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, March 7, 2008

Worse than impotence

Tahi Moore: Various Failures
Gambia Castle, Auckland
29 February - 22 March 2008

There are two flyers for this show that provide contradictory explanations for its title. Moore is an extremely skilled writer, and the first flyer details his lack of confidence in the work, his second thoughts and lapses of faith in the ‘mechanics’ of pairings that he has made – binary combinations, by the way, being also a dominant theme in Simon Denny’s last Gambia Castle / Michael Lett show.

Here is what Moore writes:
So I see something and it has some kind of significance, and then I stick it with something else and that makes it a mechanism. I think the problem here is that if you can work it all out, half an hour later, everything's different again. I guess you might not notice so much if you're also moving, but if you're good at being still or fixing things, you might get irritated at this intuitive reflexive dynamic that's altered by any examination of it, and seems to be easy enough to go along with if you don't think about it.

The second flyer plays on an old Jeff Koons gag from his early Artforum advertisements, showing the artist lounging around a pool surrounded by bikinied babes. This Moore has turned around into a sexual reference about physical or emotional failure. As part of a pairing itself, it is clever, self–reflexive stuff.

Actually it is more than clever, it’s brilliant. The connections between the pairings over time reveal themselves to be deeply considered. If you read the two flyers together they become a meditation on the transience of desire, the numbness and futility of attraction. The word ‘mechanism’ becomes Duchampian.

I’m going to be accused of being over-interpretative after writing this, but let’s look at the installation.

Note firstly the pair of old blue jeans discarded on the floor. Then the video of a watch advertisement on a monitor placed under a watch pinned to the wall. With these elements, could the work be about the passing of time – specifically aging – and its consequences for (male) desire?

Checking out Moore’s grouping of images: first thing you notice in the room is the image of two perky young women sitting on toilets having a chat. The image seems to be about female bonding, the nature of friendship, and the exasperation of some heterosexual men at not having close women friends (as shown in Marco Ferreri’s dramatic 1976 film 'The Last Woman’ when the over-horny, depressed and unloved male character, played by Gerard Depardieu, cuts off his John Thomas with an electric meat-cutter).

Ferreri’s film is not alluded to in this installation, but its subject matter is. Moore obviously loves movies, so what does he do with them in the loops he shows here.

Next to a static photograph of a naked woman, supine and sexually available, is Moore’s treatment on an adjacent monitor of the Sci-Fi film Ultraviolet, now sepia toned and played backwards. It shows the interaction between the attractive heroine and a young male character and indicates a pining for lost time, a mourning that this youthful (and now in hindsight, erotic) period can never be recaptured.

Then there is the other pair of videos: one shows Moore’s Gambia Castle colleague, Nick Austin, contemplatively walking through the gallery space. Next to it on another monitor are sections of Derrida nattering about being framed on drug charges by the Czech police in Prague, mathematician John Nash explaining some theorem, and Daniel Malone, another Gambia Castle artist, being mock ferocious. All men note, being active and ‘intellectual’.

So I read this show as a meditation on male/female relations as filtered through the lens of heterosexual male aging. His earlier Gambia Castle show seems connected to these themes too. I’m arguing a case that this work is very knowing and very structured. If my discussion is a load of cobblers, please drop this site a line and tell me so.

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