Q&A :: Jaki Middleton & David Lowrey

April 29th 2011


Stepping into Awfully Wonderful is like stepping onto a movie set. A fully-functional Metropolis robot wanders slowly, a large-scale Mars Gravity Simulator is demonstrated in the centre of the room, and a carnivalesque shrinking machine flashes in the corner. I caught up with artists Jaki Middleton and David Lawrey about their contribution, The Choice Is Yours, a diorama style model that uses simple lights to flick between two possible futures for L.A.

FBi: This exhibition focuses on sci-fi in contemporary art and there's a vast array of different interpretations of this – fifties-style kitsch, retro futurisms, surreality – you've chosen to look to the future (or rather futures), with a very apocalyptic vibe – how did you get into this  aspect of sci-fi?

Jaki Middleton & David Lawrey: We are interested in working with time and the idea of possible futures or alternate realities. We intentionally made it so that there was some ambiguity over the events leading up to the scenes. We wanted to present an open narrative, where viewers can bring their own interpretations to the work.

For us the idea of destruction and the end of humanity holds a strong appeal, it's a really captivating thing to think about, and it's also something that underpins a lot of sci-fi narratives: The Hitchhikers Guide, Bladerunner, War of the Worlds, Planet of the Apes, the list goes on.

What drew you to the diorama style form? Was this a conscious decision from the start or did it emerge with your subject matter?

Over the last few years quite a few of our works have incorporated small-scale hand-built elements. We've done a lot of research into museum displays and really like the way that dioramas create a space that is immersive and fantastical, while at the same time relating to science and fact via the historical conventional use.

I also love the cinematic feel to your work – could you talk a bit about the influence of cinema on your work?

At the core of our practice is a preoccupation with basic themes like time, memory, and death. Films which also engage with these themes offer us a way in that is both playful and personal. Cinematic aesthetics are also a strong influence, particularly the low-fi model based representations and the way in which simple visual techniques are used to create complex scenes, for example in Star Wars, the Star Destroyer was created physically out of repurposed plastic components, and filmed in a way to create the illusion that it was coasting through space.

This piece is based on a real place in LA. How did the time you spent there early last year inform your work? Is there something particularly fitting about LA for post-apocalyptic sci-fi scenes?

One of the first things we became interested in when we were on the residency in L.A., was the proliferation of films that have used the city as a backdrop and site for a major disaster or apocalypse. Statistically, L.A. has probably been destroyed in movies more than any other city and once we started thinking about that, the familiarity of these numerous scenes of destruction layered our experience of various places within L.A. that we visited.

It's been argued that the regular destruction of L.A. in movies is a result of the fact that people love to hate L.A. (Thom Andersen's 2003 documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself has a particularly interesting take on this), but it seems that the accessi


Read more from Nick La Rosa