Over the last few months an ambitious project aiming to increase the amount of public art in Christchurch has been dominating the local scene. Art and Industry is a biennial contemporary visual arts festival that sees artists working with the support of local businesses. CoCA was the host for one of the most anticipated shows of the year in the flat city, Monument to a Lost Civilisation by art stars Ilya and Emilia Kabakov.
Monument brought together documentation, texts and preliminary drawings of 38 installations produced by the Kabakovs over the last ten or so years. The installations were arranged into a proposed museum format complete with a roof top landscaped park. There were two models in the centre of the room -one of the museum, the other of the rooftop park. Panels on the walls referred to specific rooms in the model and were cross-referenced to tables that grouped the installations into different aspects of life: health, arts, bureaucracy etc. There were also books for each installation that showed supporting work for them. Although the individual installations and accompanying stories were interesting, the experience of shuffling from model to table to panel to table to panel to model to panel was the most powerful part of the work. It seems that bureaucracy was alive and well... Ill, in the USSR.
In July those crazy Ilam sculpture kids took over a couple of empty houses in Papanui like the insidious flesh-eating disease they think theyre not. Some people said the show was really dark and gothic, I still say it was generally too serious, obvious and straight. The influence of tutor Andrew Drummond was pretty obvious in a few instances. Kinetic is kool apparently. Dont get me wrong, there was some nice original stuff in the show, its just that I made it so I would feel like an arrogant git to mention it. Ooops.
On the subject of Drummond, his team has been working particularly hard recently -a show at Jonathan Smarts with a rotating drawing machine, his Art and Industry piece at the Christchurch airport (also a rotating machine), and a rotating wheel-type thing recently installed in some Auckland edifice. All these rotating things... What does it all mean? Maybe he feels like hes running round in circles or chasing his tail or going as fast as he can but always staying in the same spot.
Lets hope not. As expected, the works use Beuys materials brass, copper, felt, coal and glass - kinetic of course, and powered by pneumatics or normal motors.
Interestingly, Marcus Moore also installed a pneumatic piece in a transport waiting area of The Crossing for Art and Industry. The Crossing is the stupid name for the new bus terminal complex in the centre of town. Moores piece, The Radii, is the glorified timekeeper for said glorified bus stop. It differs from that of Drummonds, his one-time mentor, in a few ways. Although circles are used, no rotation occurs. Every hour on the hour, the two arms upon which the circles are mounted swing and cross each other. Every fifteen minutes the circles shunt closer together and then wider apart again. Kinetic is Kool. This piece will no doubt prove to be a novel and functional timekeeper and alert for patrons of the bus service as soon as they realise that the movements are regular.
Art and Industry must also take partial responsibility for the Pauline Rhodes eyesore in Hagley Park. Ziggurat 2000 looked a lot better to me one hungover Saturday when I spotted what looked like a washing machine on the top of the pyramidal structure. Unfortunately it had been removed just hours later. More collaboration will undoubtedly occur before its removal at the end of the year. Interestingly, this colonisation of Ziggurat 2000 by the washing machine seems to work with the piece. The grey stone structure, referencing ancient South American or Egyptian architecture, seemshopelessly out of place in Hagley Park. So why put it there? Why is Hagley Park there? Perhaps the park is as much of an eyesore or alien imposition on the natural Christchurch landscape as Ziggurat 2000 is on the park, and as the washing machine was on Ziggurat 2000.
By all accounts, Michel Tufferys piece was the highlight of the Art and Industry biennial. Asiasi was a performance piece in which three giant tuna-shaped ovens made out of tin cans were used by Tuffery and the Matooi dance group to cook fish. Coffee and buns soaked in coconut milk were revealed during the performance and distributed amongst the audience to accompany the fish.
The long-closed Wizards, once Christchurchs favourite video gaming parlour, was the location for Rumble in the Bronx, a group show featuring a number of young up and at im s. The show kicked off with a bit of the old wikki-wikkiwoo as DJ Lazzzy Suzzzan (aka Daniel Malone) was outclassed by DJ Ali in the opening night DJ battle. Throughout the rest of the show, the works that stood out to me were the ones that dealt directly with the video game history of the site. Adam Willetts impressed with his interactive sound piece/spacies setup. A couple of play guns strapped to a toy beatbox became the good-guy space ship shooting up some deranged alien gizmos which were of course the space invaders. Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Pacman, under the direction of Eddie Clemens, chomped his way through some left over Damien Hirst spots, converting them as if by magic into little figurines in polystyrene packaging on the floor. Down the back of the room, Hannah Beehre presented the post-match scene of a duel between two cute little monsters, both lying flat on their backs on the obscenely lurid airport style carpet. Other artists featured included Dan Arps (who organised the show) and Sean Kerr.
On the subject of shows that Sean Kerr was involved in, the Physics Room recently had THATS ENTERTAINMENT (thats thats, not thats), a group show curated by Sean Kerr. His piece continued his examination of abuse. Fuck you you fuck was painted on the white gallery wall in white paint. Elsewhere, Young-Hae Chang presented a riveting text-based animation in the end room revolving around hot passionate buttery lovin, and Yuk King Tan exhibited a dormant TV and video setup with a sign -whats entertainment. A singing telegram dressed in a gorilla suit was initially meant to arrive and perform at the opening, but for whatever reason that never actually occurred. A video of the event would have been playing on the TV for the rest of the show, but obviously that couldnt happen either, hence the dormant TV.
At last, a nicely assembled show at the McDougall! After such flawed curatorial attempts as the Boyd Webb one and Canterbury Painting in the Nineties comes Don Driver. With Spirit was organised basically chronologically, starting with the large-scale abstract compositions of industrial materials. The use of non-traditional art materials in these early minimalist works foreshadow his more narrative-based assemblage works that came later, enriched by the use of more meaning-loaded domestic and agricultural materials.
Ladder was the coolest piece -an old ladder runs from the floor to an approx. 3x2 metre ceiling of weather-beaten plywood. Oh the futility! You could conceivably climb the ladder a bit, but would never get to the top, or see what is on the other side of the plywood ceiling. Incidentally, this show was organised and toured by the Govett-Brewster, not the McDougall.
Kiosk has been bubbling away nicely for a little while now, and as I write this column, Logs own Warren Olds is creating or perhaps perpetuating a perfectly perfunctory persona. Wow, that was cool. Anyway, if you though that was hard to crack, you should have seen his web-based kiosk show L: H1 P: KASTLE. The installation was entered through the Kiosk website www.physicsroom.org.nz/oblique/warrenolds
Lee Devenish, Christchurch-based artist and writer, is a boy. Yes, his favourite colour is blue, but he sees where pink is coming from.