Thursday, February 18, 2010
Leatinu'u at Te Tuhi
13 February - 11 April
Video artist Jeremy Leatinu’u is the Iris Fisher Scholar of 2009, picked as an outstanding student from within Auckland’s tertiary art institutions. His exhibition involves a project in a Te Tuhi gallery with two projections on each side of a small wall in the centre of the space, and also a sculptural installation outside the room’s entrance - in the large communal room that links the café to the bookshop. It is a stack of desks and bookcases displaying four video monitors facing in four directions.
The main dual-projection work shows the artist sitting quietly cross-legged in the main pedestrian thoroughfare of the Otara market on a crowded summer's day. This act of nonchalant obstruction is filmed in real time in broad daylight, from parked cars positioned in front and behind, as weaving groups of shoppers bustle and jostle their way around him, trying not to hurt themselves or him.
In this examination of the social context of ‘body space’, no tempers flare; there is no confrontation, even though being low down he is quite difficult to see in his wilfully inconsiderate stance. The rear camera is further away than the front, and Leatinu'u back is hard to detect. At Otara, it is probably a different ambience from say that found on the busy footpaths of lower Queen St on Friday night.
Mind you, with his body language the artist looks unaggressive and purposeful. He clearly is not a genuine nuisance in the sense of being obnoxious, drunk or drugged out. He is in control of his body, vertically poised, with a subtle sense of serenity that would help diffuse most antagonism.
Leatinu’u is interested in the unstated rules of polite social behaviour, where while protocol is never explicit, it is still nevertheless grasped by the wider community. His other project with the four video monitors looks at various activities folk do for money that are often legally dodgy and of low prestige – though people who interact with them rarely openly say so. His video includes footage of a busker, car windscreen cleaners at an intersection, and somebody on a footpath holding a sign promoting the activities of a local brothel. Situated amongst desks and bookcases the videos add a blue versus white-collar distinction – while on another monitor the artist continually washes his (Samoan) hands with pink Lux soap as an acerbic comment on social and economic mobility.
It will be interesting to see where Leatinu’u goes from here. It’s smart work, but not haunting. Clever but not truly memorable. However it’s early days and I look forward to seeing more.