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Language and Installation Perfectly Combined

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Ash Kilmartin, Light sleeper, 2016, ST PAUL ST Gallery FrontBox. Photo: Sam Hartnett. Ash Kilmartin, Light sleeper, 2016 (installation detail), 2016, ST PAUL ST Gallery FrontBox. Photo: Sam Hartnett. Ash Kilmartin, Light sleeper, 2016, (installation detail) ST PAUL ST Gallery FrontBox. Photo: Sam Hartnett.

So is she having problems sleeping because of the light? (Is it light from which side of the curtain or window? Daylight or artificial? Where is the bed?). Or is her restlessness caused by what was contained in the letter?

FrontBox (on St Paul St Gallery’s street front)

Auckland

 

Ash Kilmartin
Light Sleeper

 

18 February - 29 March 2016

The use of text by Melbourne-based artist Ash Kilmartin in her street-accessed installation is - I think - the ‘real’ work. When you read it, her command of language is what stops you short and provides emotional power and content, much like English artist Michael Craig Martin’s legendary An Oak Tree, which is often called ‘a glass of water’ but which driven by the label.

Kilmartin’s label on the AUT building’s outer concrete wall is crucial - despite the fact that the work is evocative at night when the suspended pieces of curtain become backlit, or that the carefully dropped invoice envelope near the window comes from the Netherlands and could have borne bad tidings.

Here’s the text:

She’s what you could call a light sleeper, which is both apt and not, considering it is the light that is keeping her from being a heavy sleeper.

It’s an amazing sentence. Notice how its cadences roll out and expand, after initially contracting (‘both apt and not’) in the centre. It is astonishingly controlled, with the deliberately laboured repetition at the end.

So is she having problems sleeping because of the light? (Is it light from which side of the curtain or window? Daylight or artificial? Where is the bed?). Or is her restlessness caused by what was contained in the letter?

A bit of an insomniac myself, I really enjoy this droll work. Is Kilmartin an insomniac too?

Apparently the curtains are from her bedroom so there is a calculated hint of autobiography here. As five strips of thin pale cream fabric of different lengths they are very strange. One is unravelling at its bottom edge. The shortest is in the middle and the longest at the ends. The sectioned curtain seems to be structured to reflect the sentence’s phrasal organisation. Quite brilliant in its subtle wit.

John Hurrell

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