The Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) presents ‘Dead Ringer’, a dark and powerful exhibition that draws forth the ghostly apparitions and spectral doppelgängers that plague us. Deriving heavily from the Gothic, the gallery space is transformed into a haunted space, a hall of mirrors and disquieting experiences examining the idea of these dissociative identities, reanimated in alternative realities.
Curated by Leigh Robb, ‘Dead Ringer’ includes the works of over twenty artists, both national and international. Their works discuss the extremes of portraiture through a range of mediums; film, painting, photography, installation, 3D printing, as well as hypnosis and transcendental meditation as seen in works such as Mikala Dwyer’s Goldene Bend’er, an installation that pushes the boundaries of the body and matter through channeling arcane magic. These works recognise the apparitions, simulations and doubles that have surfaced in recent discourse about contemporary culture, examining identity crisis in the post-digital age.
Beyond the Gothic, the exhibition delves into quantum physics and science fiction with theories of parallel worlds and quantum entanglement. ‘Dead Ringer’ examines identities operating outside of the body through the idea of the ghost. New Zealand artist Lisa Reihana’s cinematic realm, Tai Whetuki – House of Death, lures the viewer into a thick tropical forest, a space of Pacific mourning rituals where a Taihitian chief grieves and a woman sings a karanga (a ceremonial call) opening the space between heaven and earth. Reihana brings together rituals from different times and traditions, overlapping in a visceral lamentation for lost souls.
The works in the exhibition reproduce reality through various art forms, creating 3D virtual worlds where these fabricated doubles and doppelgängers can meet. Robb describes the concept of the double as “an external indistinguishable ‘other’, operating with its own independent agency, familiar yet unknowable. To glimpse one’s own duplicate, was to disrupt ideas of individuality and uniqueness”. Artist Keg De Souza interviews ghost catchers in Indonesia, all shot through mirrors, capturing the dual images of the original subject, who stem from a culture where many fear that the use of a mirror or camera can take a small fragment of the soul along with one’s likeness. Accompanying the work is a reflective installation where figures and voices ricochet around the room, traversing borders – through time and space – transforming and extending our understanding of identity, social norms and world history.
The exhibition’s main focus is about identity crisis in the post-digital age. Kynan Tan’s work is set inside a sprawling server farm used by the likes of Google and Facebook. Using ocular rift headsets he creates a virtual architecture where the audience can participate, maneuvering, and wading through data centres where our identities exist in algorithms and codes, and a series of blinking lights and humming cables. Tan conceptualises this problem of being both inside and outside our bodies at the same time in the digital age of dematerialisation.
Through ghosts, doubles and echoes of self, ‘Dead Ringer’ provides a unique and ethereal perspective on how digital technologies are reshaping our understanding and experience of contemporary identity.
Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA)
14 November to 27 December, 2015
Leo Maguire, Rosa Alba (silence) (detail) from the ‘Rosa’ series 2011-15, archival pigment print on washi paper
Courtesy the artist and Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, Western Australia
Lisa Reihana, Tai Whetuki – House of Death, 2014, video still
Courtesy of the artist and copyright Reihanimations Ltd 4