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.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Art that repairs

Akiko Diegel and Asumi Mizuo
Room, 295 Karangahape Road
June 4 – June 20, 2009

Continuing the theme she set out in her recent Starkwhite installation, Akiko Diegel makes more ‘production line’ objects out of cut up and stitched blankets. Last time it was stacks of shopping bags. This time it is row upon row of slip-on, heel-less jandals - the variety that has a leather band you push your foot into. You could call them ‘slippers’ but it is the woolly tartan blanket material that makes them so, not their shape. Grouped in rows on the concrete floor according to blanket type, they number about 500 – aligned like tanks advancing across a field.

As soft wearable objects they look very comfortable, very relaxing. Placing your feet into them might do wonders for your blood pressure. Could perhaps massage your sole/soul to good health.

That healing possibility connects Diegel’s installation to the work of Asumi Mizuo. Mizuo collects pieces of broken Crown Lynn china and glues them together using an unusual Japanese process. Over the lines where the pieces are joined, she applies with a thin brush special paint made from gold powder. As if it were a healing balm, she also paints over chipped edges. Using spindly coffee tables Mizuo places one water jug, two desert dishes, six cups and four saucers on a plane above Diegel’s rows of footwear: little isolated towers peeking above a sea of pliable blanket-shoes.

The chinaware used here is of a variety most people would ignore, if not actively avoid, if they saw it in a second-hand shop. Mizuo sees things differently. As a recent migrant she sees herself as intervening in Crown Lynn’s ‘fall of domestic industrial production’ by adding value through exoticism. According to her catalogue statement, she hopes her intervention will ‘resurrect Crown Lynn’s use’ and ‘glorify the history, the damage and the disownment.’

Interestingly Mizuo thinks that 'everybody, more or less, employs some sort of exoticism to promote oneself' and that its negative connotations in this country perhaps are 'an expression of guilt of colonialisation; comodification,objectification and consumption of "others." '

Images courtesy of the artists.

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