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Susan Norrie

Enola  2004

single-channel digital video, colour, sound, 8min 37sec; ten chairs


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


About the Artwork

Enola is a single-channel video projected onto a screen set low in a wall painted military grey. It resembles a cinema designed for children, with custom-made wooden stools for viewers to sit on. The inspiration for this installation is the Hiroshima Children’s Library, designed by Kenzo Tange and built as a peace monument in 1953. Its title is a reference to the B-29 bomber Enola Gay, the American fighter plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. 

The film focuses on a young Japanese couple in futuristic outfits, lost within a world of architectural monuments, planes, ferries and traffic – an enchanting place which we later realise is a scaled-down city, with well-known buildings such as the Statue of Liberty, St Peter’s Basilica, the Eiffel Tower and New York’s former World Trade Center. The setting is Tobu World Square, a landscaped, architectural theme park in Nikko, Japan, that has since been closed down.

This location, with its eclectic celebration of global human achievements in miniature, suggests a world of harmony and unity. But the dystopic reality of nuclear progress, which has so profoundly impacted upon Japan and the wider world today, is poignantly encapsulated in Susan Norrie’s slow-panning lens and the fading, eventually bleached-out images set to the solemn tolling of a bell. Enola is a powerful reminder of the fallibility of human endeavour.

Working back and forth across film and painting, Norrie has produced a number of epic, socially-motivated painting installations, experiential video works and short films. Nuclear and environmental issues dealing with natural and manmade disasters are constant themes, creating visual works that are often dark, menacing and suggestive of a world in peril. Inspired by cinematic precedents – in particular the films of Michelangelo Antonioni and Andrei Tarkovsky – Norrie’s moving-image works employ a combination of material filmed or directed by the artist, who also draws strategically on the editing technique of montage pioneered by the Russian filmmaker and theorist Sergei Eisenstein.

I feel that artists are often a barometer of events in the world: they can synthesise socio-political and environmental concerns with powerful visual encapsulations. Blurring the boundaries of fiction and fact, artists can deal with the overload of media information and misinformation with a certain clarity and poetic detachment.

Susan Norrie, 2003

Susan Norrie

– About the artist

Born 1953, Sydney, New South Wales. Lives and works Sydney.

Susan Norrie’s practice encompasses photography, painting, filmmaking and multimedia installations. Norrie originally trained as a painter at the National Art School, Sydney and the National Gallery School, Melbourne in the 1970s, shifting towards film and installation in the mid-1990s. Norrie’s videos are predominantly metaphoric, combining art, documentary and film.

 Norrie represented Australia at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. In the last 20 years she has developed a practice that sees and uses art as a tool for political commentary. The Asia-Pacific has been her focus, incorporating the environmental and humanitarian disasters that have impacted on the region.

Norrie’s selected solo exhibitions include HAVOC, Venice Biennale, Palazzo Giustinian Lolin, Venice (2007); Black Wind, Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Adelaide Festival (2006); Undertow, Gus Fisher Gallery, University of Auckland, New Zealand (2004); and Thermostat, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, Finland (2001).

Selected group exhibitions include the Montreal Biennale, Montreal (2015); Biennale of Sydney (2014); Ja Natuurlijk – how art saves the world, Gemeentsemuseum, Den Haag (2013); Porta Nigra, Hidde van Seggelen Gallery, London (2012); Yokohama Triennale, Tokyo (2011); In the Balance: Art for a Changing World, MCA, Sydney (2010); Rising Tide: Film and Video Works from the MCA Collection, MCA, Sydney (2009); Figuring Landscapes, Tate Modern, London (2008); ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe (2008); MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporanea de Vigo, Spain (2007); HAVOC, Artes Mundi Prize, Cardiff, Wales (2007); On Reason and Emotion, 14th Biennale of Sydney (2004); Future Cinema, ICC Intercommunication Center, Tokyo (2003); and Fieldwork, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2002).

Norrie’s work is held nationally in major state and regional collections and a number of international collections.

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