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JH

Speech, Writing and Grief

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Zac Langdon-Pole, Lacunae Mouths, 2016, detail, six chrome mouth casts, chain, shackles, dimensions variable. Installation of Zac Langdon-Pole's Lacunae Mouths, 2016, six chrome mouth casts, chain, shackles, dimensions variable. Installation of Zac Langdon-Pole's Oratory Index at Michael Lett. Lacunae Mouths are on the left, with the six Gloss photographs on the right. From Gloss, Zac Langdon-Pole's I am with him, 2016 Zac Langdon -Pole, Au Hazard (borer cabinet), 2016, rimu and glass cabinet, 24ct pure gold, 427 x 908 x 760 mm Zac Langdon -Pole, Au Hazard (borer cabinet), 2016, detail, rimu and glass cabinet, 24ct pure gold, 427 x 908 x 760 mm Zac Landgon-Pole, Tomb(e), 2016, King Bird of Paradise (Apoda), glass door, bank vault - shown with Julian Dashper, Untitled (foil mould), 1991 Zac Landgon-Pole, Tomb(e), 2016, detail, King Bird of Paradise (Apoda), glass door, bank vault - shown with Julian Dashper, Untitled (foil mould), 1991

The hanging chrome sculptures of shiny dribbly silver, ambiguous forms, are based on casts of mouths, namely teeth and gums - not rubbery lips. The Lacunae Mouths are like casts for making dentures or orthodontal modifications, and are attached to oozy lines of solid cascading drips and mould armatures, so that they suggest remnants of crushed women's shoes or sheep skulls. The thin running lines of solid chrome perhaps represent spoken language; rough hewn but articulated sound.

Auckland

 

Zac Langdon-Pole
Oratory Index

 

30 November - 23 December 2016

This complicated teasing exhibition, Oratory Index, mainly features six suspended chrome casts, strung up with thick chains at different heights around the upper stairwell, and six softly lit, framed, coloured, digitally printed photographs. The latter are all enigmatic: some with confusingly located body parts; others images reflected on suspended shiny sheets.

There seems to be a relationship between the two types of work; they are clearly separated into two bays.

Langdon-Pole‘s photographs all have de-bossed text (sans serif) superimposed over (under?) the mysterious images. The dense theoretical quotations come from esteemed writers such as Walter Benjamin, Judith Butler, Franz Kafka, Paul Lacey, Anne Sexton (the poet) and Kaja Silverman. They are extremely hard to read because you have to position your head at the correct angle (low down) to discern the pressed out words, plus negotiate the interfering evanescent reflections from the covering glass.

The hanging chrome sculptures of shiny dribbly silver, ambiguous forms, are based on casts of mouths, namely teeth and gums - not rubbery lips. The Lacunae Mouths are like casts for making dentures or orthodontal modifications, and are attached to oozy lines of solid cascading drips and mould armatures, so that they suggest remnants of crushed women’s shoes or sheep skulls. The thin running lines of solid chrome perhaps represent spoken language; rough hewn but articulated sound.

However there is another, not openly declared, level of interpretation, which changes the inflection of ‘oratory’: perhaps towards ‘eulogy’. ‘Oratory’ is not only the art of public speaking but also a small chapel.  Looking at the gallery handout and Pantograph Punch, the photographs are connected to six of the fifteen lines of a poem written by Brendan Pole, an uncle of Zac‘s who died of AIDs in 1991. This aspect turns the sculptures into hovering angels or perhaps pieces of ectoplasm. Another (spiritual/spiritualist) dimension.

Also in this exhibition are two other sculptures and an installation. One work is an empty rimu cabinet with two glass doors. Riddled with borer, its holes and crumbling cracks having been stopped up with 24 ct gold, it could be a symbol for a lifeless body, anointed and bandaged. Downstairs in the basement is an installation in the safe where the vault has a thick plate of glass placed across the entrance. It is specifically tomblike: you can look in but not enter. On the floor, lying on its back, is a small, very dead, Bird of Paradise.

With this show, the Gloss photographs (with their de-bossed text) tend to be polarising and the rest, extremely intriguing. Is the presence of the possibly overloaded text the result of an artist desperately trying hard to convince the world he is an intellectual, or is it more mischievous, something more sophisticated than pathetically showing off? The presence of the suspended casts at difficult heights supports the latter, though the issue there is the heaviness of the chains. They are deliberately clunky and awkward, perhaps to emphasise the materiality of speech, the physicality of language - but with overtones of bondage.

This is an unusual installation worth spending serious time thinking about after you’ve left. It is multilayered, and that perhaps saves it from being a little maudlin, which the earlier Physics Room show - using the same poem with sequences of ornamental letters - might be accused of being. The chrome cast (running off) mouths bring in a quality of self-critique, avoiding whiffs of sentimentality.

John Hurrell

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