John Hurrell – 27 April, 2011
Previous Living Room shows have tended to over rely on shipping containers as exhibition venues but this time these metal boxes were blessedly rare. While the poster shows were a bit too subtle and isolated to effectively reach non art audiences, overall Living Room was an excellent event that - with its diverse presentations - collectively waved the flag for art and Auckland Council well.
Auckland Council 10 day public art event
Living Room 2011
Curated by Andrew Clifford
8 April 2011 - 17 April 2011
For the first two of these Living Room performance /installation mini-festivals held yearly in downtown Auckland, Pontus Kyander (then Manager of Public Art for Auckland City Council) was curator and overseer of the various international projects. After he returned to Scandinavia Andrew Clifford, curator at Auckland University’s Gus Fisher space, was appointed to run this year’s program.
My impression is that this time it has reached a bigger audience than the other two - because it provided more ‘in your face’ spectacle in the busy heart of the city. I didn’t see or hear all the events (missing Reynolds/Hamilton and O’Neill/Pabbruwe), but I was particularly taken with the night-time displays and the street front poster installations.
Both these you really had to look for - especially the grids of commissioned posters designed by artists - and the late evening projections you might not notice if you were not looking upward.
Gregory Bennett and Pitch Black’s Mike Hodgson’s adaptation of Bennett’s computer animated futuristic films made an obvious reference to the Fritz Lang connection of Clifford’s Metropolis Dreaming title. Their projections onto the high wall of Lippincott Tower above Smith & Caughy were a brilliant success, utilizing a grid composition built around the isolated clusters of windows. This allowed vertical columns and horizontal rows to be studded with swelling and contracting rings of bending or kicking androids, or lines of marching or climbing men. Sometimes glowing slablike geometric forms appeared next to the windows, with dramatic cast shadows that suddenly switched alignment, accompanied by cracking sounds. The best viewing spot was on the ASB corner of the Wellesley / Queen Streets intersection, especially when the shops and restaurants underneath closed and turned their lights off.
Down at Freyberg Place on the facade of the Argus House was a sound/moving text installation by Young-Hae Chang Heavy industries, a Korean/USA duo who did a successful residency at Elam Art School last year. Their work was brighter and louder than the Bennett/Hodgson contribution, the speakers being on the ground nearby, and the image/audio components very tightly synchronised.
The buoyant breezy text, with its distinctive font and jazzy nightclub accompaniment, addressed some of the many friends the artists made at Elam. Rapidly changing so you had to pay close attention, it was written in an informal chatty vernacular, one to five words on the huge wall at a time. This frenetic letter from Seoul referred to private events and conversations but gambled on not irritating passersby through such cliquiness - entertaining via its sheer unrelenting exuberance; counting on the universality of friendship as something easily grasped.
On opening night at Aotea Square the Japanese artist Ujino displayed Dragon Head, two cars placed belly to belly (the bottom one inverted) like the open jaws of a dragon, with glowing orange road cones positioned as fiery teeth, and retractable headlights serving as blinking eyes on the tip of a snout. With choreographed flashing bulbs and alternating turntables to play two sets of scratchy funky hip hop rhythms, this inventive and amusing monster was confined to a cage of metal pedestrian barriers. As a guaranteed crowd pleaser for lovers of car racing it was perhaps located in too ‘arty’ an area - surrounded by theatres - with scarcely an appreciative boy racer to be seen.
Behind Britomart, near the Saturday market in Gore St, the British artists Disinformation presented in a container an oscillating deep bass hum that initially seemed to come from the far sealed-off end but which became more unlocatable the further in you moved. This tingling electromagnetic drone seemed to spread behind you and below your feet, and when you returned outside, even there again seemed omnipresent but hard to pinpoint.
The posters were a lively component of this event (usually two images per artist) and most members of the public noticing them would have been thoroughly puzzled, with no marketed musician, band, product or designer’s name in sight. As it was The Mint Chick’s co-founder Ruban Nielson had a lovely drawn pastel image of a standing man, made of coloured segments - with a tinted glass head embedded with shattered shards.
Peter Madden on the other hand had collaged magazine images of creatures and people hovering over a big city, one poster (in daylight) whimsical and uplifting, the other (night-time) ominous and foreboding. Renowned Scottish artist David Shrigley’s Gore Street installation characteristically avoided colour. He presented 12 amusing cat portraits (6 per poster) drawn in his deliciously wonky black felt-tip line, inviting biro additions to be randomly scribbled on top. The real surprise though was Sara Hughes, who displayed a grid of six Auckland GBD maps tilted so north faced east. She then stuck assorted small vinyl pictographs and coloured signs over them, making each poster unique as a playful collage or sticker drawing, introducing a touch of unexpected humour.
Previous Living Room shows have tended to over rely on shipping containers as exhibition venues but this time these metal boxes were blessedly rare. While the poster shows were a bit too subtle and isolated to effectively reach non art audiences, and would have worked better in greater plenitude so they could not be ignored, overall Living Room was an excellent event that with its diverse presentations collectively waved the flag for art and Auckland Council well. Long may it continue.