A playful and irrational streak runs throughout a number of works in Melbourne Now. Lou Hubbard is one such artist, who is well known for her sculptural and video based work that records her manipulation of objects through processes that are lo-fi, compulsive, and absurd. EYE OPS, her work for Melbourne Now, is a cluster of video works that record a series of actions performed onto marshmallow eyeballs.
LC: What drew you to the eyeballs used in EYE OPS, and how did you interact with them?
LH: I discovered the eyeballs in the “Happy Pills” lolly shop in Barcelona. For a while, I had been working with various types of toy eyeballs and so it was natural to want to buy some. I was particularly attracted to the life-like formation of the pupil and its egg-like gooey centre. After I performed tests on the eyeballs I noted how resistant the ‘whites’ were to cutting and prodding. The yellow pupils were more appealing in their translucency than the blue or red and so I ordered a box of 50! Before shooting the videos I set some rules: I should proceed with discipline, examining the dysfunctional eyes as an optometrist, before performing the ‘corrections’ as a surgeon; use implements at hand; resist using fingers; permit the use of background music, just like in modern operating theatres.
LC: I recognize the distinct spectacles in EYE OPS as your own. Can you talk further about the role of the personal and sentimental in your work?
LH: For me, the personal is the familiar – objects suggest experiences that I can re-enact to examine curious conditions. For example, when my spectacles press down on the confectionery eyes they become like my eyes under pressure. Since my numerous childhood eye ops, I have been fascinated by processes of correction through training exercises and surgery. I became interested in staging the sentimental when the fallout from my video operations looked pathetic or painful. I registered the same appeal of ‘sad-eyed children’ in National Geographic, imagery designed to manipulate or seduce through pity. I know I have a melting point. When I perform my operations through the camera viewfinder I commit acts that I later set free to linger on screen. That’s when some unexpected responses are dislodged in me. I like testing the threshold of my melting point.
LC: You developed EYE OPS during your recent Australia Council residency in Barcelona. Does the work reflect the character of this city?
LH: Yes, I was influenced by the festive Easter and Saints’ Days strictly observed and passionately paraded – gaudy and Gaudi everywhere. I photographed displays of lambs’ heads, and bought candles of cats’ heads; their glassy eyes designed to pop out as the wax melted. I found spectacles, egg slicers and tongs. I laid out my new ‘materials’ on the studio table, rolled up my sleeves and got into it.
LC: Your work often elicits a response of laughter. What is the role of humour in your work?
LH: I don’t set out to be humorous, though I am aware that humour may arise out of the choice of objects and the earnestness of my endeavours. Once I decide on a course of action I really try to tough it out until I am satisfied that I have ‘seen’ something or got somewhere. If I choose materials that alert in me the need to stare something down, usually I will find a pathetic, oppressive nature at work. It may be funny to expose these tendencies and tensions in art; it sure is no laughing matter if you have to live with it.