In The Spotlight: Lauren Edmonds
When I first saw the work of emerging multi-media artist, Lauren Edmonds, I was immediately drawn to its Orwellian vibe. Based in Brisbane, Edmonds’ provoking works confront us with current social and political issues. Her work considers the role the news industry plays in pushing particular viewpoints to a mass audience. Whilst critically examining political and social issues, her work offers alternative viewpoints that encourage us to question our perspectives on such issues.
Edmonds captures our attention through multimedia works that combine numerous mediums including object-based installation, projections, animation, film, and interactive components. Her installation work News Factory (2014) investigates a number of underlying issues and the implications of the news industry. Edmonds’ observations of the power of the news media began when she took note of the rise and fall of Kevin Rudd, as the once supportive media judgment turned negative. Edmonds states “I saw these events as an example of the media’s power when it comes to public opinion and politics.” Frustration and interest in this topic influenced Edmonds to conduct research that has informed works like News Factory
The video component of News Factory depicts unnerving scenes of a large, faceless figure dripping black ink into a fish bowl. Throughout the video I felt a sense of suffocating unease, as the black ink obscured the scene in front of me. The ink submerges and overpowers small plasticine people who are then moulded together in a tight ball by the manipulative faceless figure.
Edmonds uses symbolic elements such as the figure with no face or identity, a cunning fox, and dark ink to represent the hidden agendas of the news industry. These symbolic references are juxtaposed against the innocent looking pink of the plasticine people, suggesting the capacity for manipulation and control through the distortion of information.
Discovering Edmonds’ work made me question the role that art plays in provoking activism in social and political change. Is it the role of the artist to draw attention to issues in society that they feel need to be reconsidered? And how successful can artists be in delivering alternative viewpoints on political and social issues? Edmonds summed it up perfectly stating, “Personally I believe, given the diverse ways in which art has benefited society and progressive thinking in the past and present, it doesn’t seem farfetched to think that art can have a significant role in activism or protest.” Edmonds goes on to argue that the success of art as protest depends on how well it is orchestrated.
There will always be conflicting viewpoints as to whether art should remain separated from politics or used as a tool for protest. Regardless of your views on art as protest, artists like Edmonds unquestionably spark thoughts and conversations around the issues she presents. News Factory certainly got me thinking about the importance of critical examination and the ongoing relevance in forming our own opinions on social and political issues.
Stills from News Factory are currently on display at the Student Gallery in King George Square car park, Brisbane CBD, as part of Brisbane City Council’s Vibrant Laneways Art Program. Visit Edmonds’ website to keep up-to-date with upcoming projects and exhibitions.
 For those of who you haven’t read George Orwell’s famous book 1984, I suggest you go grab a copy right now!
Image credits: Lauren Edmonds, stills from News Factory, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.