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.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Psychedelic days; Lynchian nights

Hannah and Aaron Beehre 2008
Vavasour Godkin
7 August – 6 September 2008

Hannah and Aaron Beehre are known in the art world for their popular interactive ‘paintings’ where loud noises make shrubs on large plasma screens start to drop their leaves. Excitable children love them, especially in Christchurch Art Gallery.

This Auckland show presents domestic-sized, framed works. The four that are interactive use dark-toned photographs, with night-time images of Hagley Park that are inspired by David Lynch’s TV series ‘Twin Peaks.’ (Slightly different from the film of the same name, also called ‘Fire Walk with Me’, that is not so soapy, much creepier and with a smaller cast.)

The shots of Hagley Park are taken round by Christchurch's Public Hospital, Botanical Gardens and sports playing fields. They have been made into ‘sublimation prints’, where intense dyes are applied to a thin gauzelike synthetic material so the fallen autumn leaves become bright pink. There is no distortion, but there is definitely a ‘trippy’ ambience in the daylight imagery of the non-interactive works. Their shapes have an attractive but discreet flatness, slightly like landscape images from early railway calendars of the twenties.

The interactive night-time ones show forest clearings and brooks where murders, hideous acts of sexual violence and furtive drug deals might occur. Any close proximity of the viewer gets small groups of mauve fireflies circling between the lower branches. Their colour is restrained. You have to look closely.

I think you would tire of the firefly works quickly if you owned them, but the garish sunlit, avenued landscapes, perversely, are more subtle. The strangeness of their chromatic intensity is hard to pin down. Though static, they radiate a sort of delicate sci-fi impressionism and hold your interest.

1 comment:

artfromspace said...

Hi John, I'm glad you've written about this because I really liked the show but it's one that could easily have gone unnoticed. Given the nature of much 'multi-media', these works are pleasingly subtle in their presentation. A year or two ago in a Vavasour Godkin group show there was an earlier prototype, which used a projector to overlay fireflies onto the image. The integration of a screen within the work is a much tidier and more effective solution. The fact that the fireflies, if that's what they are and not some more mysterious force, only come out when you attend to them and hide when you attend too closely, could help avoid the effect tiring, but only spending a lot of time with one of these would prove that.

Like much of Lynch's films, these are based on saccharine scenarios, but it is the dark undercurrents of suburban torment behind the picket fence facade that contributes the unsettling after-taste to the chocolate box imagery. Each of the works are named after a Twin Peaks character - mostly sweet high school girls who turn out to have sordid extra-curricular lives - and the mysterious psychiatrist, Dr Jacobey. These could be sites of misadventure, earlier scenes of more innocent times (Lynch's repeated use of Laura Palmer's prom queen photo has this effect), or some sort of psychological landscape, much like Lynch's other-worldly red room. I like your observation of the deceptively perverse garishness of these autumnal park scenes. And that these are potential sites of after-dark violence - a landscape's alter-ego. Perhaps Lynch should visit Christchurch. I often think of the Twin Peaks pines when driving south to Taupo.

Did you notice the red velvet curtain draped over the window near the office?

For the record, Twin Peaks exists as a movie (a summary of the first series), a pilot (feature length first episode), the tv series and, much later, there was the prequel, Fire Walk With Me, which was extraordinary to see on the big screen having inhabited Twin Peaks for so long through the television.

Andrew Clifford