Com/pact is concerned with systems of classification, the contexts in which they are generated, their impact and implications. It is part of a series of works that question the manner in which women are framed, defined and represented, and the means by which such information is encoded and disseminated.
Earlier work (Doing Time, Casula Powerhouse Gallery, Sydney; Sense of Place, Bede Gallery, Newcastle, England and Ten Postcards from Australia, Akcent Gallery, Prague) drew on the experiences of women in detention and highlighted the particularities of language that ascribe and preserve notions of female transgression, while more recent pieces (Artists in the House!, Elizabeth Bay House, Sydney and Homebrand, Casula Powerhouse Gallery) have examined definitions and attribution of feminine virtue, the cultural origins of female stereotypes, their authority, tenacity and persistence.
Com/pact references the sexual politics of early modern botany and overlays the anthropomorphic and gendered structure of Linnaean taxonomy on a more popular codification that manifested as a constructed ‘language’. The so-called ‘Language of Flowers’ owed its development in no small measure to academic discipline of botany. Its ‘science’ gave prominence to a conflation of the floral with the feminine and it became a tool of instruction “in morality as well as botany … it was a way of revealing the morality behind nature” (Goody, Jack, the Culture of Flowers, Cambridge University Press, p.242 & 247). Classification provides a means of imposing order, of marshalling diversity, of taming and explaining the world. While at times something of a parlour game, the persistence of this floral language served a normative function, reiterating a hierarchy of feminine virtues and censuring errant or “unnatural” traits.
Com/pact alludes to the consolidation, compression and opacity of systems; to conventions, understandings and agreements; to codification and categorisation. As with earlier works, it employs historical data/reference in the attempt to draw in, focus and engage the contemporary.