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, July 14, 2009

The lair of the white worm

Tiffany Rewa Newrick: New work
Essay by Matthew Crookes
The New Zealand Film Archive Nga Kaitiaki O Nga Taonga Whitiahua
Karangahape Rd
11 July - 15 August 2009

We have here an interesting b/w film installation positioned in the NZFA room next door to ARTSPACE: two projections on opposite walls, with cameras aimed down two narrow corridors that are ostensibly linked up to be a continuing long narrow space. It has small roller doors on one side and hinged locker doors on the other.

Standing in the middle and swivelling your head from left to right and back again, you can see that one corridor is slightly shorter and lit at the far end, while the other is longer and dark. Each has brief puddles of light intermittently spaced throughout.

For a lot of the time, nothing happens. While you are twiddling your thumbs, shuffling and getting ready to leave, suddenly with no warning, an amorphous transparent thing appears from nowhere and slowly glides and wobbles its way down the corridor on the left. This soft, air-filled creature is compared by Matthew Crookes in his useful on-site essay to the sinister guard balloon in Patrick MacGoohan’s sixties Sci-Fi TV series The Prisoner. However I think it is less ball-shaped or opaque - and more sausage-like. It is long, squat and membranous.

It reaches the far end, turns off to the right and after briefly disappearing comes back, advances towards you and then carries on on the other screen.

Same thing happens. It retreats to the far end, briefly turns to the right to disappear and then returns. Only this time when it reaches you it disappears. It doesn’t continue on down the other corridor.

The conclusion you reach from all this is that there is a T-shaped set of corridors, not a linked rectangle as some might suppose, which perhaps would be more rational in a building. The screening room is the cross-bar of the T so that no cameras are aimed down the stem. It is from this unseen space that the ‘thing’ appears and to which it returns, before coming back again later.

So what does it all mean, if ‘meaning’ is something other than the experiential? A joke about surveillance perhaps? A rueful comment on white colonial expansionism maybe? Or just a Sci-Fi experiment? Considering there is no sound, this is a highly successful example of mood manipulation. It’s got real atmosphere attained only by visual means. It also plays with the viewer’s sense of logic. Bring a thermos and collapsible stool.

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