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, September 16, 2008

Hood the Hoon

Robert Hood: Cyclical Adjustment Vacuum Manifold
11 September – 18 October 2008

In the main ARTSPACE gallery Robert Hood, from Christchurch, presents an installation that partially celebrates and partially critiques boy racer larrikinism. A pile of about forty crumpled car windscreens sprawls across the floor, the shattered green glass buckled and bent.

On a nearby wall is a large coloured photograph of the end of a country road overlooking Harewood Airport. The macadam is black with the rubber-streaked remnants of repeated burnouts. The site is obviously a social space that regularly attracts its own community.

Adjacent on the same wall is a pinned up assortment of paper WOF pockets, dates printed on, plus a variety of squashed cans that once held alcoholic drinks. There are also flattened cigarette cartons displaying gruesome carcinogenic photographs and written warnings.

These three components make a wonderful synthesis. Collectively they resonate powerfully, with the flattened objects, anti-smoking language and medical imagery spreading their aura over to the rest of the gallery. This is grim visual poetry of the utmost sophistication.

Yet there is humour too, even empathy. On a video monitor is the hilariously wagging tail on what appears to be a dog, but which is in fact a kunekune, a New Zealand native pig.

So the tail is wagging the ‘dog’? What is Hood saying if he is articulating anything? What compels boy racers to gather into groups and compete with their cars? Obviously they are having fun (and perhaps that is all Hood intends as a comment) but perhaps there are wider issues at stake about the masculinity of our culture in general. Maybe the use of a pig is in itself loaded.

Hood’s calculatedly ambiguous installation is remarkably evocative, a real treat. Auckland art lovers are lucky ARTSPACE has chosen to present it.

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