If there is one particular tenet to which this vast show at MUMA’s handsome new Caulfield digs subscribes, it would have to be that of art’s continuing reflexivity. Indeed, while a good share of contemporary practice continues to invoke the tactile object and geographic landscape, the tangle of works that comprise NETWORKS (cells & silos) fears not to engage with our rapidly transforming, increasingly interwoven experience of each other and the world.

Featuring a host of Australian and international artists – from the late Mutlu Çerkez, Kit Wise, Nicholas Mangan, Mikala Dwyer, Gali Yalkarriwuy Gurruwiwi and Masato Takasaka to Los Angeles artist Natalie Bookchin, Bristol’s Heath Bunting, Canadian artist Michelle Teran and many others – this astutely curated exhibition resembles a kind of loosened, lateral cartography. Literal, allegorical and poetic threads of connection (and disconnection) are traced and mapped, our shadow and likeness charted.

There are several highlights. Californian artist Aaron Koblin’s video work, Flight Patters (2010), touches on contemporary modes of travel as an agent of connectedness. Drawing on flight maps, various data and information, the work renders an otherwise blackened United States with the tiny trace-lights of the thousands upon thousands of aeroplanes flying in US airspace at any one time. Sandra Selig’s remarkable sculpture, heart of the air you can hear (2010), spans from one gallery wall to another with meticulous woven compositions of pink thread. Its engagement with the network is both abstract and literal, as is Kerrie Poliness’s immense, collaborative wall drawing.

There is a more abject plane to NETWORKS. Natalie Bookchin’s video Mass Ornament (2009) compiles swathes of YouTube clips in which young women have filmed themselves booty dancing alone in their bedrooms, only to post it online. It seems a study of both isolation and viralism. Mikala Dwyer’s wraithlike ring of occult objects, shapes and sound-making devices, meanwhile, emits and refracts a soft hum of blank, grey noise.

Perhaps most worrying is Nick Mangan’s sculpture, Colony (2005), which fashions a termite mound, coral-like formations and sharpened, wooden spikes into a kind of dangerous telecommunications aerial; a signifier, perhaps, of a dominant monoculture that can transcend lands and oceans and independent states, no matter how far-flung. That said, it could also (almost) be interpreted as celebratory; a tribute to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the less industrialised.

It’s perhaps this ambiguity – this malleable sense of potential – that best defines NETWORKS (cells & silos). Like our current experience of the world and each other, these works are fragmented, fluid and multipart. They map and they trace, but just where the lead us is an exciting, daunting mystery.

NETWORKS (cells & silos) shows at Monash University Museum of Art until April 16.

monash.edu.au/muma