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Tom Turner

Art Theory: Review of Telecom Prospect 2007


23rd April, 2007

Word Count: 635

Rakena and Fa’anana and Fuata, Pacific Washup, 2003

David Hatcher, Ludwig and Hugh, 2004


The volume of work contained within the Telecoms Prospect 2007 exhibition is phenomenal,

and it is no surprise that the curator, Heather Galbraith, said that she “accepted the baton with

a touch of trepidation.” (Galbraith, 2007)

The exhibition is displayed over four large galleries and a number of nooks and crannies such

as stair wells, darkrooms, foyers and corridors. It holds a huge variety of contemporary art

made by New Zealanders within the last three years. The curator said that she wove three

thematic themes into the exhibition: contemporary abstraction, reconfigured everyday

[objects] and augmented reality/altered states. The collection includes paintings, sculptures,

photography, prints, drawings, process and performance. The senses of sight, sound and touch

are able to feast on over eighty exhibits, of which some are quite interactive.

I have trouble thinking of the overall experience as a single exhibition; the sheer bulk of

artistic information housed within the galleries demanded more time and attention than the

viewer can cope with in one sitting. Even within each of galleries two, three and four, there

was such an assortment of work bombarding me that I think I may have found relative refuge

in the heart of the newest Pentium processor!

The experience in gallery one was distinctly different, and disconnected from the other areas.

It was comparatively quiet (even when the large box thumped around, and I have no idea why

I felt ominously threatened as I immersed myself in its content. Works within this gallery were

more spread out than in others, allowing me to engage more closely with each one in its own

context, without feeling crowded by the exhibit(s) next to it. The exploration of three-

dimensional painting presented me an opportunity to investigate the intimate dialogue between

the creator and the created.

This was not so easy in other galleries, although the crowding probably enhanced the sensory

overload I felt as I stepped into the neo-brutalist playground by et al. I felt profoundly
connected with this ‘experiment with information’, recalling the book Future Shock, by Alvin

Toffler (1970).

I struggle with the nature of the curator’s three themes. They seem far too obvious and generic

to hold credibility as useful or insightful. Perhaps a smaller collection of exhibits would have

pulled together a tighter exhibition in terms of thematic integrity. For example, some of the

works, I felt, could have been omitted as they seemed more craft-like in terms of their

associations with previous artists’ investigations. Exhibits by Michael Morley and Simon

Moriss seemed to highly influenced by work from the likes of Kupka, Richard Killeen,

Gordon Walters and John McCraken. The collaborative work U.F.O.B., by Brett Graham and

Rachel Rakena, resembles early work in the video art arena of the 70s and 80s and David

Hatcher’s Ludwig and Hugh (2004) seemed like Pop Art to me. Ground breaking works that

impressed me included et al.’s work discussed above, 3D paintings by Miranda Parke’s 3D

paintings, and Jacqueline Greenbank’s BBQ, Crate and Corgies and Touring Tandem. The 9

Pinnies unmade, by Pip Cuthbert defined space in a new way; Pacific Washup by Rachael

Rakena, Fez Fa'anana & Brian Fuata created a profoundly disturbing atmosphere with bodies

in bags (as through washed up on shore) juxtaposed with the surfers walking mundanely past

as though this was an everyday sight. This is by no means an exhaustive list and many other

exhibits were sensational.

I think that the exhibition has such a wealth of information and expression that it would be

more manageable if it were absorbed over several days. It has been a huge commitment to

contemporary art, and is a goldmine for anyone who is serious about the contemporary art

world of New Zealand. Like any goldmine, I suspect that a bit of sieving will be required to

find the real nuggets.

References:
Galbraith, H. (2007). Curator’s Perspective. Retrieved April 10, 2007, from
http://www.telecomprospect2007.org.nz/opinions/CuratorsPerspective.shtml
Holderness, J. (2007). Telecom Prospective 2007. Retrieved April 10, 2007, from http://www.telecomprospect2007.org.nz/