layers multiple sequences into one image, the transient and ephemeral motion of swimmers in pools or passengers in airports appear as ghost-like apparitions, while the unmoving structures of buildings, airports and pools retain their apparent solidity. Fairskye’s multi-screen installations Aqua/Pool (2007), Aqua/Bay (2007) and Stati d’Animo/States of Mind (2007) contrast stasis with movement, prompting the viewer to question whether the image represents ‘real time’, or a dilated time frame more akin to conventional time-lapse effects. The result is a dream-like experience that recalls the imagery of the Italian Futurists through the layering of multiple images, and Impressionist painting through Fairskye’s breakup of an apparently ‘solid’ image into discrete temporal units. Despite these historical echoes, Fairskye’s work has the unmistakable sensation of being products of the contemporary world, seeking out the humanity and commonality of experience across the world.

The sites of the airport, train stations and other places of transit have long provided Fairskye with inspiration. Her earlier video projects,  such as The Appointment (1994) and Plane Torque (1995), used elements of cinematic narrative to explore the abstractions — and frustrations — of travel. The Appointment, very much in the tradition of experimental cinematic narrative, played with the connections between characters and a highly subjective mis en scene, while Plane Torque used a documentary style to-camera monologue of a woman describing her fruitless attempts to leave an unnamed, war torn city in Africa. The video also represented Fairskye’s interest in deploying narrative video work in an installation setting with Plane Torque presented in one and three-screen versions. Subsequent videos such as After Image (1994), Sleep (1997) and Flash (1998) continued Fairskye’s fascination with these kinds of abstract narratives.

The installation piece Connected (2003) signalled a shift towards the concerns of Fairskye’s more recent work. Using documentary style interviews with residents of Alice Springs, disembodied voices describe various connections with US military spy base Pine Gap, while an ambient wash of coded messages, static and environmental sounds suggest a phantom landscape of data. Connected utilised three video projectors set up so that as a viewer entered the room their shadows fell across the left and right hand walls, suggesting both immersion and observation. 

Date 
b. 1950
Birth place
Brisbane, Australia
Period of activity 
from 1979

Lives and works

Sydney
Australia
Selected works
Selected events
See video
– from Aqua/ocean, via YouTube 
See video
– from Aqua/pool, via YouTube 
From Sleep, via d'archive
From Sleep, via d'archive – from Sleep, via d/Archive 
See video
– from Precarious, via YouTube