Deadwood Rising  

There are so many english language definitions of "deadwood" from playing cards that are discarded in card games to the literal dead branches on trees which bonsai artists encourage so as to simulate age and maturity.  Then there is the obvious fifth wheel; someone or something that is unwanted and unneeded.  Deadwood is a term that is often used to describe usually older employees resistant to change; who like it the way it was and don't move as perhaps they still have to pay off the mortgage on their summer house before they retire.  Then there is the pins that are knocked down in the sport of indoor bowling or a baseball or cricket bat that cracks from repeated hitting and becomes unusable. 

Deadwood is also a place, a town in South Dakota USA which was the setting for the recent popular HBO television drama about the growth of a western frontier town.  While closer to home deadwood so prolific in our bush is a powerful fuel in the ever more extreme wildfires.  It is fire that so effectively destroys wood but even this extreme condition which is increasing in frequency must run a distant second to the machine like efficiently humans have managed to consume.  

Alex Rizkalla uses the discarded and devalued associations of deadwood referenced in the title of this exhibition to an installation of patterned arrangements of many ornamental wooden objects.  These wooden objects range from familiar salad bowls and spoons to obscure and idiosynchratic souveniers as well as authentic local hand crafts from the four corners of the earth.  All these objects have been predominantly acquired at market stalls and charity shops in the local environs of Melbourne.  And this is just the wood collection.  Or some of it anyway.  

The souvenir objects purpose and meaning has always been about display, primarily as a display of cultural exchange.  Most of these objects were most likely acquired in foreign places and bought home with the purpose of triggering memories of the experience of travel directly associated with its material origins.  Rizkalla engages with modes of display that both abstract the objects into formal patterns and use placement and association to strange effect in creating the grander yet tragic narrative the objects embody.

Elvis Richardson