Ah-round (2009) features Madou, a West African man, who is seen watering tropical plants in a New Zealand greenhouse. He appears utterly self-contained, working and listening to music (Burning Spear’s Traveling), unaware of the camera, which encircles him slowly. The operation of the camera is not hidden from the viewer; rather, the dolly’s tracking around the figure is made plainly evident, suggesting the camera is stalking its subject. The relationship between the eye behind the camera and Madou is unclear, and we become aware of ourselves as viewers also, doubly removed from the situation: we watch someone watching.
The work takes the Romantic tradition’s conventional representation of a ‘Nobel Savage’ and exotic jungle setting, and relocates it in an overtly constructed space, where the t-shirt clad, walkman wearing Madou is seen in a ‘jungle’ of potted plants, with a view of satellite dishes and urban brick houses. The filmmaker writes: ‘Ah-round is intended as a parody; Romantic conventions are lampooned in order to make them seem ridiculous.’ The images are literal, and the re-staging is performed to emphasise the way this tradition disempowered its subjects. In contrast, Madou is an active protagonist, preoccupied, and in charge of his circumstances.
Often focusing on a single character in action, Hobbs’ film and photographic work presents situations which are slightly off-kilter, or act to alter accepted understandings or relationships. Sometimes the action is absurd, or the scene heavily stylised, composed without dialogue or explanation. These self-conscious images wait for us to become aware of them, and engage actively in viewing.
Rebecca Ann Hobbs is from Far North Queensland and currently resides in Auckland. Hobbs gained her Bachelor of Fine Arts (Hons) at the Victorian College of the Arts (Melbourne, Australia) in 2002, and graduated with a Masters in Fine Art from California Institute of the Arts (Los Angeles, America) in 2005. Recent solo exhibitions have included Ah-round, Monte Vista, Los Angeles, America, 2010; To Do, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, Australia, and Johnston Gallery, Perth, Australia, 2009; Up With the Fall, Down on the Diagonal, Johnston Gallery, Perth, Australia; Up With the Fall, Down on the Diagonal, stills, Sydney, Australia, 2009.
Rebecca Ann Hobbs
26 July–22 August 2010
Duration: 3 mins, looped
Courtesy of the artist