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.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Placing trust

A.D. Schierning: Honesty
University of Auckland Library entrance
April 17 – May 15 2009

This beautifully made little display stand – with a cute little box-roof to keep the goods dry - is cobbled together from sawn up lengths of lichen-covered planks. It presents cans and pottles of herbs and growing veges for sale in the library foyer, in front of the gallery ‘window’. Initially it had several jars of delicious looking jams and chutneys on offer, but by the time I got to see it they had been taken, one assumes (one hopes) with appropriate financial recompense placed in the honesty box.

While this interactive sculpture is part of a wider project involved with helping starving artists, it is intriguing to see the word ‘honesty’ used in an art world context. Often it seems it is the socially circulated ‘story’ about the art that counts (eg the ODS Pivi goldfish work) and if dishonesty perpetuates that aim, then dishonesty will do. Okay, I’m now starting to sound like a cracked record…

On a red gingham table cloth on the bench top, Schierning has stitched a very clear message to the buyer: give all that you can; take only what you need.

I imagine her thinking probably goes something like this: please don’t exploit my trust by ripping me off to profit yourself through resale or hoarding of these products. If you genuinely don’t have much money I am happy to accept a small amount. This is not a commercially viable enterprise but an artwork where I am gracious enough to gift you a certain amount of my costs in preparing these products, in return for your needed social involvement. Enjoy the food by participating in this project, but acquire it knowing you have a clear conscience.

It would be interesting to find out how just honest A.D.Schierning’s student audience in fact is - when the sums are done and the remaining stock tallied after the show has finished. Did great quantities of jam or relish disappear without financial acknowledgement? Perhaps some buyers were excessively generous, contributing funds without even taking anything? It would be good to discover if firm conclusions could be established either way. After all the show is entitled ‘honesty’, so a final appraisal does seem a natural thing to do.

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