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Simon Yates

Brain Scapes  2006

paper, cardboard, wire, paint and pen

10 parts: dimensions variable

Museum of Contemporary Art, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Henry Ergas, 2009

2009.69

About the Artwork

This installation forms part of an ongoing endeavour by Simon Yates to externalise the contents of his mind – thoughts, feelings and memories – as they take place in the same moment. The result is Brain Scapes, an abstracted, sculptural self-portrait in the form of ten star-like shapes suspended between ceiling and floor. Touching point to point, they resemble simplified neurons: the electrical transmitters of the brain that form the neural network and allow the brain to process information. Deliberately low-tech, Brain Scapes is constructed from everyday materials like wire, sticky tape, newspaper, black-and-white and colour photocopies, and matt black paint.

It is, however, more than a simple, rough construction. The work is an attempt to put into three dimensions the mysteries of the brain, or, as Yates puts it, a form of information ecology he calls ‘info-diversity’. Each shape is covered in images and texts recalling the artist’s past and the musical and literary influences. One such item is a comic book drawn in his youth of all that he could remember at that time. Another is a painting produced under the influence of certain recurring feelings that Yates accessed by listening to music – pieces that he both liked and disliked. Photocopies of the covers of Rolling Stones albums and Tolkien’s novel The Lord of the Rings also relate to the times or feelings portrayed in the other pictures and text.

Yates likens his practice to that of an inventor. He has experimented with a number of different machines and models. Some of his installations have included walking robots made from balsa wood and paper, held up by helium balloons and activated via remote control. For this work, all the star-shaped pieces nest inside one another like a Russian matryoshka doll, neatly articulating the ways in which ‘info-diversity’ can be assembled and reassembled.

I approach my artworks like an inventor, creating low-tech, do it yourself solutions to questions I have about the world. These artworks have included low-tech walking robots, shrinking machines, and invisibility devices. Brainscapes is an experiment in creating a memory map that links three elements. Specific personal memories are linked to more general abstract feelings as well as to other items such as books and music that I also associate with these feelings. The artwork’s form was based on Russian nesting dolls so that each star-shaped segment of the work fits one inside the other, from smallest to largest. The shapes of the pieces were modelled on the interconnecting shapes of neurons, the signal transmitting structures in the brain. By organising memories in this way I was trying to approximate a visual representation of my thought processes, giving shape and form to something that is otherwise intangible. 

Simon Yates, 2016

Simon Yates

– About the artist

Born 1973, Griffith, New South Wales. Lives and works Sydney.


Simon Yates’ art practice takes the form of low-tech inventions, including walking robots and 3D optical illusions, as well as experimental collections of information in zines and illustrated narratives. He has exhibited in Australia and internationally. Solo exhibitions include Total Perspective Vortex, 55 Sydenham Road Gallery, Sydney (2016); Biblioburbia, with Vanessa Berry, First Draft Gallery, Sydney (2012); Do not open until… Mori Gallery, Sydney (2009); Universal Cloaking Device, Artspace, Sydney (2005); Artificial Intelligence, with Shane Haseman, Blaugrau Gallery, Sydney (2001)

Group exhibitions include Soft Core, Casula Powerhouse (2016); New Contemporaries, SCA Galleries, Sydney (2014); Awfully Wonderful, Carriageworks (2011); New Acquisitions 2010, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (2010); Before and After Science, Art Gallery of South Australia (2010); NEW 09, ACCA, Melbourne (2009); Primavera 2006, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (2006)

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