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.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Malone beats Malevich

Daniel Malone: Barbarian in the Garden
Sue Crockford
2 March - 27 March 2010

Daniel Malone has been living in Poland for a while now, and is about to marry the Polish woman who successfully persuaded him to move from Auckland to Warsaw, so he obviously is enamoured with the culture and its people. He has organised two superb shows of Polish conceptual art for Gambia Castle and made that country a central ingredient for one of his own Gambia Castle performances. It is no surprise then that the title of this show Malone has taken from a book of travel writings by the Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert.

In the videoed performance and installation Hotel Polonia that has pride of place in his Crockford show, Malone is indeed a ‘barbarian in the garden’. He is severely beating - on a rack - some fake [modified) ‘Maleviches’ which he has changed from abstract Suprematist paintings to weapons - in the form of angular and geometric cannons. (Malevich – by the way - was not a Russian but a Pole, something the Polish are understandably proud of. He exhibited at Hotel Polonia in Warsaw in 1927 and returned to Russia where he was tortured and imprisoned. He died in 1935 of cancer.)

Malone's ferocity in his backyard with a couple of racquet-like carpet beaters on these ersatz Maleviches is loaded with interpretative possibilities. He could be commenting on the brutality Malevich suffered bodily at the hands of the Russian state police who felt threatened by his non-representational symbolism. He could also with his videoed aggression be commenting on the competitiveness of most art practice – it has a rivalry with other works of the present and of the past.

He is also pummelling the dust out of these ‘artworks’, cleaning up and rejuvenating them – perhaps thumping them into life as central African artists used to hammer nails into fetish ‘power sculptures’: to energise the spirits that dwelt within.

Malone loves testing out metaphors by swapping unusual materials around, inserting them where they are least expected. There is a series of patterned images here where he has photographed the designs of fabric on passenger seats on Polish buses and trains, and superimposed them on floor mats that you wipe your feet on. On a train you would not place your filthy boots on a passenger seat, but here Malone is wilfully making such a juxtaposition. He seems to be thumbing his nose at the various logos for the transport corporates that have resulted from the new ‘liberated’ Europe. He is expressing his scorn for those private enterprises that replaced the collective amenities of Eastern Block communism – mourning the loss.

No comments: