Winter in Dunedin is often thought of as the time for cosy fireside
petting, or conversely, for large scale massacre, but this winter Dunedin
has been busy once again reinventing itself, with a plethora of new shops,
cinemas, and cafes opening up.
The Dunedin Public Art Gallery's rotating contemporary exhibition Open Hang received
a much needed kick in the pants with the June opening of works from the collection
of Jim and Mary Barr. Taken together the works on show represent a number of
high profile contemporary artists whose work is often underexposed in Dunedin,
due in part to the lack of contemporary dealer galleries in the city. One interesting
aspect came with the incorporation of the work into the rest of Open Hang was
where edges between the collection and other work on display began to blur and
mingle. Shaun Oughton's large architectural wall drawings recently commissioned
by the gallery came under investigation by one of Michael Parekowhai's ubiquitous
mannequins. Oughton had drawn directly onto the gallery walls, contrasting perfectly
detailed renditions of building blue-prints with the residual marks of the eraser,
left behind in evidence as the stains and traces of recent activity.
Also that month the latest incarnation of the infamous(?!) arts collective Super
8 opened in new premises in High Street under the name Everything Incorporated.
Everything offers an informal gallery space in an abandoned fish and chip shop
on the ground floor, with studios and recording & editing suites upstairs.
For the opening night, Everything played host to seventeen largely space referential
installations that inhabited and manipulated the dark maze of office spaces,
corridors, and basements. We wandered around blindly, occasionally stumbling
into bizarre little scenes: an ambient room full of stoners; bored robot voices
telling us to go away at once; a room full of small toys devouring cup cakes.
One highlight was an installation by Kim Pieters which hinted at oblique art
world conspiracy theories, tracing the phrase "video killed the radio star" from
it's origins as a pop song, through it's appearance as the title for an article
by Daniel Malone in Midwest, to it's recent use in an Alex Bag installation.
We suspect this work may have been triggered by the Daniel Malone exhibition
at The Honeymoon Suite the week before. I Took It All and It Did Nothing (I
Want My Money Back) was Malone's first time in Dunedin. The exhibition and
accompanying performance What Are You, Some Kind of Human Being? acted
out a complex web of pre-conceptions regarding Dunedin city. Scottish and Japanese
emblems cohabited with allusions to noise godfathers The Dead C, while paper
scraps were transformed into aliens and snowflakes.
Experiencing the show was cold viewing indeed, as the extensive windows of the
gallery were jammed open to let in Dunedin's icy gales. The open windows created
a knowing dialogue between glimpses of the `real' Dunedin (back of the Public
Art Gallery, a dingy alleyway, cathedral clock tower) and the simulations apparent
The cold has been a bit of a recurring theme at The Honeymoon Suite lately, with Blanket by
Shay Launder showing subsequently at the gallery. Blankets of snow in the form
of white mats lay on the wooden floor, beside a frozen river nestled into icy
banks made of clear plastic light fittings. Soundtracks of wind and rain mingled
with more electronic sounds while a monitor played repeatedly the drawn out journey
of men pulling a large machine through Antarctic snow. Launder's white-out zone
investigated the uneasy relationship between cold, calculated machination and
the untouched sublime, yet refused to place itself within the easy binarism frequently
coding such distinctions.
Also in town recently were Coco Fusco and Nao Bustamente, in New Zealand as artists
in residence at the Otago School of Art. During the residency they performed
their latest work Stuff on two consecutive nights. Rapid fire costume
changes, a bubbling Latino soundtrack, and a nice line in sleazy one liners featured,
as well as audience participation - pretty quietly on the first night, more boisterously
on the second. Also memorable was the after-show cast party with bubbly, nibbles,
and an impromptu lesson for all in Latino dancing.
Emma Bugden and Jonathan Nicol