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, December 17, 2008

Welcoming The Ignorant

Mladen Bizumic: Everyone is welcome
Te Tuhi billboard project
13 December – 25 January 2009

An excerpt from Kafka’s posthumously published novel ‘Amerika’ is here repeated in three small hoardings in different languages. Pitched to speakers of English, Maaori and Korean. The source of the quotation is not mentioned in any of them, so they will be taken at face value as advertisements – for that is what they seem. Take a look at the language. Click on the images. It is stirring stuff.

In Kafka’s book Karl Rossman, a poor depressed unemployed immigrant, gets hope by seeing a poster seeking artists for a theatre production. On the fence-lined streets outside Te Tuhi the poster’s text takes on new different meanings and Clayton and Oklahoma become mysterious local places, their whereabouts worth speculating over. They could be newly available housing divisions, or satirical mockeries of American globalisation. There is a hint of menace when we are dramatically told ‘If you miss your chance now you will miss it forever. If you think of the future you are one of us…Down with all those that do not believe in us.’

The text rails against outsiders, those who don’t support the particular community that is speaking and for whom the words are totalitarian propaganda. It offers instant employment for all artists, as long as they enlist ‘by midnight.’ For those readers on the streets of Pakuranga who don’t grasp it is in fact an artwork and part fairytale, and who aren’t aware of its connections with the large building across the road, it offers false hope.

Bizumic is currently residing in Berlin, so he can’t directly observe his impact on his audience. With this clever project he has created a mischief-making - but thoughtful – artwork, one that destroys the barriers between fiction and the 'real' world by changing the physical and conceptual context and so, the readership.

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