John Hurrell – 30 December, 2014
In this show the seven artists' work is presented in a manner that I think is too lacking in spatial dynamic. The hang lacks a sense of ‘rightness' or inevitability, and seems too minimal and energyless. Part of the problem is that works like those of Schierning and Watson (to some extent) are focussed on information as if that alone can make an artwork riveting. Despite the inclusion of some extraordinary contributions, the combined placement of all the components is less than satisfying.
Judy Darragh, A. D. Schierning, Lisa Reihana, Janine Randerson, Sarah Treadwell & John Pusateri, Ruth Watson
OTHER WATERS - Art on the Manukau
Curated by the artists
15 November - 23 December 2014 3 January -15 February 2015
These varied displays are part of a complex but thematically coherent programme of film-screenings, performances, and gallery items that consider the Manukau region, its environmental history, ecology and contamination, plus the physical properties of water itself.
Aurally pervasive because of its mesmerising Eno-esque soundtrack that incorporates sonic interpretations of current and marine-bed data, Janine Randerson’s Until It Runs Out uses a split screen straddling a corner to present a year’s filming around the Old Mangere Bridge. Using fifty year old black and white film stock, the film is skilfully edited to highlight a diverse range of themes -around shoreline and water - recorded on both sides of (and under) the bridge. Because of its haunting music, this work dominates the Te Tuhi space.
Ruth Watson’s Intangible Cartographies of three videos set in a kind of plywood dashboard placed within an awkward skeletal cube, provides an evocative textual commentary, images of the sea surface and a digital/radar display of the shifting sea bottom underneath. Overshadowed by her neighbour Randerson’s sound (beauty bringing emotional immediacy), and incongruous as walk-in sculpture, the best part is Watson’s clever text, describing the harbour viewed out of a plane window and paralleling it (via placement) with a traversing, documenting, boat. There is also a hint of a conversation between Watson and Randerson with their two rectangular panels/screens, one set in the inferred wall of a lightfilled cube, the other across the planes of a darkened corner.
A.D.Schierning’s Oioi plant in a drum showcases a natural method of filtering out pollutants, and informs the organised planting of 24 such plants near the Old Mangere Bridge. Nearby Judy Darragh’s slow motion video loop of cascading, light-drenched, ‘elongated’ water implies the generation of electricity and aerated liquid that is pure.
Dappled water, and the gorgeous effects of light on its shimmering surface, is celebrated by the gridded (3 x 6) presentation of hand-printed drypoint prints and engravings by Sarah Treadwell and John Pusateri. Deliberately not uniform in linear thickness or density, these wonderfully soft, smoky images, whilst interconnected, force you to ponder each richly textured sheet - one at a time.
In my discussion of Randerson above I’ve rabbited on - possibly excessively - about the emotional impact of sound - and implied it is a quality (solely) visual art finds hard to match. Sound is a valuable (if not essential) aspect of both Len Lye films and sculpture, it was a crucial (live) component of Michael Parekowhai’s installation in Venice in 2012, and here in this show Lisa Reihana uses music (via headphones) as a vital part of her HD video, In Pursuit of Venus - a title that puns on Cook’s astronomical mission and the colonial (acquisitive/sexual) gaze.
This plasma screen work at Te Tuhi is a small taste of a much more spectacular version soon to come to AAG, one with many projected images merged on a long wall. However the Te Tuhi version’s intimate scale - with its superimposition of filmed actors, dancers and musicians from Aotearoa and across the Pacific - is more appropriate for the nineteenth century, panoramic wallpaper by Joseph Dufour that she is critiquing. Dufour’s Les sauvages de la mer Pacifique (1804-5), ostensibly based on the journals of Cook and de Bougainville, erroneously used Tahiti as a backdrop for different Pacific peoples of varied, far removed, geographical location. Reihana’s replacement of static figures with moving (mainly Maori) protagonists attempts to reinstate agency, identifiable cultural identity and pride.
In this show the seven artists’ work is presented in a manner that I think is too lacking in spatial dynamic. The hang lacks a sense of ‘rightness’ or inevitability, and seems too minimal and energyless. Part of the problem is that works like those of Schierning and Watson (to some extent) are focussed on information as if that alone can make an artwork riveting. Despite the inclusion of some extraordinary contributions, the combined placement of all the components is less than satisfying.