Haines & Hinterding Tune in to the World's Energies at Museum of Contemporary Art Australia


David Haines and Joyce Hinterding, Geology (detail), 2015, installation view. Commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, supported by Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetu, Christchurch, New Zealand, 2015. Image courtesy the artists and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney © the artists.

The world as we know it is shaped by imperceptible forces. Our atmosphere is gridded by a web of electromagnetic energy: from the earth's natural electromagnetic field, to signals beamed between satellites, to radio waves vibrating through the air, down to your home wifi system. We've tuned our technological devices to receive specific signals from this vast nexus of transmissions; we directly experience only a fraction of these signals, yet these energies are constantly infiltrating the air around us, passing through our homes and our bodies. Wavelengths bouncing around through space and over time, looking to be received. Flip on an old television and tune out the channels to find the static; it's picking up background microwave radiation -- a relic of the origin of the cosmos.

Joyce Hinterding, Large Square Logarithmic VLF Loop Antenna (detail), 2015, installation view, Energies: Haines & Hinterding, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, 2015. Image courtesy the artist and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney © the artist. Photo: Christopher Snee.

Following on the heels of the popular "Light Show" exhibition -- a traveling exhibition from the Hayward Gallery in London featuring light-based works by James Turrell, Dan Flavin, Carlos Cruz-Diez and others -- the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney has just opened a survey exhibition of two hometown art heroes, David Haines and Joyce Hinterding, whose collaborative practice explores and imagines the unseen energies that surround us. At the intersection of art, science, technology and the occult, Haines and Hinterding's intermedia works plunge the viewer into experiential and often interactive virtual environments, while exposing the workings of hidden worlds, drawing parallels to artists like Cory Arcangel, Maurice Benayoun and Trevor Paglen. The winners of the 2011 Anne Landa Award for video and new media arts, the artists, who have been working together for over fifteen years, live in the Blue Mountains just west of Sydney. While their work has been influential in new media art circles and exhibited internationally, at such venues as the São Paulo Biennial (2004) and the Nederlands Instituut voor Media Kunst, Amsterdam (2007), it remains relatively unknown outside of Australia and New Zealand. Their exhibition at the MCA, "Energies," is the first major museum survey for the artist duo, which brings together a new interactive virtual reality work, Geology (2015), expressly commissioned for the exhibition, along with other works in interactive cinema, installation, video, sound and even scent, that creatively interpret the invisible forces of the natural, manmade and supernatural.

David Haines, The Seventeenth Century, 2002, installation view, Energies: Haines & Hinterding, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, 2015. Image courtesy the artist and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney © the artist. Photo: Christopher Snee.

Joyce Hinterding and David Haines maintain independent studio practices, which are unified and amplified by their collaborative work. Hinterding is primarily known for her experimental audio works and sound installations that explore acoustic and electromagnetic phenomena. Haines works in various media, including video, virtual reality technologies, Kirlian photography and aroma development. Together, their large-scale installations incorporate multiple sense realms -- sight, sound, smell and touch -- to create real and virtual environments for viewers to experience and explore.

Installation view, Energies: Haines & Hinterding, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, 2015. Image courtesy the artist and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney © the artist. Photo: Christopher Snee.

Haines and Hinterding's most spectacular installations heighten awareness of the invisible spectrum of forces that permeate the atmosphere, demonstrating that all things, however inert they may appear, vibrate with energy. Aeriology (1995-2015), a large-scale, early work by Hinterding, specially re-made for the exhibition, is comprised of nearly 20 kilometers of thin copper wire coiled around the columns of the gallery -- essentially a huge, detuned antenna that gathers all kinds of stray ambient signals. The copper wire, through the principle of sympathetic resonance, picks up these frequencies -- from radio waves to the hum of the electromagnetosphere -- and vibrates, faintly, at the same frequency. The resonance is made audible by an amplifier, which, amazingly, is powered directly from ambient electricity collected by the copper wire -- a remarkable, shimmering and beautiful manifestation of the active energy that is all around us. While Aeriology is striking in the simplicity of its structure, EarthStar (2008), a collaborative work, operates on a multitude of sensory levels. Comprised of a video projection of the sun's surface, antennas tuned to the sun's emission of electromagnetic radiations transforming them into an audible sound spectrum and ozone fragrances that poetically interpret what the sun might smell like, EarthStar explores the various facets of the greatest source of energy supplied to the earth -- the energy from the sun.

David Haines and Joyce Hinterding, EarthStar, 2008, installation view, Energies: Haines & Hinterding, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, 2015. Image courtesy the artist and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney © the artist. Photo: Christopher Snee.

While many of Haines and Hinterding's works gather energy, Telepathy (2008), on the other hand, blocks it. On the inside of this shiny yellow box, viewers enter an anechoic chamber, insulated with acoustic blankets, rubber and foam, essentially dampening sound waves within and blocking electromagnetic radiation from without. One's mobile phone won't pick up any signal within the box, and viewers are left in a completely echoless environment, experiencing the mere sound of their breathing, heartbeat and the other subtle rhythms of the body.

David Haines and Joyce Hinterding, Telepathy, 2008, installation view, Telepathy, Performance Space, Sydney, image courtesy the artists and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney © the artists, photograph: Michael Myers.

David Haines and Joyce Hinterding, Telepathy, 2008, panorama interior installation view, Telepathy, Performance Space, Sydney, image courtesy the artists and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney © the artists, photograph: Michael Myers.

Haines and Hinterding's works rest on science, yet they also exhibit an interest in the manifestations of energies that science has yet to fully explain, or even acknowledge. The Levitation Grounds (2001-15) comprises field recordings of very low frequency (VLF) radio waves, radio waves with satellite data and a video of the remote Tasmanian landscape, a place Hinterding described as "at the bottom of the world and completely off the grid." Amid interruptions of noise from satellites passing overhead, the film records what appears to be dead trees mysteriously levitating off the ground -- it's an obvious digital manipulation, but is presented as archival film, suggesting, as Ann Finnegan wrote in an essay on the work, that "the possibility of psychic corruption of scientific observation cannot be dismissed." Starlight Driver: Cloudbuster Number Four: Orgone Energy Cloud Engineering Device (2011-12) makes reference to Wilhelm Reich, the controversial originator of the concept of orgone energy, a mysterious life force, which he believed could be accumulated in the body to promote wellness (with "orgone accumulators") and in the atmosphere to shift weather patterns (with "cloudbusters"). "Reich's gift is to make us think again about the apparent givens of natural forces, energy fields and how the world is assembled," the artists say, acknowledging that there are forces in the world whose properties may yet, or never, be fully understood or practicably harnessed.

Installation view, Energies: Haines & Hinterding, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, 2015. Image courtesy the artist and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney © the artist. Photo: Christopher Snee.

All of Haines and Hinterding's works express a sense of wonder, at our natural world, as well as our understanding of it. In the single-channel video Encounter with the Halo Field (2009-15), Haines stands under high-voltage power lines, holding aloft two fluorescent tubes. Seemingly divining electricity from the surrounding air, the fluorescent lights begin to faintly glow, Haines looking skyward as the Australian landscape recedes before him in the gloam of twilight. It's a moment at once scientific and fictive, real and imagined, illuminating and mysterious.

David Haines and Joyce Hinterding, Encounter with the Halo Field, 2009/15, installation view, Energies: Haines & Hinterding, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, 2015. Commissioned by the Australian Network for Art and Technology and Art Monthly Australia, supported by the Australia Council for the Arts. Image courtesy the artist and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney © the artist. Photo: Christopher Snee.

 "Energies: Haines & Hinterding" is free to the public and runs until September 6, 2015, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, with an accompanying film program, talks, workshops and a three-day Energies in the Arts international conference (August 13-15).

--Natalie Hegert