Julie Shiels
Rubbish Theory
Flocked plaster cast packaging
Variable dimensions
Photos courtesy of John Brash
© 2009

At the beginning of 2006, I picked up the casing of a strange looking object that had been dropped on the pavement between the sex shop and the local hardware in St Kilda. It wasn’t the packaging that interested me but the empty space that was left after an object had been consumed. This single act turned out to be the catalyst for a collection of other plastic packages that held more mundane objects: toys, office supplies, hardware stuff. I then started plaster casting the empty spaces in the packaging and flocking them in luminescent colours. I produced hundreds of these objects and attached them directly to the wall in patterns that suggested three-dimensional wallpaper in a site-specific installation called Flock.

Rubbish Theory
extends and relocates this work into the Platform display cases that were once the advertising space for a now defunct department store. Each window will be hung to suggest the typologies of a department store such as kitchenware, bathroom and menswear. The new work will explore some of Michael Thompson’s ideas from Rubbish Theory: The Creation and Destruction of Value, which is an investigation of material culture in relation to circulation and scarcity, transience and durability and how changing tastes affect the meaning and value of objects.

Each display window has a different pattern: patterns of use that reference products that could have been sold in the now defunct department store: computer gear, toys, confection, etc. Other arrangements, mostly crowded, suggest movement and echo the way people pass through the arcade. Apart from being a mad critique of mass production and the era of the $2 dollar shop this work explores the ideas of material culture and asks questions about what objects will survive and become meaningful beyond their looming use by date. How do changing tastes affect the meaning and value of an object? How will this stuff be viewed in twenty years time? Will we laugh about the old technologies and the crap that filled our lives or will some of these objects have a new meanings and significance? The same question could be asked about this artwork.

Julie Shiels makes work for the gallery and public space, including the web. Her practice includes installation and photography but she also stencils discarded furniture in the street with quotes, truisms and stories. Julie has had two solo shows this year. Sleeper at Monash Gallery of Art, which included a photographic installation and pyjamas made from fabric salvaged from abandoned mattresses. Small Packages at Sophie Gannon Gallery was about the ingenuity and hidden beauty of contemporary industrial processes and the nature of obsolescence inherent in mass consumption. Julie teaches in the Art and Public Spaces post-graduate program at RMIT. For more about Julie Shiel’s work visit: City Traces

On show at Platform from 1 – 25 September 2009