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Wynyard, TAS, Australia
Video artist Duncan Adam Robinson is a descendant of the Trawlwoolway people of northeast Tasmania. He was born in Wynyard, on Tasmania’s northwest coast in 1975, and lived there until he moved to Hobart in 1994. Robinson’s art practice began in 1991 when on a family visit to Port Arthur he began to explore photography in a manner that departed from conventional holiday pictures: suddenly he became less interested in what was being photographed, and more attentive to how the subject looked inside the frame. Furthermore, one photo he took had the appearance of an old-style still life, which led him to think further about the art of photography. Sergei Eisenstein’s film The Battleship Potemkin, which was brought to Robinson’s attention in the artist’s last year of high school, was a significant early reference point for him as an artist. In correspondence with the author he stated of the film: 'I was fascinated by the cinematic style and editing and I took photographic stills of it straight off the television’ (Robinson, 2008). Specifically, Eisenstein’s editing style awoke Robinson to the way a particular editing approach can bring a distinctive character to a work. In 1994 Robinson began a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Tasmanian School of Art, University of Tasmania, Hobart, which he completed with Honours in 1999. Initially his undergraduate focus was photography, but by his final year he had become bored with the practice and his interests shifted to video. He went on to complete a Master of Fine Arts in 2002 as a video artist under the mentorship of new media artist and Tasmanian School of Art lecturer Leigh Hobba. Robinson first exhibited his work in 1997 in the group exhibition 'Glass Eye’ at the Entrepot Gallery, Hobart. Group exhibitions in which he participated during his postgraduate years include 'Somewhere Between Then and Now’, at Hobart’s CAST Gallery, and 'Between Phenomena – The Panorama in Tasmania’ at Plimsoll Gallery, Hobart, both in 2001. Robinson describes his work as being characterised by an appreciation of the 'flaws, glitches, breaks, imperfections and interruptions’ that can be revealed and exacerbated in video, television and photography: 'rather than editing them out I allow them a life and a chance to be seen in another context’ (pers comm, 2008). For his first solo exhibition, ’22 (pieces from a mechanism that travels in a fixed course)’, at Entrepot Gallery, Hobart (2000), Robinson was interested in creating static renditions of the moving image of the video tape, and the show consisted of digital stills – appearing as black images specked with colour – captured from Robinson’s direct physical handling of the tape. Emidio Puglielli, writing in a 2005 Photofile article, describes the artist’s approach as: 'Like a DJ at his turntables Duncan Robinson pops the cover off his VCR to physically manipulate the tape and heads, which disrupts the analogue signal to create visual noise – coloured static on black ground. His work explores the electro-mechanical space of the equipment’ (pg. 37). In the 2002 solo exhibition ’22 (physicality of the analogue)’ at Hobart’s Fine Arts Gallery, Robinson showcased his completed Masters work; a suite of works that had been created from his performance piece of physically interacting with the video tape as it moved through the player. Multiple projectors and monitors displayed varied portrayals of coloured static spots and bars of static that Robinson had constructed during the performance. By attending to the aesthetic and aural possibilities of static, repetition, flawed signals, degraded videotape and the low-resolution imagery that can be created by cameras or mobile phones, Robinson has sought to explore people’s relationship to media and technology. This preoccupation is informed by his position as both an observer and creator of popular culture: he has written and performed music with several bands in Hobart since 1995, including hMAS, Elvis Christ and The Nurses, and since 2000 has created video and sound performances for musical events. In 2008 Robinson was also hosting a film review radio show on Hobart’s Edge Radio. The installation ’22 (the usage of the intrusive)’, which featured in the Salamanca Arts Centre exhibition 'Skin’ (2004), curated by Fiona Foley and Jenny Gorringe, exemplifies this concern with people’s relationship to media and technology. The work foregrounded static as the disruptive antithesis to perfect television transmission. Robinson writes in the 'Skin’ exhibition catalogue: 'Static is the television’s way of making our skin crawl’ (2004, pg. 22). Robinson also conceives of his video imagery as analogous to a landscape that situates him as an Indigenous Australian, a landscape to be explored and narrated. The Tracker, which was included in the exhibition 'The Bodies That Were Not Ours’, held at the Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts in Melbourne (2006), is an introspective work inspired in part by the figure of the Aboriginal tracker in the 2001 film One Night The Moon, directed by Rachel Perkins. The artist tracked his own movements and experiences in various settings with a mobile phone camera as part of an open-ended journey of discovery. He then took this self-reflective imagery 'back to the analogue realm of the video player’ and overlaid it onto videotape that he had previously manipulated physically, which was 'then played over a hundred times to further degrade the image’ (Robinson, 2006). Robinson comes from a family of artists: his three sisters, Megan Robinson, Brooke Robinson and Rebecca Robinson, and his cousin Denise Robinson are all practising artists who work across a range of media. In late 2008 Robinson was living in Hobart and working as a motorcycle instructor and exam supervisor while continuing his art practice, musical endeavours and working on a film script. Writers: Fisher, LauraNote: Date written: 2011 Last updated: 2011 Status: peer-reviewed
b. 1975
Tasmanian video artist whose work experiments with faulty and degraded video, television and photographic imagery to explore their dissonant aesthetic and aural potential, and addresses themes relating to popular culture and the artist's personal journey.
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