Alexis Hunter, Shahriar Asdollah-Zadeh, Darcell Apelu, Ana Iti, Joanna Neumegen, val smith, Jaimee Stockman-Young
Passionate Instincts is an exhibition curated by Henry Davidson, Khye Hitchcock, Emma Ng and Ted Whitaker. With this act of collective curating as a working method, Passionate Instincts explores the tension between a desire for individual identity – specifically the desire for a radical selfhood – and the wish to construct, be located within, and contribute to a community that strives for the betterment of everyone.
Included in this show is a painting by Alexis Hunter, which acts as a provocation for the other participating artists. Hunter’s 1984-5 work Passionate Instincts XIII depicts a ferocious, feline-like creature amidst a smoggy tempest of brushwork. Baring her teeth within the storm that threatens to envelop her, she is poised to move; on the brink of attack. Transfixed by this image, this painting has been adopted as a talisman, harnessing its galvanising force. In a moment of uncertainty we choose to approach boldly. Though a torrent of information muddles our way, we step forward with Hunter’s agent of courage as our compass.
We are all navigating our own selves. In fact, this activity has begun to define our generation, although this is often understood negatively, as vanity. But where do we situate our politics, our ethics, without first making sense of the self? Here in Aotearoa New Zealand we also seek to enact decolonising methodologies, negotiating this struggle alongside or within our own identity politics. Passionate Instincts explores the paralysis that is often the result of these conflicting desires, through a shifting whakapapa of alliances and interjections; a tangle of intra-generational connections. The artists in this exhibition resurface forgotten histories, untether conditioned bodies, and express freights of emotional power; exposing fear and anger as forces that both produce and limit us.
How can our quests for self-hood become the foundation for necessary collective social change? On uncertain terrain, what hope do we have except to begin by erecting our own campaign tents? Passionate Instincts is presented as one outcome of the Emerging Curators Programme 2015/16 facilitated by The Physics Room and The Blue Oyster Art Project Space and funded by Creative New Zealand’s Sector Development Incentive Fund.
Henry Davidson is a curator currently based in Berlin. He was the Artspace Curatorial Assistant in 2015 and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Curatorial Intern in 2013-14. He was also a member of the Auckland gallery Gloria Knight and has a Master of Arts in Visual and Material Culture from Massey University, Wellington.
Khye Hitchcock is a curator and artist currently based in Ōtautahi, Christchurch. Their practice is research based, socio-political and often collaborative; research interests include exploring the efficacy of art as a catalyst for social change, identity politics - particularly queer and feminist - and performance practices. Khye has a MFA from Elam School of Fine Art, University of Auckland. In 2012-13 they contributed as artist and Research Associate on the Pornography in the Public Eye project, Psychology Department, University of Auckland. Khye was Curatorial Assistant at Artspace, Auckland 2013-14, SCAPE Public Art, Christchurch 2015, and is currently Curator at CoCA Centre of Contemporary Art Toi Moroki.
Emma Ng is a writer and curator from Aotearoa New Zealand. She has recently left Enjoy Public Art Gallery in Wellington, where she was Manager/Curator from 2014-16. Emma is currently undertaking an MA in Design Research, Writing and Criticism at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
Ted Whitaker is a Dunedin-based curator, artist and filmmaker. Recent curatorial projects include: The False Demographic, Blue Oyster (co-curated with Chloe Geoghegan, 2015) and various projects at BRUCE and V-Space. He has recently completed an MFA at the Dunedin School of Art (2016). He is co-chair of the Aotearoa Digital Arts Network (ADA) and a trustee of the Blue Oyster Art Project Space.
Alexis Hunter was born in New Zealand and graduated from Elam, though she spent much of her life in London. She was a painter, writer, and printmaker, but is most well-known for her photography, which emerged out of and contributed to the feminist art movement of the 1970s. In the past decade her work has been included in several notable international exhibitions such as WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution at LACMA in 2007. Her photography is currently being exhibited in a solo showing at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand.
Shahriar Asdollah-Zadeh is an Auckland artist of Iranian/Filipino descent, born in the Philippines and raised in New Zealand. Within his art practice, he works with design-based large scale sculpture, installation, and the moving image. Asdollah-Zadeh’s research and work has mainly focused on diaspora, migration and place/displacement. He graduated from Elam in 2010 and his work has been included in recent exhibitions at galleries such as Te Tuhi, Mangere Arts Centre, The Film Archive (Auckland), Enjoy Public Art Gallery and the Whangarei Art Museum.
Ana Iti (Ngāpuhi) is an artist who until recently was based in Christchurch. She graduated from Ilam with a BFA (Sculpture) in 2012 and her practice explores the speculative possibilities of ‘drawing’ using sculpture and installation along with physical and social architectures. She was the 2016 Blue Oyster Art Project Space summer resident, and her project there explored the sea wall of the Otago Peninsula as a man made drawing that embodies a fraught and mysterious part of Ōtepoti Dunedin’s history.
Jaimee Stockman-Young is an Auckland based artist who graduated with an MFA from Elam in 2015. Her practice is interested in local queer genealogies and makes use of archival material. In negotiating a terrain of Queer history and considering the manifestation of this community in Aotearoa, she is interested in the way in which this community forms, convening or collecting in spaces together, utilising archival materials, architectural materials and environmental installations to construct museums of socio-sexual history.
Joanna Neumegen is an Auckland based artist and a recent BFA (Hons) graduate of Elam School of Fine Arts. She works across video, writing and painting, often fusing different mediums together. Her practice is largely interdisciplinary and is currently focussed on representations of mental illness and death in canonical fictional novels. She seeks to unearth common threads between these themes in both non fictional and fictional histories forging seemingly disparate connections to create new narratives.
val smith is a choreographic artist and dance educator based in Auckland, NZ whose work investigates the body as a politically complex network. Their practice involves experimentation with perception, affect and participation, challenging the conventions of spectatorship. Queer, feminist and post structuralist theories underpin choreographic tests in a fluid relation with collaboration, somatic pedagogies and site-oriented practices.
Darcell Apelu is of Nieuan and New Zealand European descent. Her art practice involves moving image, sound, performance and installation, often informed by her experiences as an afakasi (mixed race) female. The body plays an important role in her work as she explores perceptions of the Pacific body, identity and of ‘being other’ within the social climate of New Zealand. Darcell completed her Master of Art and Design from Auckland University of Technology in 2013 and currently teaches within the certificate of art and design and the bachelor of creative industries at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic.