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The Importance of Laughter

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Blog – Simon Yates: Brain Scapes

Posted on Jan. 6, 2017 by Megan Robson in Curatorial.
Primavera at 25: MCA Collection curator Megan Robson gives an insight into Simon Yates exhibiting artwork Brain Scapes (2006/2016).

Simon Yates (Primavera 2006) is a self-described inventor who creates works that attempt to dismantle and reassemble information in different ways. The artist writes that his artworks ‘are mainly inventions/machines for describing aspects of the world, the way cameras, photocopiers, and the alphabet describe things in a general way’. [1]

For the exhibition Primavera at 25: MCA Collection, Yates remade his artwork Brain Scapes from 2009. Brain Scapes (2006/2016) is one of a series of works in which the artist attempts to create a three-dimensional representation of his mind at a single point in time, detailing the various memories, emotions, ideas, and songs that consume our thoughts at any single moment. Consisting of ten star-like shapes of various sizes painted in a dark colour, the individual parts are collaged with a wide-range of imagery from album and book covers, to renditions of previous artworks and zines. Also depicted are specific memories that draw connections to the construction of the work itself, from a mathematics book given to the artist by a school teacher through to a self-drawn comic book by the teenage Yates documenting all of his memories up until that point.

Reflecting how each thought may be tenuously connected to another, in an arrangement that could change at any moment, the display of Brain Scapes can be configured into different formations each time the work is displayed; the only requirement is that an individual point of the stars must connect with another point.

Like many of the artist’s works Brain Scapes is constructed from a range of basic, readily available materials including cardboard, tape, glue, wire and paper. Yates writes that ‘when I’ve had an idea, the artwork I make to demonstrate it is usually made out of whatever is lying around at the time, (sticky tape, cardboard, rubber bands)’. [2]

In an interview with the Aaron Seeto, Curator of Primavera 2006, the artist discussed the role of time in many of his works. In particular, Yates reflects on how time may affect the condition of a work or cause a work to be remade in the future.

‘An artwork is the coalescence of a number of different elements. Time is an invisible component in the artwork, but it is just like any other physical material that goes into the artwork. My artworks might disintegrate and go into a kind of dormant state, to emerge later made out of different physical materials, but is that really any different to ANY artwork that gets re-exhibited, since the time component of those works must change, in the same way as the materials in my reconstructed works’. [3]

Megan Robson

[1] Simon Yates quoted in Aaron Seeto and Simon Yates ‘Interview’, Primavera 2006: Young Australian Artists, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, 2006, p.65.
[2] Ibid, p.63.
[3] Ibid, p.63.

Simon Yates, 'Brain Scapes', 2006/2016, installation view, 'Primavera at 25: MCA Collection', Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, image courtesy and © the artist, photograph: Alex Davies

Simon Yates, Brain Scapes, 2006/2016, installation view, Primavera at 25: MCA Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, cardboard, paper, synthetic polymer paint, wire, pen and acrylic glue, Museum of Contemporary Art, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Henry Ergas, 2009, image courtesy and © the artist, photograph: Alex Davies

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Megan Robson
– Assistant Curator

Megan Robson is Assistant Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, where she recently curated the exhibitions Primavera at 25: MCA Collection, Martu Art from the Far Western Desert (co-curated with Anna Davis) (2014) and MCA Collection: New Acquisitions in Context (2013). She has worked across a range of exhibitions including solo projects with Aleks Danko, Runa Islam, Anish Kapoor, Tatsuo Miyajima, Christian Marclay, and Annette Messager, and group exhibitions such as string theory: Focus on contemporary Australian art and Marking Time.

Previously she has worked for a number of art organisations in Australia and the UK, including the Barbican Centre, London and the Biennale of Sydney. She received an MA from Goldsmiths College, University of London and a BA (Hons) from the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales. She writes regularly on contemporary art for a range of publications and journals.

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