I’ll play it first and tell you what it is later.
– Miles Davis
Newell Harry’s Circle/s in the Round’ for (Miles and Miles +1) is an elegant neon wall sculpture in Temperance Lane. Running beneath the coloured concentric circles is text reading, and mirroring, “NEVERODDOREVEN.” Inspired by Miles Davis’ 1967 ‘Circle in the Round’ recording, the work literally lights up the end of the dark alley.
The artist wrote of this work:
As a kid I recall my mother amping up her weekend housework to Jim McLeod’s ‘Jazz Track’, or doing ‘the Bump’ with Aunt Vin to EWF or the Pointer Sisters in the kitchen. Like jazz, our home was entwined order and chaos.
The work takes its title from the breakthrough Miles Davis studio recording “Circle in the Round” (‘67), the first in which Davis shifts from the acoustic structure of a jazz quintet, to that of electronic composition and ‘fusion’.
The track, first released in the 1979 compilation album of the same name, heralds the beginning of Davis’s ‘electronic period’; continuing to his death, ending with the Hip Hop inspired, “Doo-Bop” album (1991). Incidentally, neon, as sculpture, finds its inception around the same time as Davis’s shift – the heat of late sixties high modernism.
Back at Temperance Lane, the out-of-sync flashing circles and the textual word-play links, conceptually, to structures inherent to jazz composition, and spoken-word improvisation. Taoist philosophy fits in there, too, but without conjuring the hippy dippy it’s probably best to call it quits.
Newell Harry is an artist based in Sydney of South African-Mauritian heritage. He works in a wide range of materials, often reflecting on the histories of contact, colonisation and exploitation in the Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. He explores ideas connected with migration, colonial trade and politics, identity and dislocation.
Circle/s in the Round’ for (Miles and Miles +1) was first shown as part of the Laneways Temporary Art Program 3 on view from October 2010 to January 2011. It was subsequently possible to extend this popular work.