Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Static and moving Julien

Isaac Julien: Te Tonga Tuturu /True South (Apparatus)
Two Rooms
6 March - 4 April 2009

Isaac Julien’s installation True North at St Paul St was for many the highlight of Turbulence, the last Auckland Triennial. It was exceptionally striking with its multiple screens, dramatic polar imagery, post-colonial anti-masculinist themes and remarkable clarity of sound, so this new show of work made during a recent Two Rooms residency, will have created much anticipation.

It uses all the Two Rooms galleries, and includes some moving image and a lot of constructed photographs that refer to their own devising. Pieces of lighting equipment are lying around, and the most of the images have had the forms digitally reconfigured or the colours tweaked - as if he has used a filter.

Many of the themes of True North are in True South, namely that of exploration and dramatic landscape. No snow or ice this time round, but lots of lush sub-tropical vegetation. The sharpness of the blue-green in the glowing light-boxes and much bigger lambda prints really hits you. With panoramic breadth, rich chroma and everywhere a precise acuity, there is little of the blinding, optical dazzle of True North.

Aotearoa’s bush covered landforms are so richly complex compared to the austerity of the flat ‘Arctic’ he constructed for True North that Julien seems utterly enraptured in the source material for his representations, despite the incorporation of equipment used to create ‘natural’ images. In the end his static images are a bit ordinary, particularly to New Zealand eyes - because such scenes are commonplace and his alterations are too subtle. It is with the moving image and editing that his talent shines.

That is why his two screen installation of Dungeness, a super-8 homage to the charismatic innovative film-maker Derek Jarman, is the best thing in the show. It has a lively spontaneity as images of Jarman, his house and garden, and his actress friend Tilda Swinton, jump back and forth between the two screens. It has an appealing rawness that makes you want to see more (it is fresher, shorter and simpler than his full-feature Derek, and seems to be off-cuts from that film), whereas his static landscape images in comparison are over-cooked, over-processed, over-thought.


Reuben Paterson said...

This show is nothing but Isaac Julien's visual attempt to colonize our country and voice, like those before him who just came with to much of their own baggage. To dare inform us, yet alone his international community of the Urewera, and in such a crass, uninformed 2 week bush jaunt is an absolute insult - and so yet again the treaty gets broken.

What first hits you is just how badly a sense of place has been interpreted. And on inspection that these prints do not enlarge - pixel alert - which just enforces the crudeness in his ideology.

My point is this - we are not here to be interpreted, we are the sole voice of this country, and never again should this be allowed to happen. Stand back internationals - and stick to your own cultural issues, so we can at least have ownership over our own voice.

Reuben Paterson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Hurrell said...

Kia ora Reuben.

I'm just wondering why Tuhoe should be the sole voice. Care to elaborate?