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, January 14, 2010

Brilliantly evocative

Florence Wild & Clara Chon: Waterfront morals / Fatherly functions
Window, AU library foyer
23 December 2009 - 19 February 2010

In this exhibition within the narrow but high glassed-off gallery of Window there are three main items presented for scrutiny. One is a hessian mat draped across two low trestles or saw-horses. Stitched into it in different shades of green thread (for different walls) is the floor plan of a possibly Romanesque, rectangular fortress. We can see it has only one doorway at one end of the stone construction and regularly positioned buttresses going up the outside. The internal space is taken up by a complex maze, turning around the inner space so that the ‘target’ in the very centre is a long oblong hallway.

Another object is suspended from the ceiling on a hanger, and is perhaps a more mysterious and overt fetish item: a black woman’s top. It is covered with diagonal rows of pinned on silver safety pins - hundreds of them, all overlapping. Identifiable as a Punk fashion accoutrement it could be an oblique reference to Giovanni Intra’s famous studded suit. A type of armour that is both contemporary and medieval, it is a chain mail version of ‘cool’ perhaps.

The third item is a pair of austere hand-painted posters, not identical, stating the title of the musical revue ‘Jacques Brel is alive and living in Paris.’ They are positioned on the right-hand transparent end wall, over some of the vertical fluorescent tubes that illuminate the show.

So these three elements, what do they concoct when combined together? How do they relate to the show’s enigmatic title which seems to be about generational conflict?

The two sculptures allude to inaccessibility - unassailability perhaps – resulting from the separation caused by geographic, chronological and generational distance. Military and psychological protection is a murky metaphor mixed in with the stretch in taste between music and theatre from different decades – along with a smearing reference to ethical responsibility.

However you might speculate on their meaning, these intriguing exhibits work well collectively. A fine, nicely resonating exhibition at Window.

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