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, December 9, 2008

Newcall show

Group Show: NSFW
6 December - 20 December 2008

This is a Christmas show that has no interest in sales. It is more a communal installation/video exhibition with a few unpriced knick/knacks in the office, a display that focuses on the architecture and history of the Newcall building, and the social interconnections between and around the nine participants who, in 2004-5, shared a large studio in Achilles House.

It is not an overly user friendly show – nothing is labelled. You have to ask the (admittedly very obliging) people minding the gallery who made what and where the artworks are. What exists is more of a collective identity where curators and artist friends are part of a team, and where on the catalogue, the work places (ie. jobs) of the participants are listed alongside their names. This is to help you grasp the imagery in a Fiona Connor video displayed in one of the studios, showing these artists’ work stations within various institutions.

The prevalent theme though is the Newcall building and the changes since it first opened as Eden House thirty years ago. To further this examination the gallery space has been physically expanded by unscrewing all the inside doors that open into recently added side-rooms (now studios) and leaning them together in the middle. This freestanding stack is another Fiona Connor artwork – where you try and see if there are ‘fake’ doors amongst the genuine. There is also a Kah Bee Chow video projected onto it of a written countdown to now of the years and months since 1978.

Within the main space is a huge drinking straw by Ben Tankard, and in the office Tankard’s other work, a video of Santa’s famous creepily beckoning finger - that scares adults more than children. The straw is next to a huge stagelike, inverted box, covered in grey carpet, by Leah Mulgrew – a piece of fluffy, tatty minimalism - and outside, hanging off the staircase landing, is a recently made Newcall sign created by Nell May.

My favourite works are the two earnest collections of weathered man-made and natural objects (one of them rocks and chunks of concrete) organised by Finn Ferrier - their classifying names dutifully written on in white ink as all good museum registration practice apparently insists. There is also a still-working commemorative ‘Eden House clock’ embedded in a brick dug up by Ferrier, and Clara Chon’s photocopied, hand-printed and coloured transcripts of mini-conversations between herself, teachers and friends. The latter’s half-uttered bits of light chat fill up several pages in a plastic folder and are entertainingly inane. They are more successful than her Ed Ruscha influenced text works currently seen across town in City Art Rooms' Young Blood Salon II show. Those seem comparatively mannered and over-thought.

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