The False Demographic at ICI NYC

The False Demographic at ICI NYC

It has been great to revisit this exhibition proposal I worked on during my time in New York at the ICI’s fall curatorial intensive. Since returning from this trip, Ted Whitaker and I completed our development of this project and exhibited the show at Blue Oyster not long after. Looking back to the way the NZ flag debate came and went, working on this project abroad while the debate was raging was such a vital opportunity to flesh out themes around national identity. Some of the questions we raised with participants on the screen are still being asked today, exactly one year after NZ’s political pendulum has swung to the left.

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Alternative Routes: An Interview with Katie Kerr

Alternative Routes: An Interview with Katie Kerr

Graphic Designer and participant in Cul-de-sac was recently interviewed by Lana Lopesi for Aotearoa Design Thinking 2018, a series of commissioned critical design essays published by Design Assembly and funded by Creative New Zealand. A photograph of Kerr’s publication for Cul-de-sac features at the top of this fascinating conversation about margin dwelling and forging routes in and around graphic design.

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Review of Daegan Wells: A Gathering Distrust by Holly Best in Art NZ

Review of Daegan Wells: A Gathering Distrust by Holly Best in Art NZ

Earlier in 2018, Holly Best reviewed Daegan Wells’ solo exhibition at Ilam Campus Gallery titled ‘A Gathering Distrust’ (21 February – 22 March 2018), which also served as his outgoing exhibition as the 2017 Olivia Spencer Bower Award recipient. In her review she, like Bennett in a previous post, referred to my review of the Adam Art Gallery’s emerging group exhibition ‘The Tomorrow People’ in mid-2017.

Wells may have taken note of Chloe Geoghegan’s warning in her Pantograph Punch review of The Tomorrow People at the Adam Art Gallery which suggested no only that ‘this kind of tributary practice is meaningful, but preliminary’ but also that his work is starting to lack the hand of the artist.

Best concludes her assessment with a positive note, that the exhibition offers '“up a revelation of a personal history, one that is more engaging than constantly illuminating the past.” The idea that Wells has looked into his own history is an exciting step in his practice.

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A Frost Kissed Rose at the Bottom of the World by Lucinda Bennett

A Frost Kissed Rose at the Bottom of the World by Lucinda Bennett

Lucinda Bennett talks to artist Daegan Wells about craft, storytelling and finding his clay. She mentions a review I wrote on ‘The Tomorrow People’ a large group show of emerging artists that was held at The Adam Art Gallery in 2017, which Wells featured in.

I am reminded of something Chloe Geoghegan wrote about Bleached Terraces in her review of The Tomorrow People; that “This kind of tributary practice is meaningful, but preliminary.” Daegan’s description of trying to take on Yvonne’s way of thinking and researching feels like a way of moving past this “preliminary” phase into new territory – something he seems to have achieved with his latest body of work, A Gathering Distrust, which included a series of ceramic vessels handmade using clay from the shore of Lake Manapouri. He tells me, “With the ceramic works I had at [Ilam’s] SoFA Gallery, Yvonne was there but not really. Only in the sense that I was interested in her research and the way in which she worked from the land with this really strong craft-based practice.”

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Curatorial Ethics: We don’t need a Manifesto

Curatorial Ethics: We don’t need a Manifesto

An excerpt that discusses the ethos of Dog Park from Bruce E. Phillips' Curatorial Ethics: We don’t need a Manifesto, which features in the recently released On Curating issue covering the Curating Under Pressure symposium in Christchurch, 2015.

Another pertinent issue that was raised in my World Café groups was the importance of being sensitive to context—meaning to acknowledge the implications of various forms of practice within different situations of crisis. This discussion was also raised in the symposium in an intriguing panel discussion of the Christchurch artist-run spaces The Physics Room, Dog Park and North Projects. In this discussion they revealed the political pressure that was placed on them to ‘serve’ the public during this crisis situation by creating moments of community unification and civic wellbeing. In this post-quake period, projects like those run by the place-making initiative Gap Filler popularised the idea of art being fun entertainment that encouraged people to inhabit the quake ravaged downtown. This ‘pop-up’ trend was celebrated by city officials, and it became even more politicised when the wave of transitional rhetoric become synonymous with the government’s controversial re-build plans.

The Physics Room, Dog Park and North Projects’ response was that they didn’t want to encourage art that profited off a disaster situation by creating earthquake-inspired exhibitions, but rather to create a space that offered artists stability and a place for slow thinking when everything was rapidly changing around them. This vastly different understanding of the role of art, the needs of artists and the function of artist-run spaces continually butted up against the pop-up feel-good model, and it caused constant frustration for them as they failed to attract much needed funding and legitimisation.

Pages 94-99.

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I, Us, Them by Abbra Kotlarczyk

I, Us, Them by Abbra Kotlarczyk

Recently Australian based artist-writer Abbra Kotlarczyk visited New Zealand and drew some insightful parallels between concurrent exhibitions by Len Lye, Tony de Latour and Sam Clague. The latter of which I wrote the catalogue essay for. Kotlarczyk has a wonderful talent for weaving so many ideas into one, rather than addressing each as separate paragraphs. See exceprt below where her analysis of Clague's show is woven into the wider theme of the article so well.

In Taste Nature, Dunedin-based Clague has created a series of works that resemble what we might think of as algorithmic degenerations of organic and computational twenty-first century desire. Clague’s central Untitled Installation of 2017-18 reads as the failed outcome of a student’s attempt to restage The Way Things Go, the famous kinetic sculpture by Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss. The ephemeral looking installation—which is made up of an abeyance of otherwise functional computer devices and electronic cords, chain-links and slumped moving blankets of the kind synonymous with art installers (of whom Clague is one)—stand in as a central axiom for what I see to be the primary success of this show: to reveal, through a kind of poised squalor of anti-aesthetics, the dark side of our compulsive, consumptive practices. In other words, Clague (whether he means to or not) is sparking a conversation about what the other side of comfortable privilege looks like. He is bathing in the decomposition of other people’s hard labour that is most often, conveniently, hidden from our view. In the exhibition catalogue, Clague’s creative process is summed up by Chloe Geoghegan as such: ‘amalgamated materials are aerated and turned like organic fertiliser over time to generate new forms representing a failed system.’ [12] Untitled Installation cuts through the modest art school gallery space like a stubborn and defiant trajectory.

On the far wall of the gallery is the triptych Don’t look at the carpet, I drew something awful on it (2018), an equally bloated and deflated depiction of the interior life of one’s bathroom or kitchen. These works, along with the show in full, reveal the debauched realities of consumables in arrears: banana skins, recycled paint, polystyrene, coffee grounds, nicotine gum, dirt and plaster et al. These carpet paintings function like modern-day mirrors to the atavistic primordial soup that science (and Randerson) tell us the earth was born out of. And while these paintings are meant to be ugly—the play on the word taste is certainly a visceral one in the presence of these works—there is a kind of accumulative presence that evokes a doleful beauty, much like the vibrations that are plucked out of an Anselm Kiefer work that cannot be anticipated by its reproduction alone. Taste Nature brings us to the edge of a kind of ontological shift that Randerson and Geoghegan speak of: a steady crescendo that Lye’s film and de Latour’s exhibition both seem to close in on at the exact point of destruction (in the former), and creative transformation at the bridging point of a move from figuration into geometric abstraction (in the later).

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Artistic Agency in Public Agencies By K. Emma Ng

Artistic Agency in Public Agencies By K. Emma Ng

Great to read this new piece by Wellington based writer-curator K. Emma Ng who recently spent sometime in NYC. Tying together thoughts on public art in NZ by first thinking about some key works in 1970s NYC that worked for the public good, and ending with thoughts on how public art shouldn't necessarily be operating in an antagonistic framework. "The role of artists in public projects should be generative, rather than ameliorative." 

A paper Ella Sutherland and I presented about our own positions in this paradigm for Curating Under Pressure, which was then published in Enjoy's Assay/Essay was referenced: 

The co-option of artists into productive ‘feel-good’ narratives in a ‘transitional’ era of urban uncertainty has also been critiqued by Chloe Geoghegan and Ella Sutherland, who founded the artist-run space Dog Park in the years following the earthquakes. They point out that while they were criticised for failing to plug into the dominant idea of the creative post-quake city (as exemplified by initiatives like Gap Filler), they sought to maintain the integrity of contemporary art’s critical functions: “While the ‘transitional city’ may have made sense for those selling it – the perfect case study for academic and professional pursuits – we wanted to create a reality governed by critical production.”

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Dog Park: 2012-2014

Dog Park: 2012-2014

Chill Spree, curated by Henry Davidson, 22 June – 14 July 2013. Featuring: Claire Mahoney, Oscar Enberg, Ben Clement, Jack Hadley, PBPR.

It's coming up on 7 years since Ella Sutherland and I opened Dog Park, an artist-run space in Waltham, Christchurch. After renovating a run down tilt-slab unit in this industrial part of the city, we opened the doors in June 2012 and closed in May 2014. Since the doors closed, we have undertaken several offsite projects including one in Sydney and one in Auckland.

In 2015 we had the chance to look back on this 'post-quake' time and think about how Dog Park sat (albeit begrudgingly) within that narrative. You can read our article here.

More recently I have had the chance to celebrate this anniversary through thinking about the concepts of our very first show as a departure point for Cul-de-sac, a group exhibition on now at RM in Auckland. Click here to read more.

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