Brie Trenerry: A Dark Turn

During lockdown, when those close to her began watching SKY news, Brie Trenerry turned to art.

Words: Chloé Wolifson

Brie Trenerry’s current project first took shape in Covid lockdown, when the Victoria-based artist found herself doom-scrolling through social media and mainstream news. “Everything was amplified,” she recalls. “A collective babble of confusing messages.” Then things took a dark turn – a Sky News After Dark turn, to be precise. People close to the artist were watching the show, Australia’s equivalent of Fox News, and began spouting wild claims. Trenerry’s concern about the effects of misinformation, and its weaponisation for political purposes, grew.

“With some trepidation, I decided to venture down the rabbit hole and read every conservative and far/alt right online news syndication in addition to reading centrist and progressive media,” Trenerry says.

She particularly focussed on comments sections, seeking connection and understanding. With a tendency to look for patterns that might reveal a broader picture, she soon found herself collecting avatar images from thousands of commenters. These form part of a digital collage which will feature in Trenerry’s forthcoming exhibition at MARS Gallery, Melbourne titled Babble On.

“I am drawn to the dark and the questioning in Brie’s works,” says Andy Dinan of MARS Gallery, who has represented Trenerry for a decade. “She makes the viewer do the hard work: Why are we there? What are we really watching? Why are we disturbed?” An extension of the PhD project Trenerry commenced at RMIT, Melbourne in 2014, Babble On takes the mythical Tower of Babel as a metaphor for humanity’s hubris in the online age. It considers the ever-increasing volume of babble feeding Artificial Intelligence systems, and interrogates the shifting power dynamics between humans and AI.

An interdisciplinary artist and filmmaker, Trenerry’s practice explores the potential of contemporary moving image technologies alongside that of superseded media. Over the past decade, Trenerry has explored altered states of consciousness as generative strategies for an expanded cinema. In the major 2015 solo exhibition Total Field at the Adelaide Experimental Art Foundation, the artist used a sensory deprivation technique to induce hallucinations in people, using their responses to form a 30-metre-long multi-channel video work. For Babble On, Trenerry has induced distortions, known also as hallucinations, from an AI video generator, manipulating the resulting video fragments into moving image works, and holograms (a medium she first worked with in 2022 for an exhibition at Sydney’s Cement Fondu). “Working with holograms and 3D imagery is like sculpting with video,” the artist observes, “the presence of the screen boundary is ruptured and the video appears to extend into the gallery space.”

Trenerry has curated the MARS Gallery Black Box projection space, an exhibition space dedicated to showing contemporary video art, since its opening in 2014. “Video is a rigorous discipline and can be challenging in execution, exhibition and reception,” the artist observes. “At MARS I have been able to help facilitate ambitious projects that would otherwise not have been realised the way the artist conceived them.”

Trenerry’s extensive curatorial and programming experience also includes co-founding the Melbourne artist-run gallery KINGS ARI, unique at the time for its dedicated video space, and co-founding and programming Moonlight Cinema Adelaide. This year, she was a producer on feature film RESIDENCE, directed by Matt Mirams of Breeding Ground Productions.

This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 106, October-December 2023. 


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