Untitled Explosion #8LF, 2007 (Chromogenic print, 381 x 508 mm)

The images of exploding fuel from Geoffrey H. Short’s exhibition Towards Another (Big Bang) Theory at {Suite} Gallery on Oriental Parade are immediately evocative to me of a number of different other imageries, occurring in roughly this order:

  • of the US military napalming bits of Vietnam
  • of Francis Ford Coppola napalming bits of the Phillipines pretending to be the US military napalming bits of Vietnam (for Apocalypse Now)
  • of the Iraqi military setting fire to Kuwaiti oil wells in Werner Herzog’s documentary Lessons of Darkness
  • of fire-fighters from various parts of the world trying to extinguish and cap the burning oil wells in Lessons of Darkness
  • of thousands of hectares of earth smothered and choked by crude oil (Lessons of Darkness).

So, basically, invoking the visually spectacular ‘horrors’ of war.

Short hired film industry special effects technicians to create “big bangs” on the black sands of New Zealand’s west coast, using fossil fuel (with all its geo-political associations) mixed with gunpowder (with its own history of war, plots and dangerous entertainment) as an unpredictable, dramatic and multi-layered imaging material. This work is an interrogation of that material, and of the effects of presenting “terrible objects” in an aesthetic realm.

{Suite} Gallery writes about the work:

The inherent mystery and ultimate inevitability of death makes it a staple subject of contemplation in philosophy and in art. Risking death means both terror and excitement, and the eighteenth century philosophers Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant suggested that whatever is terrifying is also sublime.

Geoffrey H. Short’s series towards another (big bang) theory is an exploration of risk, terror, beauty and the sublime. The fuel explosion is part of the cinematic vocabulary of special effects and as such is a simulation of terror.

So, basically, war and war movies. Looks like we’re all on the same page then!

Untitled Explosion #2-CN, 2009 (Chromogenic print, 381 x 508 mm)

I say:

The images are simple, fascinating and viscerally engaging, and I urge you to check them out in person. My only complaint is that some of them are possibly not big enough; I would rather see them all at a larger scale.

Mark Amery has written about the show on The Big Idea, and I think the piece also appeared in the Dominion Post.

Geoffrey H. Short lives in Auckland, New Zealand. He graduated Bachelor of Fine Arts with first class honours from the University of Auckland in 2010 and was awarded a Senior Prize in Fine Arts. His work is included in the survey exhibition and book “reGeneration² – tomorrow’s photographers today” produced by the Musée d l’Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland and touring internationally.

Towards Another (Big Bang) Theory runs at {Suite} Gallery until the 17th of July, 2011.

{Suite} Gallery, 108 Oriental Parade, Wellington.

Gallery open most days & by appointment.

For more information visit their website, email them, or contact the gallery through their handy web-form.