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, December 6, 2007

Theatre via video?

Stuart Sherman Video Works 1986 -1994 at Gambia Castle, Auckland. November 9 – December 1.

The video and performance works of innovative New York artist Stuart Sherman are very rarely seen in Australasia. In 1986 he came to the ‘Origins Originality and Beyond’ Biennale of Sydney and did a work at Performance Space in Cleveland St. Even more unusual, a sample of his work is currently being presented in the artist run gallery, Gambia Castle, on K’ Rd. What is especially interesting is that Sherman died in 2001, but appreciation for his contribution to performance and video art keeps on growing.

Gambia castle are showing a program of fifteen video works that come for the years 1986-94. Sherman’s reputation is based on his performance pieces, which are small in scale and a bit like puppetry with objects. The physical ingredients were portable and transported in a small suitcase. His video works have a lot of similarities.

The work is deadpan in its humour, but also serious in its Magrittean investigation of the relationship between objects and the language we use about them.
Sherman’s videos have a loony banter with reflexive jokes about the video’s own making and carefully written voiceovers. His sequences of shots have a fluxuslike whimsy and are meticulously planned, even in the way they look casual. Often a story has a false ending that carries on like a shaggy dog story. It teases the impatient viewer waiting for the narrative to be resolved.

These are intimate works in that you feel he is talking to you on an individual basis – almost confiding a personal secret. He uses the sotto voce technique of Frankie Howard with the reflexive intellectual preoccupations of experimental filmmakers like Michael Snow. It’s sort of music hall routines meeting innovative film praxis, fooling around with time and place, and mischievously upsetting the viewer’s expectations. Goofy and corny, but also mesmerisingly interesting.

top two images: firstly A Glass of Fish,1993, 2 mins; Berlin(West)/Andre Richtungen 1986, 6 min

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