Shifting Terrain: Photographic Hybrids

Mia Carey | Criena Court | Grace Kingston | Valentina Schulte

Curated by Sarah Rose

We would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which this exhibition is situated, the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation. We acknowledge that sovereignty was neve ceded and pay our respects to elders past, present and ever emerging. 

“Artists from a variety of disciplines have embraced a kind of photography in which many of the imaginary qualities of the photograph, particularly spatial complexity, have been transformed into actual space and dimension… They are moving from inernal meaning or iconography  – of sex, the environment, war – to visual duality in which materials are also incorporated as content.”

Curator Peter Bunnell, Introductory wall text to the 1970 exhibition ‘Photography into Sculpture’ at the Museum of Modern Art, New York

Nature is constantly shifting; merging, transforming, mutating. It generates and degenerates – crossing from one state into another, into another. It surrounds us, it is us, and it becomes us. Shivering and shaking within a state of constant flux and human dominance, the Earth below us ruptures and concaves. Humanity was once deeply embedded within the natural world sustaining a relationship of reciprocity and dependency. We are corporeally connected to landscape, rooted back into a time when nature was synonymous with survival, spirituality and the broader sense of understanding the world and being. This has since collapsed and shifted. Human  destruction of organic equilibria and dominance over nature has led to an environmental crisis and the slippery decline towards the Anthropocene. This geological epoch is tarnished by visible and lasting effects of human activity on the ecological assemblage, and the hybridity that occurs as a consequence. In this age of natural disjunction and distress, there has never been a more imperative need to reflect upon and reconnect to our landscape. Photography echoes this uncertainty, the shifting terrain, as its inherente materiality and physicality becomes prone to slippage, disruption and renewal. Coexisting in a space of hybridity and cross-pollination – the terrain, both natural and artistic, are now immersed within a rhizome of duality: human and non-human photographic and sculptural, subject and object, organic and synthetic, two-dimensional and three-dimensional, static and visceral. 

Shifting Terrain: Photographic Hybrids navigates the dissolution of photographic medium specificity through ecocentric perspectives, presenting works by Sydney-based artists Mia Carey, Criena Court, Grace Kingston and Valentina Schulte. The field of photography has expanded and shifted over time, catalytic when Fracois Willeme invented the photo-sculpture in 1859. A proliferation of artists challenged the photographic medium in response, imbuing dimension into a traditionally flat medium. Existing in the anthropocentric age negates an embodied longing for the past, a nostalgic pull backward, a resistant push forward. Encompassing this is the omnipresent lure artists have to the materiality of the photographic medium, shifting beyond the perpetuating two-dimensional pictorial surface, towards the three-dimensional hybrid photographic object; ephemera into reality. This shift could account for the historical move from analogue photography to digitisation. With the onset of digital production, the tactile relationship to process has ebbed – gone are the rolls of films, negatives, canisters, trays and chemistry – as a result artists’ interest in the physicality of the photograph has been awaken, Photographic hybridity becomes prevalent in this exhibition through enhanced objectification and spatiality, manipulation and transformation of the works. 


The tectonic plates below our feet move and quake, an unstoppable force; uncertain, abrasive, yet constant. The terrain shifts and transforms our landscape, consequently evident in the canyons, the mountain-scapes, the rivers, and the volcanoes that adorn our geographies, equally momentous and becoming. These fragments of Earth are reflected in the photographic hybrids of Valenina Schulte. As part of her ongoing inquiry into the merging of photography and sculpture, Schulte’s works focus on the built and natural landscapes in which humans occupy and interact. Through fragmentation, rearrangement, and assemblage, schulte investigates complex ecological systems and the ancestral theorem that guides our understanding of them. Providing a stratified view, Schulte manipulates her imagery into fragments, and reassembles thes into alternate landscapes, terraforming the surface topography and disturbing the interface of the scene, presenting our landscape as something shattering and malleable; changing, changed. For Schulte, the physicality of the artworks is as important as the imagery itself. Her shift towards three-dimensionality and the sculpture is a direct result of the photographic image becoming ubiquitous, infinitely reproducible, and overshadowed by digital shortcuts. The integration of tactility and a focus on photographic materiality, relocates these works as landmarks of peaks in the architectural landscape of the gallery space, mimicking the human experience of moving through the terrain. Schulte’s investigations into the human experience of the post-contemporary landscape, interaction and spatiality, negate the integral manifestation of sculptural objects to represent a subject with inherent dimensionality and associations with ensorial engagement. 


Writer and scientist Geoffrey C. Bowker states that being in the age of the Anthropocene entails experiencing multiple temporalities.Carey’s experimental series Thanatos and Eros alludes to this in the suspension of current time, osciolation us from the past, to the present, and toward the future. Within the lens of environmental destruction ,these hybrid photographs excavate the aftermath of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in 1986, Ukraine. Navigating The impact this had on the physical and spiritual terrain of the site, Carey perpetuates this ecological disaster as a symptom of severe human intervention within our natural and urban landscapes. Stemming from Freudian theories of the Thanatos – death drive – and the Eros – life instinct, these photographic hybrids explore the cyclic systems of creation and destruction through materiality. Whilst the photographic hybrids explore the cyclic systems of creation and destruction through materiality. Whilst the photographs insinuate notions of the documentary, the very nature of the photograph has shifted, through manipulation of its surface topography. Embodying the merge of photographic evolutions, each image has been dual photographed with digital and analogue processes, becoming hybridized through their mutation into a singular image. Embodying a destructive vernacular, the photographs and frames, whilst remaining on the wall planar, pertain to traces of direct human interference. The burnt artefacts, the dark tonality, and the disturbingly glossy thickness of resin, alarms us towards the impeachment of human inflicted chaos and decay; the un-natural, the synthetic, and the radioactive congeal and consume. Nature will always exist, a persistent force. Palpable in this post-humanist space, where an ecosystem of devastation emerges – monolithic ruins, industrial remains and natural degeneration.


Incorporating neon, photography and experimental assemblages, Court emphasises the ambiguities of the photographic pictorial space using reflective surfaces and light to draw the viewer into a deep, philosophical experience with our changing landscape. Drawing attention to the mystical within the everyday, each artwork calls for a moment of contemplation. A quiet, meditative space. Beckoning the viewer to pause, take a breath and reflect upon our relationship with nature. The spectrum becomes a metaphor for the unknowable, it presents no answers, only experimentation and visual propositions to create pause. Aligning with sublime or Romantic thought, the work is seemingly pious, conjuring thoughts of transcendence, spiritualism, and theology. Engaging in hybridised forms of the sculptural and the photographic, Court has emulated the fluidity and flux of our terrain through flowy textiles in juxtaposition with hard plexiglass. The use of reflective surfaces furthers this, generating windows into alternative realities – a separation,a reformulation of perspective and the sense of illusion and delusion that photography often allows. The glow of the neon evokes an enigmatic energy, inviting the viewer to reside momentarily in the space beyond what we can comprehend, to reflect upon our (dis) connection with the landscape; our polarity. Above and Below are ultimately reflections of us; above the horizon line, and deep down below it. Through this lens, the depicted mountain landscapes become referential to the vastness of nature, as the vastness within oneself. Through reflection, where do you situate yourself in the wake of organic decay and earthly decline? Speculate about what the future holds and consider what comes after nature? Let us ponder.


Grace Kingston’s interactive installation considers the space between our bodies, the landscape and the everyday technologies that mediate these organic systems. Spatially and viscerally engaged these hybridised photographic works navigate the captured image as a material, or skin, for a sculptural object, projecting photography into real space and temporality. Kingston’s Mossys are intended to reconnect the viewer with our landscape through natural re-creation,and speculate on the role of technology in future human-nature engagements. These digitised soft sculptures consist of photographically printed textiles, featuring natural textures and organic surfaces from a range or locations including: Finland, Clovelly Beach, Auburn Botanic Gardens, and Mount Canobolas in Orange. Kingsotn’s Mossys are dispersed around the space, becoming active with an uncanny sigh and early sound from the corresponding location when a viewer squeezes them. The tactility of these artefacts sensorially entices the viewer, socially transporting them to an intangible space of natural territory, memory and personal association – the synthetic equivalent of listening to a shell from the beach as a child. Kingston’s work demands a sense of stillness of slowness, allowing us to reconnect with our terrain or ‘catch-up’ with nature, where we often do not have the time. This incites a literal re-enactment of Rousseauian ontology, and act of ‘returning to nature’, and thus offering the resoritive role of these photographic hybrids to cure the contemporary condition of ‘solastalgia’, a state of emotional distress caused by environmental damage, Considering the inadequacy of how we attempt to capture memories online, with filters and editing software impeding an authentic experience, Kingston attempts to create ‘real’ feeling, allowing us to hold a proportion of that space, her memory, a fundamentally more tangible interaction then with an image online, or by scrolling through your Instagram feed. 

The cracks in the floor of the gallery evoke a strong resemblance to the tectonic shifts (riflts) encountered in the works above them; disrupted. Each work conversing in a larger ecology of duality, hybridity, and plurality. The artists in Shifting Terrain: Photographic Hybrids interrogate the dissolution of photographic medium specificity and the expansion of the media into three-dimensional or manipulated sculptural forms. Cohabitation in the age of Anthropocentrism, our distinctions between human and non-human, social and material, subjective and objects, have become complicated and uncertain. Utilising hybridised photo-sculptures, these artists investigate the loss of organic equilibria and our (dis)connection to the landscape, whilst facilitating a meditative space for reflection and reconnection. This exhibition acts as a olite provocation towards egocentric thinking, and asks us to take accountability and acknowledge where we are situated in the broader ecological system and climatic crisis, imbued with man-made intervention. As Earth shifts from one state to another, these artists simultaneously shift from one medium to the other; merging and melding, in what could be considered the New Age of Hybridity. 

Written by Sarah Rose (Curator)