The Hanging: Synthetic, Australian Centre for Photography

August 15th 2017

Soda_Jerk, The Phoenix Portal, 2005. (video).


Cryogenic sleep chambers, robots and space travel once seemed like the stuff of pure science fiction. But now in 2017, artificial intelligence and the potential of a house on Mars remind us that these inventions are much more than just imagination.

In the Australian Centre for Photography’s current exhibition ‘Synthetic’, artists Simon Del Favero, Vincent Fournier, David Greenhalgh, Petrina Hicks, David Manley, Soda_Jerk and Garry Trinh visualise the not-so-fictitious fictions of early sci-fi, hauntology and cybernetics through photographic and video works.

Vincent Fournier, from Post Natural History (archaeology of the future), 2016.


Each work sits somewhere between the here and now, and beyond. In Vincent Fournier’s work ‘Post Natural History (archaeology of the future)’, sixteen animals, plants and insects are photographed, more like objects in a cabinet of curiosities than the soft bodies we’re familiar with. Leathery bird legs are swapped for what looks like black titanium, a lizard reflects light like a silver sports car. Each of the creatures in this series has been “improved”; adapted to meet human needs and environments. Small plaques tell us that a moon jellyfish is adapted to abyssal life for data transmission, a scorpion for semi automated surgery, even the divisive ibis might earn some fans, being both drought and frost resistant. It’s far-fetched but not so outlandish that we can’t envisage it.

Petrina Hicks, Lauren (eyes open), 2003.

Using the glossy language of commercial photography, Petrina Hicks’ artwork titled ‘Lauren (eyes closed)’ probes at the false promise of perfection wrapped up in female identity. It’s a portrait framed from the shoulders up: she isn’t lounging on a silk futon or lowering her gaze suggestively, yet she seduces us. With peroxide blonde hair, fair skin and elfish features, the woman in the photograph belongs to mythology, a sylph from folklore or an avatar from a game. Both enticing and disconcerting, we want to know more about her – but perhaps the question isn’t who Lauren is, so much as what she is.

Speculation continues in Soda_Jerk’s work titled ‘The Phoenix Portal’, in which a young Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix discover time travel in a clip from the 1985 film ‘Explorers’. As many a sci-fi film warns us, playing with time and space is risky, and as expected, something goes wrong. Phoenix gets sucked into a computer only to segue into 1992 movie ‘My Own Private Idaho’. Soda_Jerk stage a séance-fiction, where the now deceased River Phoenix encounters his future and past self. Sounds impossible, but through sampling and speculative fiction the work explores how personal and historical experiences of time are mediated by screen technologies.

The ‘Synthetic’ artists are having a lot of fun with these concepts, playing in the liminal space between the predictive past and imagined future, engaging our imaginations and encouraging us to entertain the unimaginable. Even though it’s light-hearted, the exhibition follows in the tradition of great sci-fi, prodding us with extreme versions of the future to make us question our own reality.

WHAT: Synthetic
WHERE: Australian Centre for Photography, 72 Oxford St Darlinghurst
WHEN: Friday 21 July – Saturday 26 August 2017
HOW MUCH: Free! Find out more here.



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