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The Lab at the Auckland Art Gallery

The Lab. Hou Hanru.
Auckland Art Gallery. 10th May – 11th August.

It’s one thing for art to be educational. But is education that looks like education art too? ‘The Lab’ in the top floor of the Auckland Art Gallery is a space run between the architecture and spacial design schools within Unitec, The University of Auckland and AUT.

The role of an artist assumes the role of the educator in that an artist believes they have an idea, process or relationship that is worth discussion and thus brings it to an audience attempting to transfer or educate the ideas.

Artist – art – audience are then inseparable equal components of the work, and the challenge becomes how to transfer ideas from the artist to the audience through the art, so it looks like artist – idea – audience, and then to place this in the notion of artist as educator it becomes; teacher – idea – student. If the transference of knowledge is the key factor then it means that questions of accessibility and generosity are paramount to enable the transference.

Hou Hanru’s Lab is setup with week long interdisciplinary design projects that respond to the challenges posed by Hou’s ‘If you were to live here’. Supposedly it is to “act as a catalyst for critical examination of the qualitative in the city”. I’m not implying that the Auckland Triennial’s lab in itself is an artwork as while it has many relational aesthetic qualities I doubt it is announcing itself as more than an open forum and changeable locale for design projects to eventuate.

With this lab we also see one of many educational projects biggest downfalls. Something that is aimed at being an open accessible way of reaching a public is in fact something that is only accessed by both and the art and spatial design communities. Perhaps, this is due to being set in the Auckland Art Gallery, or perhaps these types of projects are always destined to this.

It’s an awkward balancing act. Ideas masked behind conceptual frame work aimed at a bourgeoise art community, not stepping outside the white box can become counter productive. Just as work masked as community based and widely accessible but are in fact aimed at that same art community is counter productive. While no audience should ever be shut down, we need to acknowledge the limited capacity of a white box. Thus you would assume using more familiar methods of education to generously transfer the idea beyond any box becomes relevant. However, I doubt that this was ever a consideration.

Art constantly invites rethinking around presentation strategies as well as pedagogy. Regressive mentalities surrounding existing hierarchical views of education are attempted to be bypassed in Lab’s such as this one. Yet it still only reaches the end of its own white collar. A really welcome edition to the 5th Auckland Triennial, sidesteps the full impact it potentially had.

Everyone is a teacher and everyone is a student, as everyone has something to teach and something to learn.


Photo credit: Auckland Art Gallery Facebook



This entry was posted in: Reviews

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