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Neil Pardington Photographs

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Neil Pardington, Arthropoda, Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira #1, 2013, pigment inks on Hahnemuhle Baryta, 2550 x 5270 mm. 48 works in grid of 4 rows. Neil Pardington, Ozius truncatus 1, Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira, 2013 Neil Pardington, Jasus edwardsii, Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira #2, 2013 Neil Pardington, Calantica spinilatera, Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira #1, 2013 Neil Pardington, Scutuloidea maculata, Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira #1, 2013  Neil Pardington, Lepas anatifera 1, Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira, 2013 Neil Pardington, Lepas anatifera, Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira #2, 2013 Neil Pardington, left: Diadema sp., Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira #1, pigment inks on Hahnemuhle Baryta 1500 x 1000mm. Right: Mantelli, Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira #1, pigment inks on Hahnemuhle Baryta. 1500 x 1000mm Neil Pardington, Diadema sp., Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira #1, pigment inks on Hahnemuhle Baryta, 1500 x 1000 mm Neil Pardington, Mantelli, Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira #1, pigment inks on Hahnemuhle Baryta, 1500 x 1000mm Neil Pardington, Left: Ornithology Store #1, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa 2006 LED / C-Print 1215 x 1490 mm. Right: Wet Room #3, Otago Museum 2008 LED / C-Print 1215 x 1470 mm Neil Pardington, Left: Wet Room #2, Otago Museum 2008 LED / C-print, 1515 x 1250 mm. Right, Land and Marine Mammal Store #4, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa 2006 LED / C-Print 1215 x 1470 mm  Neil Pardington, Left: Card Catalogue #1, Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hakena University of Otago 2008 LED / C-Print 1210 x 1380 mm. Right: Natural Sciences Dry Store #1, Otago Museum 2008 LED / C-Print 1325 x 1220 mm

In these later images, Pardington has moved away from exploring items lined up within an institutional space towards emphasising things located by themselves in the image centre. He ends up accentuating the objectness of the containers, and imbuing them and their contents with a fetishistic aura. The thick white plastic lids and cylindrical, logo-moulded glass also take on a symbolic dimension affirming the opacity and materiality of language.

Auckland

 

Neil Pardington
The Order of Things

 

24 May - 7 July 2013

Downstairs in the large Two Rooms gallery, Wellington photographer/designer Neil Pardington is showing some of the photographs that featured in his large 2009 Christchurch Art Gallery exhibition, The Vault, as well as a selection of very recent work based on specimens in the marine science collection of Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira.

The Vault exhibition and its accompanying hardcover publication has quite a fan base, and the earlier works here show why. Even though the art and museum world has a propensity for looking up its own fundament, constantly scrutinising its own (normally hidden) processes and internal/external relationships, these horizontally rectangular works documenting items - and spaces - in the collection storage ‘bunkers’ of various New Zealand institutions have a wit and a surprisingly airy feel: they don’t seem at all claustrophobic, too ‘inhouse’ or incestuous.

The recent photographs - vertical rectangles showing examples of underwater animal life stored in screwtop Agee jars - is very different in mood. One configuration has a grid of 48 images in a small size and there are two examples of larger versions.

Their depicted glass containers, with their crammed in arthropods, are suspended in darkness and lit from behind. The streaming light and surrounding blackness creates a theatricality that hints at mysticism, a living power dwelling behind the thick distorting glass - with the doubled-up (often translucent) specimen itself remaining unknowable.

Even though it provides the title for the new works exhibited here, it is interesting to note that Foucault’s The Order of Things is generally considered the most inconsistent and unresolved of all his books. (See pertinent publications by J.G.Merquior and James Miller.) Despite being a smash hit in France in 1966 it was understood by very few - and apparently Foucault later considered having it withdrawn - although it clearly fits into a sequence of publications developing ideas within the field he termed ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’.

Like Foucault, Pardington is inconsistent, but deliberately so. An image of a kiwi and a jars of small bottles and paper print outs identifying locations are included as ‘marine life’. The contents of some jars are wet (formalin, or seawater?) while others are dry, containing curling paper and shells.

With the anti-ocular stance of Pardington’s images (the dominant jars regularly thwart the viewer’s gaze) the title The Order of Things seems intended to be sardonic, an irony-laden comment on the dominant taxonomic system of binominal nomenclature devised by the Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus, and possibly inspired by a brief account by Foucault in his preface of the quirky classification logic of an ancient Chinese encyclopaedia.

In these later images, Pardington has moved away from exploring items lined up within an institutional space towards emphasising things located by themselves in the image centre. He ends up accentuating the objectness of the containers, imbuing them and their contents with a fetishistic aura, and connecting them via their black background with photographic works like, say, Christine Webster’s Black Carnival series.

The thick white plastic lids and cylindrical, logo-moulded glass also take on a symbolic dimension affirming the opacity and materiality of language, a quality that matches the strangeness of the Latin-based nomenclature and the exasperations of searching for an underpinning rational order. Mostly exoskeletons and brittle shells, the delicate and glowing contents are wedded to the bottles surrounding them, mysterious referents encased and trapped in isolation - but through their radiant light, beckoning to us nonetheless.

John Hurrell

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