John Hurrell – 19 July, 2010
'Tumbleweeds' shows a deserted roadway just outside a windswept frontier town - an archetypal film scene from a western - but instead of hidden Hollywood wind machines blowing tumbleweeds across the road, extras positioned at different distances from the camera take turns to nonchalantly roll their clothed bodies across the expanse of red dirt and stop inert by the stubbly vegetation on the other side. Very amusing, but also serious, because the rolling bodies could be corpses accumulating from gunfights.
Rebecca Ann Hobbs
Failing, Falling, Flying
July 1 - July 31, 2010
The seventeen coloured photographs and two DVDs that Rebecca Ann Hobbs is presenting in St Paul Street’s two galleries mostly take on the notion of human movement (or lack of, obstructing) as their central trope. While most feature deliberately ordinary vistas of New Zealand (and occasionally American) landscape, they usually refer in some way to simple bodily actions of the intransitive verb type explored by Serra and Nauman in the sixties - often jokingly.
With titles like Bbbounce, Slip ‘n Slide, Go, Waiting, Spin, Jump, and Ah-round you’d think some energetic human activity would be the main focus but not so. It is more second fiddle to the unspectacular humble landforms, grimy buildings and slightly scruffy botany: making humorous asides that are there to be noted, but not dominant. Such actions don’t dominate the image. They are low key and barely detectable - like the artist waving in the distance; or hardly connected, such as a tyre (as human surrogate) bouncing down a hillside walking track.
The best works are the videos. Tumbleweeds shows a deserted roadway just outside a windswept frontier town - an archetypal film scene from a western - but instead of hidden Hollywood wind machines blowing tumbleweeds across the road, extras positioned at different distances from the camera take turns to nonchalantly roll their clothed bodies across the expanse of red dirt and stop inert by the stubbly vegetation on the other side. It is an extraordinary video; a simple idea that packs a lot of punch. Very amusing, but also serious, because the rolling bodies could be corpses accumulating from gunfights.
In a darkened Gallery Two we see the other DVD, Ah-round, showing the camera person slowly encircling a gardener in a greenhouse watering its luxuriant plants with a hose. He is also absentmindedly listening to music on his headphones. As the camera approaches the moving sprayer we expect to see the lens showered with water but at the last minute the squirting hose is averted.
In the same dark space Hobbs has placed under a spotlight an image also seen in the other room: Drunk Power Poles, a photo of a line of cement power poles on the side of a dry parched hill. They are crookedly lined up. Being at peculiar angles they look intoxicated.
By pairing it with the hot-house video Hobbs seems to be making two jokes: one about water deprivation and thirst, the other perhaps about alcohol, music and the pleasures of relaxation. Somewhat oblique admittedly.
Hobbs has also made other photographs that are more openly comical and similar to the videos, but she has obviously intended here not to over emphasise that aspect of her practice - though humour seems to be always present. I think her moving image works have more viewer impact, though with that content she may worry about approaching the areas explored by William Wegman and in New Zealand, Steve Carr. It will be interesting to see where she goes from here.
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