Nick Dorey: The Drowning of Hermaphroditus
When: Friday 7 July - Sunday 17 September
Where: ANZ Zauner Foyer, MAMA.
Nick Dorey conjures the signs, symbols and codes of historical and contemporary systems of belief and knowledge in his new MAMA project, The drowning of Hermaphoditus. The large scale project, made specifically for, and in response to the architecture of MAMA’s ANZ Zauner Foyer forms part of an ongoing series of work produced by Dorey that mines the knowledge systems of millennia-old traditions that serve to develop an understanding of the place of human beings in the physical universe and our imaginings of, and reverberations within, a spiritual realm.
The key touchstones of Dorey’s reflections are Kabbalah - a form of Jewish mysticism, the contentious scientific field of string theory - which aims to link Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity with Quantum Mechanics in a unifying theory of everything, and more personal and poetic inquiries focused on lived experiences and the role of artists in mapping the place of the individual in the vast context of universal (and cosmic) relationships.
The density and complexity of these very real and perhaps earnest concerns are offset by the scale, theatre and materiality on show in Dorey’s work. A given project may well form a large scale three dimensional diagram of the Sefrodic Tree of Life (a key map within the Kabbalah belief system - an aspect of which is indeed represented in The drowning of Hermaphroditus) but a direct appreciation of its presence is not a condition for appreciating the artwork. Dorey works very much like an alchemist in this regard. The gallery becomes a site of experience and transformation. A hermetic white cube, so often the venue for more traditional works of human creative endeavour - paintings, sculpture - can become a laboratory or a temple or a garden complete with a meandering water feature, as witnessed with The drowning of Hermaphroditus.
Hermaphroditus, as called upon in the title of this project, is an ancient mythical figure of significant importance to the Alchemical tradition. Alchemic practice draws much of it’s power from the relationship between opposing forces - above / below, seen / unseen, kindness / aggression - with Hermaphroditus used as a symbol by Alchemists of “the great work” - a fusing of competing female and male forces within a system. Perhaps with The drowning of Hermaphroditus, Dorey has completed a “fusing” of his own - a fusing of the forces of spectacle and understanding; of searching for universal meaning within a field of competing ideologies and being mindful of one’s place and impact in their immediate environment.