Sean Dockray - archive / Staged Substation

Staged Substation

installation, 2013, Melbourne

For Staged Substation, I've had the three spaces in Gallery #2 (main gallery, basement, and mezzanine) "staged" by a Melbourne-based real estate marketing company. Staging is the act of making a property more attractive to potential buyers - ultimately increasing its value - through the use of furniture, lighting, plants, paint, and other lifestyle cues. In Gallery #2, the main gallery is now a living room and kitchen; the mezzanine a bedroom; and the basement a bathroom.

The gallery spaces themselves are empty during the exhibition, except that each room has one screen showing an image of that same room, but staged. In the physical room, the viewer stands alone, while on the screen the furniture sits without any inhabitants. Not exactly mirroring, nor surveilling, such an image casts a perverse projection, both on to the viewer and on to the possible future of the building itself. The Substation was once an integral part of Victoria's high voltage electrified suburban rail system and is now an art space, but it might just become desirable condominiums or creative lofts if the forces of speculation lead the building in that direction.

Real estate is a big money game and its players look for any competitive advantage. For this reason, one sees staged photographs of home interiors all over Melbourne, on billboards, attached to home facades, and on the walls around abandoned lots. To cut costs, a growing number of the homes aren't staged at all, but are virtually staged, which means that digital models of furnishings are rendered into the photographs. Vietnam, where the minimum wage is less that 20% of Australia, is a common source for staging labour (and it is a Danish-owned outsourcing company in Vietnam that produced the images for Staged Substation). Facilitated by the internet, photographs taken in Melbourne can circulate into Vietnam for made-to-order production in a factory of software and 3d models, and returned as a final image only days later. Such speed and efficiency is a counterpoint to the movement of real bodies through Australia's notorious migration processes.

As the camera "pans" across features within the staged image, a voice enunciates phrases pulled from the advertising copy of Australian real estate, like "residential brilliance" and "sublime outlook," alongside disciplinary excerpts from the internal correspondence of the Vietnamese image outsourcing company, for example "avoid errors that could affect your salary." Oscillating between addressing the producer and the consumer of the image, the language blurs the motivational and disciplinary. In truth, this is a language suited to the domestic space in the images themselves, where working and living are pulled into an ever tighter knot.

This website was generated with Folders