Vanessa Jack @ The Chiller
Vanessa Jack's installation was the final in the recent CASKO
series at The Chiller in High Street and was something of a revelation.
A revelation of both the mysterious inner room - The Chiller itself
- and of the artist's way of seeing through the device of photography.
In her previous two Christchurch installations; meanwhile
at the School of Fine Arts Gallery earlier this year, and squint
in the abandoned Hop Yick Cheong building in 1996, Jack articulated
the installation spaces through considered placement of photographs.
In squint images were derived from the merchandise previously
available in the Hop Yick Cheong shop. These were located back in
the deserted building, pale apparitions which resonated in the emptiness
of the place, evoking its history and its imminent destruction,
views from the fleeting present into the past. meanwhile
, a desolate, grey suburban landscape made large and demanding the
viewer's attention by means of a commercial scale light box, confronted
the mediation of imagery which takes place in the context of a formal
Jack has established a thoughtful exploration of the ways in which
the view of one location from another is highly charged by conditions
such as time, institutional context, and the devices of presentation.
The CASKO work was very much a continuation, and certainly
a progression, of Jack's on-going investigation. The views were
again from a particular place. This time there were no recorded
images. The Chiller room, stripped of its stainless steel cladding,
had become the camera into which the viewer stepped. The views were
panorama shaped slots clearly cut straight through three thick insulated
walls into two adjacent rooms and one to a yard outside. Where the
previously windowless, oppressive cell had very much turned the
viewer's gaze inwards there were now various views through and beyond.
Both the room itself and the adjacent spaces were dramatically altered.
Daylight filtering in from outside seemed distinctly odd and the
internal views alternately dissapointing and uncomfortably voyeuristic.
The alteration, though simple enough, was both deft and baffling.
The continuity of this work with the previous two was striking,
but for someone experiencing this installation without that context
there could not have been the same completeness. As a single separate
work however it was certainly strong enough to stand alone.
An image of the unaltered chiller was used on the invitation for
this work. That was the only clue to the major transformation which
had taken place for anyone visiting the venue for the first time.
Perhaps there might have been more evidence of the previous appearance
so that the full resonance of the artist's intervention could be
Vanessa Jack has produced intelligent and considered work which
promises even better things to come if she can attract the support
necessary to sustain her practice in increasingly difficult times
for many contemporary artists. David Hatcher's CASKO series
has shown what one person's determination and hard work can achieve
without subsidy or institutional support. Emerging artists in Christchurch
have had their own venue at The High Street Project space but as
that organisation becomes more and more grant dependent they have
had to compete for the use of the venue with more established artists
on the contemporary art space circuit. CASKO has helped considerably
to maintain a balance and an independent curatorial view free from
the heavy guiding hand of Creative NZ.
13 October 1997