5 May - 13 July 2008
Collect/Project comprised of two exhibitions that examined the activity of collecting and celebrated its forms and subjects. One came to the Gallery from Germany, the other was generated by the collecting activities of the University.
The first, 40yearsvideoart.de set out to comprehensively survey the history of video art made in Germany bringing together the work of 60 artists from the 1960s to the present. It was the result of a major research initiative undertaken by German institutions to ensure the survival and preservation of this medium.
This project was made available by the Goethe-Institut and was being staged simultaneously across three venues: St Paul St in Auckland, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth and the Adam Art Gallery in Wellington. This allowed audiences to encounter the resource in different ways in each context.
At the Adam Art Gallery, New Zealand artist Kim Paton was invited to determine how viewers will experience the works. Paton is known for her constructed situations that explore the structures, functions and systems of the built environment. At the Gallery, she created a platform for viewing, out of recycled furniture sourced from the University and its environs. This makeshift structure underlined the portable nature of the exhibition and the medium it showcased.
In addition Adam Art Gallery Assistant Curator Laura Preston compiled a revolving programme of screenings that explored various approaches artists have taken to video—widely regarded as one of today’s key art forms. This provided insights into significant work by artists Joseph Beuys, Nam June Paik, Rosemarie Trockel, Wolf Vostell and more.
The second component of Collect/Project was an exhibition curated by Adam Art Gallery Director, Tina Barton, which showcased three works recently acquired for the Victoria University Art Collection, by Mark Adams, John Reynolds and Ann Shelton, together with an audio archive drawn from the extensive collection of sounds compiled by ethnomusicologist Allan Thomas.
All these works highlighted the activities of passionate collectors who are determined to secure, preserve and pass on knowledge about people, places and cultures.
Here, Mark Adams’s photographs from his Tatau series were featured. These focus on the work of Samoan tufuga tatatau (tattoo artists), in particular Sulu‘ape Paulo II. Adams records with meticulous detail the continuing practice of tattooing as it was undertaken in suburban Auckland in the 1970s, to show the survival of this art form as the embodied site of coded cultural meaning.
John Reynolds took all of the Maori words and phrases listed in the Dictionary of New Zealand English as the subject for his more than 1,170-piece painting entitled Looking West, Late Afternoon, Low Water, 2007. This is a gesture that celebrates the achievement of Harry Orsman, the lexicographer who spent his entire academic career at Victoria working on this project.
Ann Shelton presented her major 26-part photographic installation: A Library to Scale, 2006, which documents the library of scrapbooks filled with clippings from the daily newspaper, compiled by Frederick B Butler in his effort to chronicle a vast array of subjects relating to life in his hometown, which is now held in Taranaki’s museum, Puke Ariki. Victoria has purchased one part of this collection.
These three works, and various items designed to contextualise them, were accompanied by a selection of sounds compiled by Allan Thomas as part of his Karanga Voices project. This project has seen Thomas and his students, over a 30-year period, take field recordings of such unlikely musical subjects as train announcements, protest marches, fruit and vegetable auctions and military drills.
The works provided intriguing insights into the important work of individuals who have dedicated themselves to preserving and passing on words, patterns, sounds and moving images that help us understand who we are, where we come from, and the nature of artistic practice. The two exhibitions that made up Collect/Project alerted us to the creative as well as the academic worth of such endeavours.
Wordplay: The Art of Typography Discussion [mp3]