Photo Credits: Natasha Matila-Smith
Haussmann & Untitled. Angela Mesiti & Luke Willis Thompson.
Auckland Art Gallery. 10th May – 11th August.
Relocation relocation relocation.
If you were to live here, an apt title for the 5th Auckland Triennial curated by Hou Hanru. If you were to live here, I think, is a way of bridging this gap between lands and cultures, a kind of embodiment as a means of reaching a common empathy for one another. The two works of particular interest to me from the Auckland Art Gallery leg of the Triennial both use this method of relocation to create an entry into different areas of discussion.
Angelica Mesiti – an Australian born artist based in Sydney and Paris – has created a performance video titled Prepared Piano for Movers (Haussmann) (2012) of two men carrying a piano up a stairwell. The piano has been filled with metal objects on pendulums so that as the movers ascend with the piano, the movement and the instrument create an ‘avant garde score’. The video alludes to Caillebotte’s Les raboteurs de parquet (1875) which was one of the first representations in painting of urban proletariat life at the time of it’s creation. Caillebotte’s painting was close in proximity to the original stairwell used in Prepared Piano and the relationship between the two works is the concentration on body language and the musicality of such an act. Prepared Piano screens above a narrow stairwell – I’m not sure if this was the genuine artefact or not relocated from the video – probably not – but the video’s placement in a stairwell that had limited access – spoke to the work’s interest in the social, and the physical relationship between body and cultural heritage and the idea that location couldn’t dislocate the innate from the body.
Luke Willis Thompson’s (NZ) Untitled (2012) work – consists of the relocated garage doors tagged on by teenager Pihema Cameron on the evening he was killed in 2008 by South Auckland man Bruce Emery. I’ve heard this work described as ‘confronting’, ‘moving’, ‘one of the most important artworks of this decade’ – all are true but what I find particularly haunting is the sensor light. In this instant when the light switches on and exposes the viewer’s presence, they are transported and momentarily embody the moment this alleged perpetrator was caught and held fatally accountable. The disturbing core being this fleeting moment in which one man was able to take a life based on a trivial act performed by the young boy.
The simple act of relocating a site of historical significance also shifts the status quo – giving the site the time for further contemplation. By repositioning the artworks, at times physically and at other times psychologically, the artists were able to access a physicality in the viewer. While Mesiti’s was a more quiet intervention, Thompson’s work had a more dominant presence. Where in the past I have found his works to seem extremely personal, this particular work still shares the same vulnerability and sensibility. While the artist’s personal connection with this boy remains unknown to me – it has brought to light a more disturbing and condemning issue – the social and racial prejudice we are experiencing in New Zealand in our contemporary economy.