Blood on Silk: Last Seen by Fiona Davies
At the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Casula, Sydney, Australia
Opening 21st July 2017 6-9p.m.
then open until the 17th September daily open hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Curated by Lizzy Marshall
The turbine hall at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre in Sydney, Australia is the first space entered by the visitor. It is large, at first glance it is apparently empty, a space approximately 13.8 metres high by 12.7 metres wide and 26.5 metres deep.
The ground floor of the hall is the site of multiple points of transition and multiple points of decision making, some of which relate directly to the architecture and some to the usual patterns or paths of passage in this architectural space resulting in an invisible crisscrossing pattern of use. The most overt point of transition is at the point of entry from the outside into the interior followed by less obvious multiple points of transition over the entire ground floor as the visitor determines what sequence they will follow or make. The visitor traffic is forced to the perimeters at the mezzanine level. All of the viewers in this hall are aware of the scale of the space.
Overlaid onto this patterning is the work Blood on Silk: Last Seen. The over arching theoretical concern of the project Blood on Silk is medicalised death in ICU. That is death that is constructed as a medical problem. The points of transition in the process of medicalised death start at the same place – coming through the entry doors either through emergency or as with Casula and many hospitals, the main front door. Layers of points of transition are then built up through the systems, design and architecture of the hospital – the controls of the visitor entry into ICU, the swing doors into the operating theatres and walking the empty shadowy corridors at night.
In this installation, large sheets of silk paper hang from the ceiling forming five rooms or partially curtained bed spaces. The ceiling is not lit so the upper reaches of the silk lie in darkness. On to these curtains of silk at just above head height, fragments of images of individuals passing through points of transition in a hospital are projected. The figures, seen from the back, are partially recognisable and partially anonymous. In the mezzanine gallery the hard lighting of fluorescent tubing starkly refers to the liminal space of the smoking area just outside the hospital buildings. All hospitals in NSW are smoke free work places including all outside areas.
In a recent talk at the Power Institute by the art critic Sebastian Smee, he talked about the book ‘In Praise of Shadows’ by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki. This book has been described as a haphazard exposition of the aesthetics of beauty and where in the dark of the shadow only then is it possible to experience a certain type of seeing. ‘The darkness seemed to fall from the ceiling, lofty, intense, monolithic, the fragile light .. unable to pierce its thickness ……. the visible darkness.  The light of the floor and the darkness of the high ceiling illuminated only by the intermittent light of the projections offset by the liminal space in the mezzanine gallery speak to the clarity of the way of seeing in the shadow, this way of seeing in the liminal space of the carer in hospital .
- Jun’ichirō Tanizaki  In Praise Of Shadows, Leete’s Island Books, 1977. P 34-35