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.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

La femme à tête de chou-fleur

Mhairi-Clare Fitzpatrick and Robyn Hoonhout: Words Fail You
George Fraser Gallery
30 July - 1 August 2009

The pairing of these two Elam photographers is an interesting one because they are so different. One makes lightboxes for her images (backlit duratrans) that even when featuring living people, still in this context look like consumerable commodities for sale. The other shows pairs of women at work, in their places of employment, or in clubs, or neutral public spaces. There is no consistent pattern. The lighting conditions and the contextualising visual narrative keeps abruptly changing.

The most accessible images by Mhairi-Clare Fitzpatrick are of two young women in a freezing-works. An update of Darcy Lange perhaps, and in this show, they become positioned images of ‘authenticity’. Her other images seem overtly preoccupied with fakery, with odd smocks and wigs. They are bizarrely futuristic, as if off the set of A Clockwork Orange, but in ultra-violet light.

Robyn Hoonhout’s duratrans have pairs of objects (images of elderly women included) is if in a promotional campaign that might go in bus shelters. She seems to be contrasting human individuality with Fordist factory production - and deliberately mixing consumer with the consumed.

The essay by Lucille Holmes that goes with this show is in this context inappropriate, for like every other student theorist who has been writing over the last twenty-five years, she is obsessed with Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida and his use of the term punctum. She is also keen to show her erudition with the writings of Lacan and exactly how Barthes derived punctum from Lacan’s eleventh seminar. This is precious little use for anybody trying to grapple with Hoonhout and Fitzpatrick’s imagery – and will probably send them fleeing screaming from the George Fraser, never to return.


mhairi-clare said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Hurrell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Hurrell said...

Mhairi-Clare,you are very quick on the uptake. And rightly so.I apologise for the dumb-assed typo, so incredibly stupid -especially as I had done the article's tag correctly.
Fixed now.

Inappropriate essay? Well I see the function of such texts as to help provide access to the exhibition, not for the writer to go on some very private irrelevant digression. They are there to attract an audience to the venue, to help educate them.If they are written for some other purpose, that is fine, but better to position them elsewhere.

John Hurrell said...

Mhairi-Clare, let's develop this conversation a little? I'm curious about the disjointed nature of your image selection. Why have you done that? Is it calculated?

ralph paine said...

And so again...

Beware of critics who declare themselves to be catalysts. Like wolves in sheep's clothing, chances are they'll turn out in fact to be our inhibitors: Always wanting to block our flows, checkmate us, trip us up, correct us, catch us and our mates in flagrante delicto.

Precisely what has been gained in attacking Lucy Holmes in such a fucked-up manner? Lucy has been on the ?-Lacan-Barthes-? path for many, many years. If today that path has joined up with the paths of these two photographers, then so be it: A new virtuality has emerged... Within the cleared space of a gallery, in the airy-ness of penned thought.

Art is not an argument, it's simply, beautifully, a potential to be.

John Hurrell said...

Oh 'scuse me Ralph, so it is not actually what I said but whom I directed it at, that is the issue eh? Ignore the content, it's now become personal.

And Lucy is now part of the 'us' team, she's become a honourary artist, a luckless victim of the monstrous, 'inhibiting, blocking, correcting, checkmating', goosestepping critic.

Forget the public who visit the George Fraser. Forget trying to win new audences for these artists. Forget about the merits of effective communication and a wider vision beyond ivory tower academia. Get real, dude.

ralph paine said...

An Allegory...

Once upon a time in a place far, far away all the citizens there possessed wonderful faculties of the mind. They called these the
Understanding, the Imagination, the Judgement, the Perception. The faculties, it was said, were for the purposes of structuring
the world, of giving sense and meaning on the inside to the the random flux and chaos on the outside. Thus the aim of
the citizens was to reach an accord of the faculties, a kind of synthesis of all the different filtered inputs, a harmony of
the all the possible outputs.

Yet when it came to art, it was said that the citizens did not all share in the same faculties. That
some of the citizens, the artists, possessed genius but lacked taste; while the others, the spectators, possessed taste but lacked
genius. The genius of the artists was said to be a kind of wild, productive spirit, an ability to create the Beautiful - beautiful
events, beautiful things. Yet the taste which the spectators possessed was a kind of moral imperative, the ability and the desire to decide upon what was beautiful, and thus what was good in the world.

Now this moral imperative had long opened up a zone in this far away place, a zone in which the citizens might gather, a zone they
called the Public. The Public was where the citizens gathered in groups or in crowds for the pleasures and production of art. And there the citizen-spectators would judge amongst themselves the succeses and failures of this art, and there too they relayed these judgements to the artists themselves. Everyone called this a Community of Sense, and for the most part it worked well. But in time the citizenry found itself becoming far too populous & unruly, and what was more, far too abstract. A mass-crowd was developing inside the Public and the citizens were becoming strangers even among themselves... The old community was dying and something new was struggling to be born. And then, one bright and sunny morning, into this interregnum a new figure stepped forth, announcing: "I will represent the newly abstract populace; on its behalf I will judge the production of the genius of art... I, the critic, will represent the citizen-spectators". And so from that day on and for a long, long time the critic kept an eye on artistic production, watched over it, judged it, spurred it on, restarined it, reported it, nutured it and then condemned it, all the while keeping its wild, productive spirit in check...

But eventually it came to pass in that place far, far away that the citizens gave up on their notion of the faculties, preferring
instead to speak now only of the Brain: collective Brain, machinic Brain, cosmic Brain... Where the outside is always on the inside, and the inside is already travelling to somewhere else.

Yet what now, you may ask idle reader, of the Public, the spectators, the critic and the artists? Some citizens think that the Brain still selects and allocates tasks and sub-regions via the same old methods. Some dicern new methods mixed amongst the old. Others say: "Take your time, consider this new species that seeks a new language. A great wind is sweeping the earth. The sun is about to rise".... In the Brain.

John Hurrell said...

Thanks for your contributions to these discussions,Ralph. Thanks also to Mhairi-Clare,Simon,Tim and others. Terrific to get these ideas aired.