No Place to hide
Al Stark’s latest body of work, No Place To Hide, is a continuation on the prolific Australian artists oeuvre in which he explores surveillance capitalism and the dichotomy found between humans and profit. Defined as “a new economic order that claims human experience as free raw material for hidden commercial practices of extradition, prediction and sales,” surveillance capitalism has led twenty-first century systems of technology to modify and alter longstanding sets of human nature in a way that dislocates our individual lives, societies, and democracies.* As a result, the contemporary notions of privacy, sanctuary, autonomy and social interaction are thrust into a state of informed bewilderment.
Today we exist within a transitory state, separated by the humanistic contractions of the past, while being increasingly filled with anxieties and longings of dislocation toward a universal culture that engulfs all of us. Within surveillance capitalism then, which is predominantly driven by a neo-liberalist rubric, we witness a challenge to the age-old notion of sanctuary, where the mining of natural resources by large companies has begun to include data and behaviour. Surveillance capitalism turns its attention to the rich natural resources of human action and behaviour itself, declaring the internet ‘terra nullius’ and ruthlessly colonising the riches within. Humans are a profitable entity much like the physical resources of the industrial revolution, and in effect, our conceptions of the personal and the social are becoming increasingly distorted.
Within this context, Stark’s work explores the long-term effects of surveillance capitalism and its irreversible effects on the sanctuary, intimate space and autonomous confines of love and hope. How do we maintain a space to interact and dream with freedom and honesty while being increasingly watched and assessed according to the exponentially emboldened, secretive and unaccountable voyeurism of surveillance capitalism? In light of the environmental devastation of twentieth-century industrialist capitalism, these questions take on increasing urgency for our emerging information civilisation.
*Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, Hachette Book Group: New York (2019) p.8.
Since completing his studies at Victoria College of the Arts in 2007, Al Stark has maintained a diverse and prolific contemporary arts practice ranging from installation, wall painting, sculpture, printmaking, drawing and studio painting. Operating outside of convention, he has been able to follow a unique trajectory that has enabled extensive travel and a living through commissioned painting, tattooing and exhibition practice.
In utilising a diverse range of interrelating mediums Stark has formed a broad visual language that can be applied through an array of different contexts, giving his practice depth and momentum.
His work forms a personal ‘theatre’ that explores gender, politics, religion, nature and more recently the collective anxiety of ecocide and late stage capitalism. It forms an exploration of the human psyche and its relation to the natural environment through landscape, the figurative and a heavy dose of abstract symbolism. Regardless of context or medium it is work that has concern and wants to say something.
Stark has been central figure in the progression of the Melbourne street art movement since its inception in the late 90s. His more recent public works form lyrical narratives in massive colour and symbolism which seek to engage our environmental concerns and our responsibilities to them. This work serves as a spiritual offering and transcendence, addressing fundamental questions of what it means to be human in this point in time.
Currently maintaining an itinerant exhibition and commission based practice, Stark has an extensive list of collectors and clients including Hotel Hotel, Sheraton hotel, Westfield and the National Gallery of Australia. He is currently represented by Backwoods Gallery and Creative Road Arts Projects.