Art and the City
Logan Bradley looks at some interesting public artwork currently around Auckland city in the summer months...
Although galleries are in hibernation at the moment, there are still some good viewing to be had in the form of public artwork around the city.
Jennifer Mason’s 'Experiment 14: The point at which five subjects lose control over their facial expression due to physical exertion', is the current work located in the Bledisloe Walkway, part of Auckland City Council’s Light Box project. The work consists of five individual headshots of men who are looking particularly unsettled and wary. Mason’s aim was to answer the question: "What does a human face look like when we are unable to 'pose' or 'control' it?”
Mason endeavored to achieve this by having her volunteers exert themselves to effort level 10, squirting them in the face with water, having them put their head between their knees and then look directly into a positioned light.
Although the images are bold and entertaining and a fun thing to walk by, I’m not sure whether the experiment is successful. One image stands out as the exhaustion felt by the sitter is obvious and its result is humorous, but the others almost look too beautiful to be authentic. The question also has to be raised as to why women were not used in this experiment?
Supposedly Mason did include women but the resulting photographs did not show a true moment of authenticity. This in itself can raise a whole range of discussions about female self-consciousness and identity, something that doesn’t really sit with this experiment at all.
On Constitution Hill there is an interesting set of defunct signposts. Both relate to beach life, one says “Beach Access”, where there is none - and the other a warning of “No Swimming” where that would never be a possibility. This is the work of Asumi Mizuo, who is making reference to the reclaimed land that is Auckland city. I like this work not only for its wit and historical references, but also for the questions it raises on expansion and city sprawl and what now replaces that land, in this case doomed leaking apartments.
At the end of Lorne St is a little piece that sadly often goes unnoticed. On top of the traffic lights is a set of fluro-coloured army figurines. Sitting up there with their guns poised, it’s hard to tell whether their intention is aim fire and shoot or if their purpose is for some kind of citizen protection. You would only notice these guys if you were heading down Victoria St, so they’re easily missed. And that’s the aspect I like about this stealth piece. That, and the fact that I know these little guys have got my back – well I hope that’s the case anyway.
A more obvious public piece is that by Sara Hughes at the new Project Space Window in the refurbished Britomart. Project Space consists of four original 19th-century arched windows on Customs Street East. This piece continues Hughes’ interest with colour, patterns and geometry by presenting layered paisley forms that have been warped and twisted and almost splattered across the wall.
Compared to her most recent exhibition, ‘Colour Codes’ at Gow Langsford (which I loved), this is all too decorative in all the wrong ways. For me it’s not bold enough, there needs to be more and it needs to dominate the space. The splattered effect needs to be more chaotic and not so organised, which is funny as this is one of the attributes I admired in Hughes’ Colour Code pieces. All in all though, it’s an interesting space and one that that should be well utilized.
Temporal public work is, in my mind, something that should be encouraged as a valuable addition to the cityscape; I like the fact that it’s forever changing and new. So it is great to see companies, institutions and the council embracing this format with the likes of the Bledisloe Light Boxes and Project Space.
- Filed under: General