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MUMA Screens #2: Charlie Sofo

MUMA Screens highlights filmic and video works in the Monash University Collection. In our second screening, we share a suite of video works by Charlie Sofo.

In the pre-recorded conversation between Sofo and fellow Melbourne-based artist Liang Luscombe that precedes the online screening, Sofo and Luscombe playfully probe at the parameters of what a Zoom conversation can be, while discussing the significance that individual objects hold for them both.

MUMA Screens #2 includes the following works: Cats, 2020; Touch (Dunedin), 2011; Sense, 2011; Cracks, faults, fractures, 2012; At the moment, 2013; and 33 objects that can fit through the hole in my pocket, 2013.

The conversation is closed captioned and accompanied by a transcript below.

Duration approx. 15 mins.


Liang Luscombe:
Hey, Charlie.

Charlie Sofo:
Hey, Liang.

Liang Luscombe:
How are you going?

Charlie Sofo:
I'm pretty good. How are you?

Liang Luscombe:
Yeah, good. I'm excited to talk today. And just as a way of introduction, my name is Liang Luscombe, and this is my friend, Charlie Sofo. Charlie and I are both artists here in Naarm. And today, we're going to be doing some talking and thinking around Charlie's videos that are in the MUMA collection, as a kind of prelude to you getting a chance to view some of his works that MUMA will be screening.

Liang Luscombe:
So, in relation to my own video work, I've been thinking and reading a lot of science-fiction and really thinking about the way that science-fiction offers poignant modes of intersection to how we think about our own place through the manipulation of fictional worlds. Thinking about the way it actually talks about the conditions of here and now really poignantly.

Charlie Sofo:
Yeah. I like this idea of beginning with the conditions. And I know this morning when I walked into the studio, I noticed that there was a big spider up on the wall, which is probably the first time in 10 years I noticed the spider in here and it made me think about our conversation about one of your new video works last night, which is sort of titled After a Spider. So, there's these kind of omens or objects or moments and things that kind of pop up, which I feel ground us into a place, like the ground of my kitchen. Last night, I was wearing socks and I stepped back onto this cherry tomato and squelched it under my foot. This was briefly after catching up with my brother who was in town for an hour and we were embracing and he touched my jumper and he remarked how soft it was, how soft it felt. So, this notion of what you're intimate with looms pretty large in my thinking.

Charlie Sofo:
If we were to continue this thread about the conditions of this place and space, maybe we could also consider this social infrastructure, the digital infrastructure, like Zoom, this platform that we're enveloped in right now.

Liang Luscombe:
Yeah. I've been thinking about it a lot because I've been in it for the last year or more, like many of us. And I've been thinking about how a couple of months ago a friend described their Zoom classes as a moment when all of them were pretending that the screen was a window, but really it was a wall.

Voiceover:
We're honored that you are using Zoom to stay productive in this time of social distancing, remote learning and work from home or home from work [inaudible 00:03:23]. We've seen our platform used in so many ways, from work, happy hours, public celebrations, virtual classrooms, yoga sessions, and so many other events [inaudible 00:03:38].

Liang Luscombe:
The question of how to de-commodify social space and myself haunts me.

Charlie Sofo:
There's this bath towel that I've had for about 10 years. It's been used and washed many times. The fibers have slowly worn away. I kind of imagine the atoms that compose the towel detaching themselves and dispersing into the world. The towel is a record of baths, swims at the beach, that day when we shared it. The towel is worn out and at the very limit of its usefulness. At this limit, it's also become its softest. So, by making use of things that are available that are in common use, in turn, I want to be used by others for their own purposes. This doesn't mean that I don't consider... that I consider everything to be available for me to use. Actually, by attending to what's available, you might also notice and respect what is not available to you, what might be sacred or crucial for others.

Liang Luscombe:
Yeah, I've been thinking about my own emotional relationship to objects that I haven't been using for a number of years, as I've been overseas. They've been with friends or they've been with my parents, and one of those things has been my clarinet. It's something that I've just started to play again, something that I haven't done in 15 years. It's an object of my teenage years, an instrument I know intimately. And now I'm remembering its shape, its smell, the way it sounds, and the way that I used to really love playing jazz.

Charlie Sofo:
I've always had this interest in so-called empty signals like traffic lights which contain commands but very little meaningful content. So, I don't think this process of making art is just projecting meaning into things. But it's more about how objects and things in the world already have a relationality between them. I'm not really interested in one single isolated thing but in everything.

Charlie Sofo:
So, I have this key ring, which I found in my pocket one day when I was about to leave for a trip overseas. I hadn't realized that I had slowly removed all the keys off it, so I'd given up my tenancy to my house, my studio, work, most of my responsibility. And so this empty ring appeared like an apparition, some form of release. In a recent show, I also included a very large metal ring. Someone in the studio was getting rid of it and I ground off some extraneous bits and stripped back the paint and considered that this former ring has come from the world, but it doesn't really belong to anyone in the sense that it isn't bound by intellectual property. It's open to free use. I wonder if you can make use of it.

Liang Luscombe:
Charlie and I just want to thank you so much for watching. Thank you.