WYE Study 19 (1541)

Mikhael Subotzky
WYE Study 19 (1541), 2016
Pigment inks and J-Lar tape on cotton paper
Work: 33.5 x 25.5 cm

In WYE Study 19, Mikhael Subotzky splices together three film stills from the film WYE. Commissioned and exhibited by the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (Sydney) in 2016, WYE was, in part, an examination of the colonial body in the landscape and the relationship between the gaze of that body on the landscape as related to the fragility of that body in the landscape. The overarching structural and conceptual framework of Subotzky’s film installation derives from the letter Y (the phonetically-spelt Old English ‘wye’ of the title) whose shape has traditionally lent itself to a variety of practical applications, from railroad construction to mechanical and electrical engineering. Adapting it for artistic purposes, Subotzky envisages an imaginary cartographic triangle enveloping the United Kingdom, and two of its former colonies, South Africa and Australia, its exterior sides etched by the migration of people over centuries. In drafting a Y shape into the middle of this triangle and elevating it into a third dimension, the artist admits the imaginary space for a new fictional narrative in which these three countries converge across time and space. A narrative structure for WYE is thus harnessed which spans three temporalities – historical, contemporary and futuristic – and three disparate colonial experiences: English, Australian and South African.