The White Room

By: Jeff Gibson
Jeff Gibson

Artspace, Sydney October 19 – November 18, 1995

In an interview for the catalogue accompanying this exhibition, Sydney artist Deej Fabyc briefly calls upon the image of the vagina dentate to describe the scopic tension at work in her performances and installations. Indeed, voyeurism and vengeance coalesce in a biting diaristic seduction that snaps back at heterosexual norms. Scanning for signs of threat, Fabyc identifies, absorbs, and reconstitutes consensual desire as schizophrenic flux.

In the centre of the space sits a ten-foot cube forming a white silk-lined padded cell. A door is jammed ajar so that we can see in, but not enter. Midway through the exhibition the artist, brandishing a white chair and lipstick, carried out a cathartic performance within the room, which was relayed by video to a monitor in the main space. Combining “white cube”, peep show, surveillance and asylum, the empty room otherwise serves as symbolic conglomerate and foil to the sprawling pastiche of found and fabricated material occupying the two adjacent walls. Part classical tableau, part personal pinboard, Fabyc’s semiotic surfeit is alternately public and private in its revelations. Pink predominates in a loosely orchestrated ensemble of overdetermined girlieness, which, within the academic frame of Artspace, can only read as sarcastic collapse. For instance, a tattered book cover of David Hamilton’s seventies pederfest, The Young Girl, become lesbian camp amidst a smorgasbord of sexist, “ feminine” nonsense.

Like a vindictive prostitute—another image summonsed in the catalogue – Fabyc purveys a stunning array of visual come-ons, met at every turn by aesthetic retort. White surfaces bearing smelly brown stains are strewn with glitter. Virginal canvases support pornographic linework drawn with pink frilly cotton trim. A series of rough-and-ready snapshots promise, but never quite deliver, the titillation of a striptease. In every instance the usual economies of desire are inverted or frustrated, recast as a maze of alternative possibilities. Adopting the by-now generic form of scatter, Fabyc casts off the straightjacket of a masculinist formalism with comical disdain. Scatter has it both ways, combining the conventional with the unconventional, the orderly with the disorderly, in an expanded and momentarily intensified field of reference. This installation manages to work an often entertaining but critically vacant turf, with cutting wit and a palpable negativity.

Reading from left to right, the final piece in this gigantic semantic puzzle is a metallic incinerator door, propped against the wall like a prized souvenir from some psycho’s basement. There is a dark – at times sinister – presence lurking within this noisy profusion of interwoven ideas, which simultaneously offsets and affirms the gallery’s ordinarily clinical ambience. Fabyc states that her work draws directly on personal experience. Having frequently, and often painfully, wandered off the straight and narrow, she catalogues and corrupts normality with a playful but empowering deviance. Straight is made strange, as aesthetic pleasure beds down with psychic pain to conceive ambiguous icons for a consciously disordered reality.