Continuing from the exhibition The Crocker land expedition shown at The National 2019, The Dark Brain of Piranesi is based on the essay by Marguerite Yourcenar about Piranesi’s etchings of imaginary prisons called Le Carceri d’Invenzione. Psychological aspects of the hunting and collecting process are examined.
The installation consists of a campaign sled, a series of architectural and figurative propositions in oil on glass and a wall treatment; which sites the objects in a disconcertingly urban environment, interrupting the sentimentality of the expedition concept.
Henri Papin (the fictional character created by Meijers and Walsh), is an avid collector of things. In order to fully comprehend a place or a person or a situation, he accumulates small tokens, sounds, sketches, items, scents, and media in order to reconstruct and reconfigure something he has witnessed or experienced firsthand.
On occasion, the reconstructions inhabit a more unconscious or dreamlike space which blurs the boundary between actual and real. This blurring allows for an imaginative wrestle with the truth of each scenario and opens up a broader philosophical discourse on human nature. The subject and research material for this installation is a combination of imaginary prisons of Piranesi. The institution of Willow Court (an institution in southern Tasmania), the original Crocker land expedition, and actual journeys to Iceland (traversing a largely volcanic terrain) are reimagined.
The instability and consuming nature of the landscape supports the structure of the Campaign sled, which appears as if it could carry us comfortably over a frozen River Styx. Contained within, collections from both the environment and the landscape lead us to ponder on the nature of the campaign.
In conjunction is a series of seven oil paintings on glass. These filterings of a convoluted unconscious, form disconcerting groupings of figures (largely anonymous) and environments (mostly brutalist, or institutional in nature) feel like re-remembered dream fragments.
Embracing all this is a five-metre painting of the art fair wall, resembling some forgotten alleyway where all manner of behaviours has ensued. Like a toilet wall in places, with remnants of text and stains, the overall wall creates an incongruous diorama for the Campaign sled and paintings, converting the entire installation into an unexpected museum work, for an ill-defined species.