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.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Investigating info - once more

Justin Morgan: Information Recorded
Lopdell House, Titirangi
14 February -13 April 2008

Justin Morgan’s installation in the bay window of Lopdell House’s large gallery examines information and how we present it, and use it – when applied to a site like a gallery building. He is interested in how the viewer engages in ‘investigation and…interaction’ with an art work.

The show operates on two levels:

Firstly you have Morgan’s own interaction with the Lopdell House building from various sides, heights and angles, using photography (over 2000 tiny images on one small wall), computer sequencing, linear drawing on carbon paper, and found ‘readymade’ fragments.

Then you have the viewer’s interaction with Morgan’s material, trying to make sense of his display, looking though an assortment of pieces, trying to put the pertinent bits together, and speculating how they might function. The show is not about pleasing the eye – it is aesthetically indifferent – but about representation and the methods of correlation we use to deduce ‘meaning.’

Yet, like other shows I’ve recently seen here, this exhibition is very early seventies, but a type of ‘conceptual art’ based on structuralist photography - and mixed with other media. Somehow it misses the point of a building like Lopdell House in that its architectural success is not due to the sum of its parts but because of its total entity. Its appeal is as a cohesive unit, but in Morgan’s show, we get disparate pieces. He is hoping the viewer will be motivated to butt the various fragments together or overlap them, and so want to closely examine the building they are standing in.

However because his style of presentation is so deliberately bland in its functionality, the viewer is unlikely to get sparked off. They are not likely to care about analysing the information before them and how they might have used it. There is no carrot to lure them into participating, to arouse their curiosity. The show is quaint and thirty–odd years past its use-by date.

What is interesting is the show's affinities to the recent projects of David Clegg, who like Morgan is from Taranaki. Clegg's archivedestruct installations though are more social in their focus, use sound and image, are closer to situationist in flavour, and with a fascinating perversity in that he deliberately 'jams the signals' by mixing in radio broadcasts. Clegg is also pro-ocular with an aesthetic, design conscious, sensibility - combined as I've hinted, with humour. Morgan is dry, almost indifferent to his audience, and more preoccupied with his own processes and obsessions.

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