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A ROUND TABLE DISCUSSIONjj

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Projects 2020 curator, Micheal Do, in conversation online with artists Kirsty McNeil, Xander Dixon, Hohua Thompson, Inga Fillary and Rozana Lee.

 


XANDER DIXONjj

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Welcome Mat
2020

Polypropylene brush, NZ pine frame, archival glass

Contact: hi@xanderdixon.com

Commissioned with support from Creative New Zealand

Xander Dixon explores the impulses and contradictions of the national conservation estate. Welcome Mat (2020) references the built environment of conservation biosecurity, currently present on the peripheries of Aotearoa’s Kauri forests. The soil borne fungal disease, Kauri dieback, is slowly killing large swathes of Kauri forest in New Zealand.  Spread through the transfer of infected soil, much of the contamination is a result of human intervention through public walking trails.

Whilst rāhui has seen the closure of significant areas of forest, footwear cleaning stations have also been established at the entrance of some walking areas. These require walkers to use scrubbing brushes and grates, with Trigene detergent sprays to sanitise footwear. Presciently and portently, Dixon’s works refer to the management of such a complicated ecological hazard – where cultural and ecological values meet political.  More than a rhetorical flourish, these works are neither superficial or didactic; they serve as testament that the future of the forest, and indeed the natural world we inhabit is fragile. How we manage our engagement with them is crucial to their longevity.

– Micheal Do

Images: Xander Dixon, Welcome Mat (digital render), 2020, polypropylene brush, NZ pine frame, archival glass. Courtesy the artist.

Xander Dixon Bio


INGA FILLARYjj

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untitled
2020

wall painting using detritus, rubbish and soil from Auckland
dimensions variable
all images courtesy the artist

Contact: i.fillary@me.com

Commissioned with support from Creative New Zealand

In untitled (2020), Inga Fillary reclaims the landscape as a source of intellectual and sensual delight — using it as both the inspiration and material for a wall painting. Drawing upon a lineage of land art artists — including Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Long and Robert Smithson — along with Japanese Modernists including the Gutai painter Kazuo Shiraga, Fillary has translated these Modernist conceptions of landscape, art, the economy of materials and spontaneity into her own eclectic, contemporary vision of the landscape.

Commissioned by Auckland Art Fair, Fillary’s project was intended to unfold over the course of the fair. Beginning as a blank installation, Fillary in daily performances lasting forty-five minutes would paint the space using soil and other detritus and found objects sourced from natural environments in Auckland. During each performance, additional marks, splatters would be added to the composition, creating a palimpsest of human-made mark making. By repeating these gestures, Fillary intended to fill the space with the seriousness, credence, beauty and occasionally humour that exists within landscapes. In this way, Fillary’s ideas and ambition ripple with a terrific meditation of the fragility of the earth, the human role in its degradation and its importance in affecting the human spirit.

– Micheal Do

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FROM THE ARTIST

My proposed Project for Auckland Art Fair continues my ongoing love affair with materiality – specifically, dirt. I like the idea of dirt as displaced matter, somehow separated from culture. Cleanliness is almost what makes us human! Hygiene and evolution seem to go hand-in-hand in a way. To clean is to impose organisation on the world, and dirt throws us out of whack by defying this order. I like the idea of being transported beyond our structured society by engaging with dirt – shaking hands with the material, to borrow the words of Kazuo Shiraga.

 

Images: Inga Fillary, experiments 1-3, documentation of performance ephemera, soil and plastic. Courtesy of the artist.

 

 

INGA FILLARY BIO


PENG JIHENGjj

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Blessing Machine
2020

bespoke computer and software
450 x 440 x 170 mm

Contact: p.jiheng@outlook.com

Commissioned with support from Creative New Zealand

Regularly experiencing the confusion that Chinese naming conventions cause in Western countries, Peng Jiheng developed Blessing Machine (2020), a computer that translates English names into their Chinese equivalents. To operate the machine, users submit their Christian names to the computer, which are then translated into a Chinese equivalent, along with a printed blessing. By generating these outcomes, Peng’s seemingly innocuous machine offers a gesture to bridge cultural divides and celebrate the cultural plurality.

However, the work contains a shadowy undertone — alluding to a battle for data in the digital realm. While the user interface only asks for the user’s first and last name, Blessing Machine is analogous to the various online and physical portals that require users to enter sensitive data — such as addresses, birth dates, emails, passwords, secret questions — in order to access free services, such as social networking and email. As these online organisations increase their reach, using this data for marketing, and for more nefarious purposes in the case of Cambridge Analytica, Blessing Machine offers portent insight into the extent that consumers are willing to offer their information to these large organisations. As we ponder the information asymmetry between user and providers in the online era, these companies are remaking economics, government and privacy. In the meantime, the space between our personal and public lives is diminishing by the second.

– Micheal Do

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FROM THE ARTIST

PENG JIHANG BIO


ROZANA LEEjj

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One Way Amorphous Road
2020

melted wax drawing, fabric dye and ink on silks and linen
dimensions variable
all images courtesy the artist.

Contact: rozanalee@hotmail.com

Rozana Lee explores the way global histories and cultural identities are woven into textile aesthetics, production and trade. Using the visual language of Indonesian Batik, she creates sumptuous hanging forms containing motifs that portray the complex history of fabric production and relationships. Batik emerges from the Javanese word “ambatik” which means “a cloth with dots”. While closely associated with the Malay Archipelago, the fabric has many variations including Dutch resin-resist print, a fabric inspired by Indonesian batik, but mass manufactured in Holland for export to West Africa where it now is an important element of African culture and identity. Lee draws upon research like this to inform her practice.

After sketching different designs and patterns, Lee draws these patterns using hot beeswax applied using a Tjanting — a fountain pen-like tool with a small copper cup and a tiny spout. The fabric is then dyed one colour at a time, depending on the design. The wax acts as a resist, protecting the drawn patterns from absorbing the colour. The installation One Way Amorphous Road (2020) extends Lee’s practice in reframing textile traditions. While these signs and symbols may not be immediately clear to lay audiences, they contain appropriated and recontextualised imagery and altered process that is known to those privy to these cultural signifiers. In this way, Lee’s work function as an anti-archive that prompts audiences to re-evaluate and question the notion of originality in cultural identity in the post-colonial era, as well as the economic, social and political circumstances which have marginalised non-Western art and craft traditions.

 – Micheal Do

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FROM THE ARTIST

My practice looks at my personal relation to South-East Asia, its connection to Aotearoa New Zealand, and the political and material histories connecting these countries together.

I’ve made colourful Batik fabrics to form an installation. This gives me the freedom to hang the fabrics from the ceiling, draped across free-standing frames or spread out on the floor. My chosen method of drawing using traditional pen-like tool for applying hot wax onto the fabric speaks about my Indonesian cultural heritage. In the past, ornamental patterns described a tribe to itself or to other tribes. They now tell a story of my navigations across and between cultures.



Image: Rozana Lee, Vermillion Dream, 2020,
melted wax drawing, fabric dye and ink on silk, 3000x1100mm
pine wood standing frame with oil tinted varnish, 1610 x 1180 x 400 mm.
NZ$3000

 


Image: Rozana Lee, Cempaka/Magnolia (detail), 2019, melted wax drawing on linen, 5200 x 1100mm. Courtesy of the artist.

 

ROZANA LEE BIO


KIRSTY McNEILjj

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Wandersmänner
2020

plastic, photographs, found objects
approximately 1000mm x 1400mm each

Contact: kirsty.mcneil@gmail.com

Commissioned with support from Britomart

The artistic act of walking is an evergreen subject in the arts having emerged from the 19th century European artistic movement Romanticism, which emphasised the importance of emotion and individualism. This romantic desire to walk, written about by philosophers Fredrich Nietzsche and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, morphed into the mythic flâneur — or urban explorer — figure of the early 20th century. For McNeil, the politics of walking, encountering and conquering are deeply embedded within her practice. Comprising of collaged photographs of Auckland footpaths housed in plastic skeletal structures and objects collected during her journeys, Wandersmänner (2020), which was to have been installed in Britomart, functions as an archive of Auckland’s built environment.

As a woman exploring public space, these artistic archives offer us a loaded personal and political examination of architecture and spaces which have typically been designed and constructed by men. By documenting her walks — which itself allows for a personal, slow engagement of the world — these works are the result of McNeil’s process of prioritising, recording and organising the aspects of environment relevant to her experience of the world. In this way, these works display an alternate history of the built environment: one which recognises, privileges and preferences alternative subjectivities that have previously been disregarded by mainstream art and architecture histories.

 – Micheal Do

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FROM THE ARTIST

Ed Casey says that journeys, “not only take us to places but embroil us in them”.

These works, made from photocopied images of footpaths collaged over skeletal structures, respond to the everyday spatial practice of walking and the movement of the body across the spaces of the city as an ineluctable engagement with place.

 

Images: Kirtsy McNeil, Wandersmänner, 2020, plastic, photographs, found objects, approx 1000mm x 1400mm. Courtesy of the artist

 

KIRSTY McNEIL BIO


MARK SCHRODERjj

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V P L N (No. 4)
2020

installation
dimensions variable

Commissioned with support from Creative New Zealand 

Mark Schroder has long been fascinated by market economics and the prevalence of fraudulent business schemes. Of particular interest is the fine line between the ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ nature of pyramid schemes. A seemingly innocuous multi-level marketing scheme, these schemes sell hollow products to mask their true nature. The scheme-scam ruse typically follows this progression: the scheme creators recruit distributor‑members with the promise of amazing returns. Returns are premised on the basis of selling ‘product’ but in reality, come from the recruitment of more unsuspecting distributor‑members buying in. As the scheme progresses the number of victims increases; the need for exponential growth to sustain the scheme-scam ultimately proves unsustainable.

In Schroder’s fictional fraudulent scheme, V P L N No.4 (2020), the installation serves as a “front” that sells lifestyle supplements in a multi‑level marketing scheme. However, the front exists to hide a fictitious pyramid scheme. Within the installation, Schroder has included empty ceramic protein powders, gleaming fridges of branded supplements and energy drinks, along with highly polished advertisements and posters that refer to the bizarre and secretive strategies these schemes use to attract their victims. This fictionalised store front — intended for installation at the entrance to the Fair — offers participants a harsh introduction to market economies, while also serving as an eerie reminder of the economic, personal and social costs of unchecked criminality.

In an ironic gesture, Schroder’s installation also alludes to the underside of commercial art, which is often used to launder money or assist in tax avoidance. The art world, which is based on relationships, private agreements and trust, provides a climate ripe for exploitation by the unscrupulous — asking fair visitors to re-examine the context of their surrounds further.

– Micheal Do

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FROM THE ARTIST

VPLN offers unique opportunities that can lead to higher levels of success and achievement. Tested and proven, VPLN is designed to maximise rewards for effort and provide substantial and ongoing income. You have the opportunity to control your future.

The install plan for V P L N (No. 4) featured a lot of black and greys—black corflute walls, grey carpet squares, black shrink-wrapped boxes and pallets, and dark grey chairs. Promotional material featured pops of deco colour, yellow-pink-teal gradients, to create an enticing, aspirational (unattainable) pre-crash 80s vibe. The empty shells of the product are presented in the form of sleek black ceramic containers.

In the context of the curatorial provocation of ‘space as substance’ for the 2020 Projects, V P L N (No. 4) was to feature three zones. Zone one, the shop ‘front’, would feature empty ceramic protein powder containers and a buzzing fridge full of branded energy supplement drinks. Flat screen TVs and posters, glimmering in hi-glo Miami deco colours, would hype the VPLN scheme-scam brand and ‘rewards’ enjoyed by the successful few at the top of the chain. ‘Rewards’ everyone has the opportunity to obtain (well that’s what the marketing says). Zone two was to be a mass of pallets stacked high with boxes wrapped in black shrink wrap. Presumably more merch and products to be sold to the ‘unsuspecting’. Zone three was to be a circle of chairs focused on a pull-up screen with a flickering VPLN introductory PowerPoint presentation. Here the recruitment initiation played out with cult like undertones. VPLN is revealed to be a space that lacks substance. All smoke and mirrors.

Images: Mark Schroder, V P L N brand and marketing collateral (in development), 2020, digital render, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.

  

MARK SCHRODER BIO


HŌHUA THOMPSONjj

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Pupuri
2020

soil installation, kūmara
dimensions variable
all images courtesy the artist

Commissioned with support from Britomart

Hōhua Thompson develops installations that challenge colonial logic, using tribal knowledge and practices to call for Māori cultural rejuvenation. For the Te Arawa people, to whom Thompson belongs, the kūmara holds an important role. Canoe traditions explain that the kūmara was saved by the tupuna Whakaotirangi during the migration from Hawaiki when other plants were lost. Building upon this tradition, Thompson had planned to create an installation of kūmara mounds in Britomart, during the Art Fair, functioning as a temporary māra — a site for knowledge exchange and learning where the artist would engage in conversation with visitors and passers by.

By reconquering this settled land using notions of tapu and mana, Pupuri (2020), the in-language term for to hold or retain, operates as a metaphor for the resilience of Māori culture and traditions. While these cultural beliefs and practices have historically been undermined by colonial logic that devised a strict dichotomy between indigenous primitivity and colonial modernity, Pupuri (2020) challenges these historical distinctions. Drawing upon Māori skills and structures, Thompson challenges and extends cultural parameters and knowledge, further bridging cultural understandings between the experience of many Māori communities today — of marginalisation, unemployment and dispossession — and the culture’s legendary ancestors and their ancient principles.

– Micheal Do

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FROM THE ARTIST

Moana Jackson says the arrival of who he called the rerekē (different ones) brought a new set of stories that sat in conflict with our own*. These stories valued different beliefs and justified the taking of indigenous land, resources and sovereignty**.

However, parts of our stories endured. Held fast by our tūpuna and propagated generation after generation, even though it may be under different circumstances or in a different place, like the kūmara from te kete rokiroki a Whakaotirangi.

The work is made up of mounds reminiscent of a māra kūmara. The work seeks to be a venue for sharing stories and learning through the maintenance of the māra.

The māra provides us with fertile ground with which to grow and care for our own narratives to take forward.

*Moana Jackson, “Where to Next? Decolonisation and the Stories of the Land.” In Imagining Decolonisation, (Wellington: Bridget Williams Books Ltd, 2020), 136
**Jackson, “Where to Next? Decolonisation and the Stories of the Land.”, 133

 

 

HŌHUA THOMPSON BIO