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.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Looped to shred, shred to loop

Daniel Webby: For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.
31 July – 28 August 2009

This onsite installation by Daniel Webby in the foyer of the university library walks a sort of high-wire act between the conceptually rich text he has carefully prepared, and the gallery’s online work by Michael Kontopoulos (Removal Studies) - where an unseen machine constantly removes bedding from a sleeping figure, the machine's creator.

In the narrow Window gallery space Webby has constructed an upright headless torso from wire netting and white plastic shopping bags. It has upraised arms and is standing in a pile of shredded paper. For Webby, this is a clumsily made sculpture - one that is heavy-handed compared to say his ACFA installation last year or the earlier work he made with Boris Dornbusch for Room 103 – but it is funny, in a grim black sense, with its references to mindless wastage.

It raises the question of the relationship between the slivers of paper and the figure. Is the paper from the absent head, or from other figures destroyed by a rapidly encroaching virus? Maybe it is from Kontopoulos’s bed.

Webby’s takeaway text – which is partially shredded - discusses three elements of research:

Firstly, sociologist Robert Merton’s interest in self-perpetuating, snowballing systems of economic and cultural capital that favour the advantaged and which he links to the Biblical quote from Matthew that is the title for this show.

Secondly, new types of influenza that prey not on the weak but the healthy, that have a feedback looping system where a pathogenic virus can feed on immune systems that strengthen instead of weakening it.

Thirdly, David Bohm’s attempt to blend recent quantum notions of subject-dependent strategies of observing matter with earlier Newtonian subject-object principles, by inventing the verb form the rheomode. This concept incorporates movement in thinking and has the verb itself, not nouns, determining declensional structuring.

Webby’s project looks like it is based on a predetermined narrative about looping that determines his imagery. His Window display is not as complicated (or as satisfying - to me anyway) as his earlier work, though his notes replace visual complexity with semantic layering. An unusual show.

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