In the face of this cold indifference
Outer Space Brisbane

Video by Llewellyn Millhouse
Two channel video installation with flashing light

Essay by Theia Connell in conversation with Alex Hullah

I am finding it difficult to form my thoughts into sentences at the moment. What emerges in the place of prose is dot points; key words, signs that trigger a broader, abstract idea. Those ideas that consistently slip from my grasp, and my capacity to truly distil their complexity.

We all partake in this exchange of signs, as we use assumed mutual knowledge to justify speaking in tongues. I collect fragments. Shards of knowledge and historical reference and concept. Try to make a whole. Make a hole. A void in which to fall. Maybe the words, or the fragments, are the lights that flash at the threshold of the hole.

Watched, dim and far away, from below.

My focus wanes.

A conversation ensues…

What’s that?

What, this little geodome? I dunno, it’s been there forever.

Does it glow in the dark?

No. There must be kids who live here.

If you put that in Visual Bulk, would it be art?

Probably. [laughs] Anything can be art right?

Yeah well it’s kind of like a way of looking at things. It’s not really the object.

So is the gallery where the meaning is made then?

No I think it’s just that kick up the butt that puts people into that mode.

Frames the object.

It’s funny isn’t it, like, ‘cos in Alice people make a big deal of Chapman and Bailey which is a framing place and sometimes people buy an artwork at the Gallery and it’ll cost less than the actual framing. And then the fuss that’s made over the actual process of the framing… the process of the framers taking the person who has purchased the artwork through the process of framing and the different laminates and stuff is more fuss than what the buyer might interrogate the artwork for. There is this weird lopsided value placed on it.

So maybe the frame is what makes it.

I mean, I guess images get frames, and sculptures get space. Gallery space.

Something that separates it from the big washing machine.

Or a vitrine.

I don’t get any more clarity the longer I do this, I just get more feelings about what art is.

It’s impossible to have a single opinion. And in some ways using a frame is just like a lazy way to justify the work.

People want to know there’s been a deliberate act. If there’s no intention then it’s just a shitty geodome on the side of the street. Do you know what I mean? Intention, and maybe control. I said control instead of skill.

Looking at the world as symbols rather than realities.

What’s the fucking difference? Every time you recognise yourself as separate from something else, what you’re doing is relating in a coded kind of way. Perhaps the only difference between that and madness is acknowledging a shared interaction. If you say this is an apple to you the other person accepts that it’s an apple to them.

Everything is heightened when you are somewhere new. You see everything critically. Or at least see it without assumed normality. Familiarity can be blinding.

Although there is a weird… you know when you come to a place and what you see is the structure, and different things fill the spaces. Do you ever get that?

Yeah. The built environment is mostly unsurprising. The fact that we all understand a staircase and what it should look like. Who decided that? And roads and street lamps and public spaces even.

Which is weird hey, because you kind of recognise the form as a blueprint but essentially the blueprint is abstract- it never really exists, right?

An agreed-upon mass delusion that this is exactly how things are meant to be.

It’s interesting how those colloquial words like ‘vibe’, ‘steaze’ or ’frothing’ or the one in Alice that I fucking hate. ‘Spirros’. Essentially those words are there in the place of those abstract notions we don’t actually have words for. But it’s interesting how most of the time people will bring quite high conceptual things into trashtalk. We’ve never had permanent words for those abstract things, we just have these fake words, placeholders that over time fall away with different trends. It’s like things that cannot be named, because…why?

I want to get to those things, beyond language, that are so present in experience but defy clear categorisation and definition.

Em and I, we were talking about the power of words. She’s Jewish, not practicing, but she mentioned how it’s part of Kabbalah… to understand words are powerful in the sense that they animate. When she said that I was like, WOW that’s IT! Something clicked in my head. What we do as humans through our perception is cut form, or cut matter and mass into form. And as soon as you isolate objects and say ‘here! Here the tree has fallen! Here is a boundary!’ it creates a relationship. Perhaps the thing about academia has something to do with that. It distils and animates.

Somebody once asked me what I thought ‘good work’ was. And I thought hmm, well everyone’s got their taste, but when you look at a work you get an impression of the rules that the artist has made for themselves. For the production of that work. And then what you do is, you decide how effectively they executed that to their own rules. And if they didn’t live up to it, then the work is shit. Aside from taste.

For me, whenever I’ve gotten to a point where I know how my process or my logic operates and what the expected outcome is, I consistently seek failure to make the work interesting. To complicate my own patterns of production.

But that still fits in to that model. It’s a recognition of control and process. So even if you go ‘I’m gonna do this action and I’m not going to put any preconceived things on the outcome’, that’s still part of the process.

I started as a painter. My sister and I would sit at the dinner table and draw things. What I would do is get images of Disney characters, or Winnie the Pooh, and just replicate things until you– I don’t think it’s a conscious thing- something about it… you want to see if you can recreate that thing. What you are actually doing is teaching yourself hand eye coordination. Coming to understand the space between lines.

When you go through your normal schooling thinking here’s sculpture, here’s painting, here’s ceramics and then at some point you’re like, uh, holy shit this is not what it’s about at all. At all. I don’t have an answer.

That thing about the more you know, the more passive you become because you realise you know nothing.

Yeah that feeling I had in Alice. Like retreating out of action because of my own nervousness around touching on difficult topics. The more I understood the complexity, the less willing I was to just delve in…

Or be accountable for things you might realise later were ignorant.


Yeah it’s a problem isn’t it? Cos as much as knowing things and slowly gaining knowledge might make you more passive or careful, sometimes the opposite is pretty effective as well. The less you know perhaps the more confidence you have and the less questioning you have over your actions.

Even if you spectacularly fail that might be more useful.

Otherwise it’s a vacuum right.

I feel like such a hypocrite though. In the last couple of years I’ve worked really hard and gained respect and connections and it felt like it was going somewhere. Like I could possibly be in a position where I could have greater effect. Maybe put my money where my mouth is. But right on that cusp I gave everything away. Literally.

But its not to say that that doesn’t still exist for you there. It’s never a bad thing to step away for a while.

It’s never a bad thing, I just think there is a path of momentum. Even a lot of artists operate within a standard path to success and power and money and stability and. Comfort? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s easier to fall into those things once you are on that path. Once you are outside of it, it becomes harder to have any clarity on where you put yourself.

It’s funny thinking about momentum. Especially as an artist if you’re trying to deal with all those spaces in between clear rational thought or language or emotion – those abstract crossbred forms of mental and physical and emotional experience.

You can’t think like that though. You can’t attack the process. I know what you’re saying though. As an artist you are supposed to arrive at different points and put a pretty little bow around something and say ‘here!!’ do you know what I mean? It’s so fraudulent…

It’s fraudulent but it’s really important. You have to. It’s how you share.

Grapple. It’s how you create something that can be accessed.

You try and recognise yourself as an individual, but what you are doing is also acknowledging there is no true connection. Or at least no one you will ever really be able to understand truthfully. Because to understand truthfully is to be it, right?


Understanding is an agreement. It’s a mutual decision of commonality. Like communication. In order to communicate you need to have things in common.

And be able to assume that the other person is acting upon the same basis of common understandings.

Yeah, even if they’re not.

A door opens onto a courtyard and a group of people exit, talking in small groups. One person moves off to the side allowing the other people to move past. They light a cigarette. A second person joins them. The other people leave.

Person 1:

You can understand, can’t you, after a while, why he does it.

Person 2:

Does what?

The first person gestures at the door, now closed.

Person 1:

That. Dancing in the dark wearing a mask of flashing lights.

Person 2:


Person 1:

No, what?

Person 2:

No I can’t understand. I didn’t understand any of that. He spoke for an hour about that work, and the more he spoke, the more concepts he introduced, the more confused I became. All that rubbish about temporality, totality, duality, tonality…

Person 1:

That’s the language.

Person 2:

It sets my teeth on edge.

Person 1:

That’s exactly what I mean. This boy, a PhD candidate, has spent the last twelve months researching a body of work that, if I’m being honest, didn’t have much more to it in the first place than just what you could see. But he has to write so many words, in only so much time before the money runs out. And he has to prove himself to us. So he reads into every colour, every corner, every line, every frame, every reflection, and all those details of every other work that came before. After a point, he doesn’t know what he’s doing anymore. He doesn’t know who he is. Reality slips in and out of focus where, from one perspective, he is doing important work contributing to the wealth of human knowledge, exploring ideas through art-

Person 2:

And from the other perspective everything he has done amounts to nothing. The world goes on around him, and without him.

Person 1:

Precisely. In the face of this cold indifference, of the vastness of the world, what can you do but trash the paintings, turn out the lights-

Person 2:

Put on a record-

Person 1:

And dance.

Person 2:

Like a man possessed.

Person 1:

Like a man with nothing to lose. And we all watch him, thoughtfully, academically; unwilling to admit that we don’t understand either. In case that leaves the man flailing wildly in the dark, wearing a mask of flashing lights somehow cleverer than us. He must have understood this thing so completely because why else would he be dancing like that? So we watch, and then return to our offices, our studios-

Person 2:

Or the bar.

Person 1:

Yes, and discuss the merit of the work when in fact-

Person 2:

It is only a dance.

Person 1:

When in fact it is only a dance, not only a dance, but a dance. Where was I going?

Person 2:

The bar.

Person 1:

Oh yes, fancy a drink?

Person 2: