Linda Tegg Samstag Scholarship

Jasmin Stephens, Curator and Writer, Sydney

The underlying assertion in Linda Tegg’s discrete but interlinked works is that the viewing conditions by which we orient our place in the world are constantly shifting. In an expanded photographic practice that deploys video, performance and installation, she has filmed a wolf in a Texan motel room, a goat balancing on a triangular plinth in a Swiss gallery, a dancer crouching on a revolving reflective platform and the relationship between a crying actor and a sympathetic sheep. Working with animals and their handlers and human subjects trained as performers, she explores ideas of display and performance in staged scenarios in which she photographs her subjects under a range of physical and behavioural constraints.

Tegg’s modulated approach emphasises the formal rather than the expressive processes of the situations she sets in train. Her work, for example, never becomes about the plight of the endangered Mexican Grey Wolf or, as in the case of one of her earliest works, the embarrassment of a first bra fitting. When animals make appearances in galleries, she curtails the spectacle. In Horse (2009), a dual–channel work filmed at the Alliance Française building in Melbourne, the horse is not only resplendent – rearing on its hind legs on a red carpet – but is also captured nonchalantly urinating on the floorboards. Arguably, Tegg’s more pressing concern is the ‘liveness’ of her subjects being admitted to spaces that have evolved for the contemplation of images and objects.

Her photographer’s eye takes in the conventions of looking and being looked at that operate across a series of contexts. Tegg considers viewing behaviours that exist between species; that are integral to lens–based and embodied practices; and that order the arranging of exhibitions. In her recent commission for ACCA’s NEW13, entitled Tortoise (2013), a mirrored ‘organism’, animated by a group of women who are concealed by its ‘exoskeleton’, deflects traditional notions of authorship and spectatorship. Its morphing reflective surface circumvents any defining of the shared sightless form assumed by the performers. Reminiscent of the musculature of the female performers in Tegg’s previous works, its overlaying of cultural and structural visual codes achieves a subterfuge that is ultimately arresting.

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