EXOGENOUS: Julie Clarke 1999

Lost, silenced, erased, defined and betrayed.
46 brown paper bags.

My auntie/myself
Death masks.
Mutant eugenics.
I survive only as code.

Stone face.
Mutant Eugenics.

Exogenous was an exhibition I had at the Public Office stairwell in West Melbourne in 1999.(curated by Maggie McCormick).  In this exhibition I questioned the notion that we are determined by our genetic makeup. I believe that we are more than our genetic structure and that environment plays a major part in determining who we are. Prior to the exhibition I was being supervised by the amazing Susan Fereday, who had a strong feminist ethic and  she encouraged me to think about my family, my past and my place in life. The first thing that viewers encountered as they entered the space was a digital image constructed by me in Photo shop of a conjoined twin, with the text: I survive only as code, which referred to human DNA. I intended to display in this image masculine and feminine simultaneously, as a way of breaking down binary opposites dominant in humanist discourse. The image has been likened to the female ovaries, suggesting a eugenic concern with the notion of 'well-born'. On the next level I installed 46 brown paper bags that represented the number of chromosomes in the human body. I overlaid the brown paper bags with single words that referred to aspects of genetic engineering. However, the over-riding concern was to represent the physicality of the paper bags, a reminder of taking my lunch to school and the value of nurture, as opposed to nature. The next assemblage of images referred to the altered and fragmented self that occurs in post human culture.  My auntie/myself is a combination of a photo of my Auntie when she was young and one of myself at around about the same age. This was my way of bringing the familial into the equation and the importance of a feminine influence in my work. The digital images in this part of the installation were those of family members (my Auntie, my great grandmother, mother and my father) I altered by overlaying my face over theirs, representing what I called mutant identities. They reflected hybrid beings that included what some might perceive as unwanted characteristics, working against the notion of perfection and beauty usually offered to us as the ideal in contemporary culture. Three images were of photographs of me when I was a teenager. When I enlarged my face in these old photographs my eyes were like black holes and my features blurred, reminding me of death masks and in a sense a death of the subject in contemporary culture. I printed the images on white, French printmaking paper and set up a long, white piece of fabric that was suggestive of a shroud, which hung beside the images. I also included in the installation five pieces of old blue blanket. On each one I sewed a piece of white fabric on which I'd written - Lost, silenced, erased, defined and betrayed. These pieces of soft fabric, referred to nurturing, but were also my commentary on a culture that appeared to silence some things and give voice to others.
Mutant eugenics #1. Julie Clarke (1998)
I made this apron with material tags on its bodice out of multiple photocopies of a photo of my great grandmother when she was young. I used a sewing machine to affix tissue paper over the images. It's a reference to the fragility of life, genetic history and the fact that my grandmother was a seamstress.
The work is a preamble to the Exogenous Exhibition & it was installed in a glass case at Union House, Level 8 at RMIT in 1998. It has been locked away for a while now and the pristine white paper has turned a little yellow.