Review / “Melissa Cameron – Body Politic”

Melissa Cameron 'HEAT II, neckpiece, stainless steel, vitreous enamel, titanium

MELISSA Cameron lived and trained in Perth and now lives in the USA. Through her work she explores and exploits the interconnectedness of humanity, including the points at which the connections fail. Embedded in her work are coded messages – some benign, and others expressions of brutal violence.

The exhibition ‘Body Politic’ comprises three series of work, conceived and created in the US. The first series ‘Escalation’ creates wearable art works from domestic objects such as a vintage bamboo tray, an antique Japan lacquerware plate and non-stick cooking pans. By

laser cutting and hand-sawing, she is showing various weapons used over centuries. In the second series, ‘HEAT II’, she portrays the patterns formed when a high-explosive anti-tank warhead hits an armoured tank. The third, ‘Body/Politic’ is a series of jewellery pieces where the medium becomes part of the message. Two-toned grids of tiny tiles form lines of binary code that make up the title of the piece.

‘Body Politic’ is rich in layers and depth of meaning. The meanings of the destructive weapons are clear. Man’s inhumanity to man has gone on since time immemorial. We are told that the means of making bombs are often found in domestic kitchens, and Cameron graphically demonstrates that the means of easily making simple, deadly weapons can also be found in our cupboards.

Through seemingly benign neckpieces, cut from objects found in many cupboards, Cameron demands that we question why we continually inflict such destruction on our fellow man.

Perhaps ironically, she also offers some protection through the same objects, enabling them to be worn on the fronts or backs of our bodies. Each object yields several pieces of jewellery: nothing is wasted.

We are faced with the same demand when we closely examine ‘HEAT II’. A nine-piece wall panel in vitreous enamel is cut to show the damage done by a high-explosive anti-tank warhead. Cameron has used the largest piece of metal – titled ‘Penetration’ – to form a brooch and has threaded the smaller pieces to make up a long neckpiece – ‘Spatter’. The delicacy of the jewels belies their sinister origin.

‘Body/Politic’, consisting of neckpieces, brooches and tiny earrings, is delicate, kinetic and more decorative and therefore perhaps more wearable. They spell out a message that is only readable by those who interpret binary, the language of our digital culture.

Cameron has undertaken a considerable amount of research in preparing this exhibition, and the forms are also influenced by the objects she uses. She deals with issues that are currently very close to front of mind.

This exhibition sets up a dialogue between the viewer, the wearer and the artist. It takes time to examine closely, to ponder the meanings and ask that question: why do we do this to each other?

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