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, November 5, 2009

Three films

Annie Bradley, Cellulite Rose, Susie Thomas: Lending Looks To Other People
The Film Archive
17 October - 21 November 2009

I like the crazy ambiguities of this title. Is it about misspelt 'books', lending supportive glances, or the activity of borrowing or sharing? This confusion is not just me being a bit thick. It’s deliberate. It’s a little tricky figuring out who does what in this show. Even the writer of the accompanying text, Matthew Crookes, is not very sure for example, of what Cellulite Rose is going to contribute. He never really finds out.

What turns out to be her work, was I initially thought, a second part of Annie Bradley’s. And a soundtrack I imagined was Cellulite Rose’s, ends up being made by Susie Thomas. Yet in a perverse way all this scrambled muddle makes sense, for the show’s theme - if there is one – seems to be about slippery identity (Rose), false decoys (Thomas), and the reliably stable self (Bradley).

Rose, with her two tiny screens propped up in the centre of the floor, has a young woman (the artist?) addressing the camera about the nature of the self, causality and identity – pondering some of the issues an empiricist philosopher like David Hume raised three hundred years ago - and attacking viewer assumptions about any fixed essence behind her corporeal presence, and inanimate objects like light switches.

Bradley’s film, on the end wall, is about the attempted transmission of knowledge from a patient teacher to a pupil trying to learn to whistle, but who is getting nowhere. He can’t get the mechanics of manipulating his lips and cheeks correctly. The funny thing is that the coach, though long suffering, is no musical virtuoso. Technically she is quite clumsy. However she is also a rock of dependability, constantly encouraging and supportive.

Susie Thomas’s film seems to be a satire about claustrophobic reflexivity, a joke about art that obsesses over its own production processes as content. It is a long scrolling text about copyright and legal stipulations, with her own name appropriately inserted. Designed I think to make you irritated and groan, it has a sound track that in contrast is quite gorgeous, espousing the natural world outside the gallery through the recorded clicks and whirrs of what sounds to me like a flock of starlings.

Their chirruping voices sound electronic, even metallic, but they bring to mind the world of non-art, unless you are thinking of John Cage and his use of 'given' ambient sound. This densely textured birdsong seems to be the real point of Thomas’ project, and the moving legalese a droll excuse for some accompanying visual material needed to pull an audience. The film is the bait to which you will ‘lend a look’, but the solid work – the ‘art’ part which you are initially not aware of (and for which you need the headphones) - is the avian soundtrack.

This is a clever, subtle little show that these three artists have organised. Worth viewing on your way into ARTSPACE.

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