This show of three young Melbourne artists - David Jolly, Ricky Swallow, and David Noonan - was held in what was once Store-5, a successful artist-run space in the late 80s and early 90s, and which is now a specialist record store. It was an apt location for work that explored the vagaries of memory, or, more specifically, its technical supports. But despite the title and location, the show was a visual rather than aural treat.
Floating almost transparently on the wall, David Jolly's paintings evoke the vivid fragility, in Bergson's happy phrase, of memory's 'virtual coexistence'. Photorealist scenes from everyday, urban life are painted on the back of glass, investing the often-banal subject matter with a luminous sheen. The results are extraordinarily beautiful: the paint is smooth, richly toned and detailed. Painting on Glass (1998), a picture of a Sony Discman and a DAT recorder, is set against a black and white swirly background, an oblique reference to the cover of an Australian arts broadsheet.
Ricky Swallow - a Star Wars generation, post-hobbyist sculptor - works primarily with scale models, drawing his recurring motifs from science-fiction films and young boys' playthings. Untitled (Silver Stereo) (1998), belongs to a series of models of dated or obsolete technologies, replicated in perfect detail in three-dimensional, solid grey cardboard. The pure defamiliarisation of exhausted forms? The ironic artist copying old production-line commodities? But as with his series of spinning miniature figures in cardboard prisons mounted on old turntables, the effect is somehow more Existential. Sitting on the floor in the corner of the gallery, tenderly rendered in all its glorious equaliser excess, the inert model stereo has a funereal quality, evoking an impersonal nostalgia for the 20th century.
David Noonan is best known for his video installations of cyborg athletes, bored night drivers and ill-fated astronauts. His large photograph, Highlanders (1999), initially seems uncharacteristic. It is a slightly blurred, flash-lit snapshot of a young woman sitting on what appears to be a rocky mountain beneath a dusky pink sky and a horizon of dark, woolly scrub. The photographer's cut-off gym shoe intimately links him with his subject, whose nonchalant gaze and blanket-draped legs give little away. Red digits reading 15-1-99 are displayed along the bottom of the image, connecting it with Noonan's earlier work, which dealt with the passage of time through anonymous, public spaces. While the image has the appeal of a bad snapshot, its very lack of obvious technical skill summons an aesthetic immediacy - although the photograph-as-memento appears even frailer for having entered public life.
As silent witnesses to a new mobility of sound and vision in the wake of the Sony revolution, these artists are apparently revelling in robot mode. Yet there is something more, something deeply humanist in Jolly's painting from a photograph, Swallow's hand-sculpted stereo, and Noonan's painterly snapshot. One suspects the distinctly uncanny, generational temper of 'Walkmen' is peculiar to a historical moment: traditional media's interaction with newer technologies of memory.