Duality: An Art Experiment

Words - Reb Mery Photos - Shannyn Higgins


Often, inspiration strikes harder not when given a completely blank page and the instructions ‘do whatever you want’, but when one is presented with constraints and a creative jumping-off point, something specific to interpret. Probably why improv troupes need a suggestion for every show, or why Reddit’s /r/writingprompts is so popular.

The brainchild of Melbourne photographer Shannyn Higgins, Duality is a creative project that anonymously pairs 25 visual artists with snippets of work from 25 writers, to explore individuality and the myriad ways a narrative can be interpreted. In the words of Higgins, ‘a writer can explore sadness, rootlessness or loss which could in turn inspire a visual artist to see hope, desire or beauty’.

Lucy Lucy photographed by Shannyn Higgins

After finding success with Duality in Vancouver, Higgins has brought the project to her home town of Melbourne. The Melbourne incarnation of Duality sees 25 writers – which include Marieke Hardy, Bertie Blackman, Peter Bakowski, HOWQUA and M.A.C Studio resident Nicholas J Johnson – shared a sentence, lyric or scribble from their notebook. In turn, 25 visual artists were given a blank archival rag sheet and seven days to create something inspired by the words they received.

If nothing else, consider this a gathering of 50 creative people whose collective set of skills and projects will make you feel more than a little inadequate – in the best possible way.

Bertie Blackman photographed by Shannyn Higgins

Higgins then photographed each artist in their natural habitat; in their home, creative space, or both. Using a 50mm lens, available light and half an hour to chat, she explores the environment and external factors that impact creativity and their work.

The results of Duality’s two halves will be on show tonight (Friday 23 Oct) and tomorrow (Saturday 24 Oct) at No Vacancy Gallery in QV – so you’ll be revelling in some delightful pieces, whether you get a thrill out of peeking into the homes and studios of fellow creatives, or if you’re into seeing a bunch of beautiful and striking visual art.

It’s also worth noting there’s a beautifully designed accompanying book available for purchase, which explores in further detail the relationship between narrative and individuality. The art prints within can be removed and framed, which means you’ve instantly got some kick-ass local art in your abode, ready to make your walls look better.

Duality 2014, Vancouver

Duality: An Art Experiment at No Vacancy Gallery