Andrew Paul Wood – 27 April, 2012
The theme of the exhibition is using provocation to activate public space, which Christchurch certainly could use more of. Some videos are perfectly obvious in their intent, ranging from Mark Wallinger's “infamous” Sleeper in which the artist dresses up in a bear suit and plays silly buggers in the Miesian spaces of the National Gallerie Berlin, to Yuk King Tan's marvellous Drummer where a uniformed Hong Kong schoolboy goes to town on a cardboard replica of a drumkit at night.
International group show
Measure the city with the body; an itinerant Physics Room project
Curated by Stephen Cleland
4 April - 5 May 2012
Keeping art in Christchurch’s inner city continues to be a problem of ingenuity and adventure. While The Physics Room’s usual premises are being renovated, the gallery has been running a programme of contemporary art in its temporary Sydenham site (55 Sandyford St). The second exhibition in this programme is Measure the city with the body which cunningly makes use of the commercial site and nearby buildings and shipping crates to show some really exciting video work - a sort of budget Documenta.
The theme of the exhibition is using provocation to activate public space, which Christchurch certainly could use more of (both public space and activation) - though not exclusively. Some videos are perfectly obvious in their intent, ranging from Mark Wallinger’s “infamous” (though looking a bit trite these days) Sleeper in which the artist dresses up in a bear suit and plays silly buggers in the Miesian spaces of the National Gallerie Berlin, to Yuk King Tan’s marvellous Drummer where a uniformed Hong Kong schoolboy goes to town on a cardboard replica of a drumkit at night in the junction between the new People’s Liberation Army building and the large construction site of the new Hong Kong government buildings.
Public space is rejected completely in Pak Sheung Chuen’s quietly poetic Breathing in a room - a critique of the density of living space in Busan, Korea. The artist inhabited a very small apartment and over the space of time slowly filled it up with plastic bags of his own exhalation - sort of a lovechild of On Kawara’s obsession with documenting the passage of time and Martin Creed’s No. 201, ‘half the air in a given space‘. Most suitably this work is found in the rather claustrophobic confines of the site’s attic, known to the staff as the “witch’s hat”.
Daniel Malone’s 2006 Steal this smile! :) is the record of his gathering of a crowd around Singapore’s City Hall at the first Singapore Biennale in a symbolic attempt to levitate it in imitation of Abbie Hoffman’s 1967 attempt to do the same to the Pentagon in protest the Vietnam War. Why? Singapore’s unitary parliamentary “guided democracy” is conservative and strict, true, but most Singaporeans seem happy enough with the situation, but then I have always been uncomfortable with the way Malone presumes to relate to other cultures, from Chinese to Polish.
Claire Fontaine’s Instructions for the sharing of private property essentially amounts to an enjoyable, amusing, and deliberately half-arsed video tutorial in the picking of locks: property is theft, and so is redistribution it would seem. Visually the demonstrations are fascinating.
I really liked Junebum Park’s Making Songdo: mock up dam 2 for it’s interesting tonal qualities and the way hands become the sole actors, making collages and scale models of the somewhat Sant’Elia-esque “new city” of Songdo being developed from scratch on 607 hectares of reclaimed land in South Korea along Incheon’s waterfront. It’s an image that has a certain amount of poignance for the people of Christchurch.
William Hsu’s Collecting towards a paper museum in Anyang would have benefited from more background information - it’s a sweet combination of documentary, oral history, non-site and psychogeography as the artist explores the twentieth century history of the Anyang River, and it’s polluting by a rapidly developing industrial sector seen at the time as a symbol of progress and modernisation in Henang Province, in the People’s Republic of China. Hsu interviews the people of the area, some of whom were involved in this process of industrialisation, and records his installations made from the cardboard, paper and fibreboard pollution dredged from the river.
It’s a great show put together under interesting, though less than desirable conditions, and The Physics Room - in the throes of moving back into its home space on the corner of High and Tuam Streets, is to be commended for keeping in the game and delivering such a great experience.
Andrew Paul Wood
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