TV MOORE, Frat Self SUN SPACE, 2015, video animation with sound, installation view of “With Love & Squalor,” at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne, 2015. Photo by Andrew Curtis. Courtesy ACCA.

With Love & Squalor

TV Moore

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art

The diversity of textures, colors and sounds in the new exhibition of New York and Sydney-based artist TV Moore, at Melbourne’s Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), makes for a carnivalesque viewing experience. From glossy to matte, to vivid to pastel, each of the four rooms in the exhibition demands a new sensorial response from the viewer. Yet what is found in the show is not an aesthetic motley crew, but a precise and proportioned battalion of surfaces, tones, animations and noises. Titled “With Love & Squalor,” the show is held together by a conceptual thread that seems to implicate, as much as inform, the viewer on the role of digital technology in contemporary life and the way that humans interact with it.

The first room features a large-scale screen on which plays a looped video, Frat Self SUN SPACE (2015), which is evocative of the stylized virtual world of the online game Second Life. Here we are shown a digital animation of a male figure wearing a baseball cap, potentially portraying the artist himself, taking selfies with his Samsung phone in front of various backdrops, such as sunsets, rising skyscrapers, the moon and a mountain range (which, incidentally, turns into a mountain of dogs). As we watch the character’s progress through a fragmented and ever-shifting perspective—first from the view of the camera, then through the male figure’s eye, and lastly from an onlooker’s angle—an artificial-sounding narrator speaks to us. “We are not men of knowledge,” she says, quoting the words of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

TV MOORE, Tripasso in Wackyland, 2014, video animation with sound: 8 min 34 sec, installation view of “With Love & Squalor,” at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne, 2015. Photo by Andrew Curtis. Courtesy ACCA.

This video work, in many ways, sets the tone for Moore’s exhibition. Confrontational, comical and polished, the character in the work shoves a metaphorical mirror into the face of the viewer—one which is not only challenging to look at, but also difficult to look away from. He makes expressive and intimate faces at his phone, as if in dialogue with it; and yet the device’s lifelessness inevitably renders this a ridiculous form of communication. Whether or not the viewer indulges in selfies, they can surely relate with how the character interacts with his phone.

In 1979, theorizing on the rising technology of photography, French philosopher and linguist Roland Barthes (1915–80) expressed what he saw as an unobtainable aspiration: “What I want, in short, is that my (mobile) image, buffeted among a thousand shifting photographs, altering with situation and age, should always coincide with my (profound) self.” Moore’s character in Frat Self SUN SPACE, which is formed from digital material and is entangled in technology, seems to be searching for the same outcome as Barthes in regards to the pursuit of the self-image—but without any hope for his replicated existence to ever reach a productive end.

There are several video works across this exhibition that feature original animations. These works make reference to 20th-century cartoons, social-media-style snapshots and virtual worlds, all stitched together in individual, moving tapestries. In the most striking of the rooms created for this show, the artist presents a series of “digital paintings” hung on brightly tiled walls. To create these paintings, the artist first begins by making physical gestures on a canvas, which are scanned, cut, moved, printed out and then assembled as three-dimensional works. The role of the artist’s hand is clearly important for Moore, as he told me in an interview: “I enjoy the fact that there is a collaboration [between] the imagination of my hands and whatever technology or medium I am using at the time . . . The craft, the imagination and the hand are all equals.”

Installation view of TV MOORE’s “With Love & Squalor” at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne, 2015. Photo by Andrew Curtis. Courtesy ACCA.

Sound is also harnessed by the artist as a persuasive stimulus throughout the exhibition, with each room using different aural forms to compliment or manipulate the visual and, in turn, be transformed through juxtaposition. The combination of imagery and sound in the animationThe Way Things Grow (2014) is movingly elegiac. As lilting instrumental melodies are projected into our ears, a cartoon fireball comically moves across a horizontal screen like a comedy skit. Alongside the digital paintings mentioned above, an alternative stream of sound can be heard, coming from the 33-minute video When Cats Dream of Everything (2015), which recites apparently random words and statements—like typing keywords into a search engine—such as “chess,” “Tupac,” “Do not start flame wars; I repeat, do not start flame wars,” and “What color the internet should be.” The computerized voice of the narrator subliminally guides viewers to imagine all of these things—and where they could be found—and, in so doing, encourages them to “hear” the internet.

Titled after a short story by American writer JD Salinger that muses on loneliness and innocence, “With Love & Squalor” is ambiguous in its commentary, neither commending nor condemning the digital tools of the 21st century. First and foremost, this exhibition serves as an ambient experience for viewers—one in which they are invited to reflect on the miscellaneous tones and mediums utilized by the artist. However, in his depiction of cartoon imagery and general tomfoolery, Moore also seems to lampoon the juvenile responses that people occasionally display in relation to their online existences and social-media submergence.

At one point in an animation entitled Tripasso in Wackyland (2014), which is being shown in the final room of the exhibition at ACCA, a small, Superman-Grinch-hybrid-like character, with the head of a woman from Picasso’s Les Demoisselles d’Avignon (1907), lumbers onto the screen. She is neither a hero nor a villain, but a ludicrous mixture caught in a chaotic ecosystem of hybrids. She is also the epitome of high culture meeting low culture—and thereby a custodian of the imagined world portrayed in Moore’s art.

“With Love & Squalor” is on view at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, until September 27, 2015.