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.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Anton Parsons: Foot – Pound – Second
Two Rooms, Auckland
13 March - 5 April 2008

Anton Parsons is chiefly known for his freestanding ‘braille’ sculptures and ‘cool store’ doorways of bright, translucent plastic strips. The metal ‘braille’ sculptures have now evolved into wall works where the protruding knobs have changed into candle-like cylinders, and the double-helix forms into horizontal beams.

Like Peter Robinson’s lambda prints of binary 0/1 combinations, which quoted excerpts of Sartre and Dante, Parsons is preoccupied with coding. He likes to make puzzles but he doesn’t care if you don’t try to decipher them. You can seek clues from his current titles, or those of his earlier works, if you wish. You might ponder if punctuation exists alongside the letters, and if you discover the text, then you might wish to find a context to ascertain the author’s viewpoint, and possibly its relevance to your own needs.

To begin to crack these bar and cylinder works you’ll want to think about which of the four sides of the beam are used, how many at each regular interval are protruding and how far are they extending. But, hey reader, there is a problem of how much energy do you really want to invest in this work? Do you really want to grapple with all this palaver or are you just happy with the way it looks?

Is there an issue here, a choice of formal, sensual pleasures versus literary content, or is there a middle ground, a third alternative? That option might be Parsons critiquing the esoteric nature of contemporary art itself (maybe it's become over academic?), noting the wall of incomprehension that many potential art lovers sometimes find themselves banging their heads against.

Maybe he is on a power trip that enjoys teasing and manipulating his audience, tossing them the occasional crumb to help them speculate on something he wiil never reveal? Maybe the real Anton Parsons sculpture is not to be found in a gallery space at all, but in the mental space of his audience as they analyse his formal properties and home in on likely solutions. Perhaps the most cynical possibility is that he is just making it all up, and improvising as he goes along? Such an extreme scenario is outrageously wild but not actually a problem if visual appeal is a priority for the viewer. If it is not, then they have to look at his history, the various past works, assess what is verifiable from his artist's statements, and see if the same logic applies.

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