The bucket was on the move
Comprising 1,392 images, this was the first Wunderwall. It was exhibited as part of Salad Days, the concluding exhibition for the National Art School’s inaugural artist-in-residence program commenced in 2007. I was one of four artists selected for the year-long residency with teaching responsibilities.
Given the hurdles that hindered the installation of The bucket was on the move — three-hour commutes, a box of images mistakenly discarded, the realisation halfway through that the grid was going up in reverse order — I’m still amazed that it was actually completed on time. The title comes from a chance sighting of a white plastic bucket blowing in the wind in a rural area.
It symbolises some of the key concerns in Wunderwalls more generally: the effect of humanity’s fleeting desires on nature and wildlife and the build-up of detritus. Wunderwall’s are also about memories and personal experiences, some shared. Wunderwalls are a sort of collective portrait of society. In them we can all see ourselves as we meander from image to image following threads and uncovering unexpected links.
Salad Days, an essay by Katie Dyer, Curator of the National Art School Gallery
David Wills’ photo-media based work examines the nature of consumer society and mass-consumption.
His mass accumulation of photographs look at both images of luxury and the abject that make up our daily intake of visual information. These works make little concession to anything other than the information they report, however, he imposes a museum or scientific-like archiving system over them, called data sets, to imbue them with a significance and weight that might otherwise seem lacking. The photographs accrue incessantly, creating immediate records of people, products and information that ceaselessly travels between us communicating predetermined messages.
The laws governing his archival system are initially enacted by chance and are often then ordered into taxonomic categories as though these items demand special classification, for examples mattresses (a series of the ubiquitous mattress discarded on the pavement) or corner shops (at the same time iconic and mundane images of these quintessential Australian buildings). Taken with a digital camera Wills’ has compiled thousands of photographs, starting from 2003, cataloguing them on his website Turnstile so that hours can be spent weaving between classifications that link ‘celebrities’ to ‘Melbourne’ to ‘bongs’.
Salad Days marks the first time the artist has shown work of this kind with data sets constructed within the exhibition space to form grids that relate to research he has undertaken on the price of acquiring everything that is promoted in women’s magazines within an editorial context. Leaving aside the direct advertising, Wills’ has tallied the costs of shoes, bags, clothes and make-up promoted as the ‘must-haves’ of the season, along with other research on the cost of petrol or fake Louis Vuitton bags. His images prove seductive just as they ask us to consider how complicit we are in endlessly participating in unnecessary consumption.
The bucket was on the move, 2008 comprised 1,392 non-archival UV digital prints on foamboard, 15 x 20 cm each. The final work was 4.5 high x 14.5 metres wide and was shown at National Art School Gallery, 21 February to 29 March 2008.
The residency also saw the creation of Midweek Social, an audience participatory work that was later restaged as part of LiveWorks at Performance Space with funding from P4 Pilot Project Funding, a Performance Space/PICA/Australia Council collaboration.