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.

Friday, February 8, 2008

You are where?

You Are Here: Fiona Connor, Finn Ferrier, Kah Bee Chow, Alex Monteith, John Ward Knox – curated by Ariane Craig-Smith

ARTSPACE, Auckland
2 February - 1 March 2008

I must be confusing it with another street name?... It happens rather often this way, that we believe in things that are quite false: it is enough that some fragment of a memory, come from elsewhere, enters into some coherent pattern open to it, or else that we unconsciously fuse two disparate halves, or still that we reverse the order of the elements in some causal system, to fashion in our minds chimerical objects, having for us all the appearances of reality.
Alain Robbe-Grillet (Djinn)

ARTSPACE’s current curatorial intern, Ariane Craig-Smith has taken an innovative approach to this ‘art mapping’ exhibition, for although it is entitled ‘You are here’ it has very little obviously in common with those city maps that feature that locating phrase, nor has it much in common with the book of that title by Kitty Harmon that deals with images made by artists incorporating maps or alluding to them.

There are no maps at all in this show, save a floor plan of ARTSPACE that shows you where the eleven works are positioned. The exhibition is more about bodily sensations of movement, movement’s traces, those speculative processes that assist us in finding a direction, and certain correlations we use to determine location. The focus is really the thinking behind maps rather than maps themselves, in particular the correlation of the indexical where connections are matched up and parallels found linking the artefact with the outside world. In other words, the nature of those representations that help us move through space and understand it.

The artworks take several approaches. Some record traces of their audience’s movement as they explore the exhibition. Kah Bee Chow and Finn Ferrier have created a raked sand garden at the bottom of the stairs that gallery–goers step into and disturb when they go to examine Fiona Connor’s replica of the ARTSPACE circular noticeboard. Finn Ferrier has also created a fake parquet surface by stencilling a zigzag motif with varnish onto ARTSPACE’s concrete floor. Pehaps this layer will wear out as people walk over it so a path becomes detectable.

Other works, like John Ward Knox’s small biro drawings, are textured rubbings taken off embossed wallpaper. Two of these ‘correlations’ tease the audience because the top halves are identical but their bottom halves differ. They are remote cousins of Fiona Connor’s replicas of an imagined ‘ripped up’ ARTSPACE foyer staircase, mysteriously dumped in the main gallery.

Filmed records of artist movements are seen in John Ward Knox’s video of himself in Aotea Square performing like a ‘dancing bee’ various stepping movements modelled on three small drawings pinned to the wall. Similar are parts of Kah Bee Chow’s video spoof on Irma Vep and The Phantom of the Opera, especially when the catwoman-like protagonist is self consciously moving over the ARTSPACE roof. The viewer thinks of the building they are standing – or sitting – in, the movie referents for the satire, and puzzles over some Photoshopped scenes of Chow’s parents and their garden (see above) which incongruously appear as if transported from another location.

The motion of a racing motorcyclist’s body circumnavigating the Taupo Racetrack is recorded by Alex Monteith in her project that uses cameras facing both forward and backward. The resulting looped projections screened in a corner, cause a particularly physical response from the viewer, especially when the rider leans over while turning into bends. Viewers also have the opportunity to move their own vertical bodies through normally unreachable sections of the main gallery if they use a specially raised, large platform provided by Fiona Connor, Kah Bee Chow and Finn Ferrier. Its height allows the audience to look through temporarily installed clear glass panes in the horizontal windows at the top of the walls, and study Auckland’s urban landscape afresh.

This unique chance to explore the geographical and social meanings behind ARTSPACE’s municipal location is a special self-reflexive opportunity unique to this exhibition, a declaration that subtly announces to the show’s continually changing audience that they are there – these chances are rare - so make the most of it.

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