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Western and Kennedy at Blue Oyster

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Blaine Western and Andrew Kennedy's Ornamental Labours at Blue Oyster Blaine Western and Andrew Kennedy's Ornamental Labours at Blue Oyster Blaine Western and Andrew Kennedy's Ornamental Labours at Blue Oyster Blaine Western and Andrew Kennedy's Ornamental Labours at Blue Oyster Blaine Western and Andrew Kennedy's Ornamental Labours at Blue Oyster Blaine Western and Andrew Kennedy's Ornamental Labours at Blue Oyster Blaine Western and Andrew Kennedy's Ornamental Labours at Blue Oyster

This circuitous installation is a site specific project where the large steel poles and the black lines on the top of each suspended photograph subtly refer to the black steel present throughout Blue Oyster. The continuation of the galleries' architecture provides a subversive element to the structure giving it a sense of permanence - a consideration that removes the sense of ‘foreign element' in the space.

Dunedin

 

Blaine Western and Andrew Kennedy
ornamental labours

 

26 August - 20 September 2014

Reflective of the architectural make up of the Blue Oyster’s building, ornamental labours disregards the structural confines of the space and allows for the viewer to move through a maze of images. It also allows for one to reflect upon architectural histories, construction processes and actions, as well the social and physical labours of space.

As soon as you enter the gallery you are encouraged to navigate through an angular web of installed works, with the smell of freshly cut wood permeating. It is an exercise in spatial occupation, as well as a continuation of a collaboration between Blaine Western and Andrew Kennedy. Both artists previously teamed up on a project, A hollow action, a room held together by letters at ARTSPACE at the beginning of this year.

Creating a contemplative environment filled with long black steel poles (square in cross-section) and suspended panels Kennedy and Western have carefully articulated an installation throughout the entire building. Their collaboration allows their individual practices to be pronounced, yet also complementary.

A series of seventeen photographs taken by the artists float in the space in different areas of the building, with approximately twenty-two other archival images also positioned around the walls of the main room. The suspended photographs are hung from the steel poles which obstruct both one’s movement through the space and the confines of each separate room. They slice through a number of walls and in so doing create another space.

Each photograph is attached to two layers of wood, one a frame and the other a method of attaching the image. The top of each work has a layer of black, reflecting the architectural design of the building. Using this mode of display the two artists offer these photographs not only as flat objects, but also as three dimensional objects that one can move through. It is a refreshing rejection of the way gallery walls contain works.

The structure itself is a reference to the exhibition Family of Man, when images were hung unframed, cut to the edge, alongside one another, as ‘equals’. Although this is a sentiment with its own complexities in relation to value, it creates an interesting tension in relation to the photographs on the wall. The placement of two sets of images creates two focal points that address the conflicted nature of egalitarian display. The meticulous manner in which each work is hung is very impressive, perhaps reflective of both artists previously working as technicians at various institutions in Auckland.

This circuitous installation is a site specific project where the railing-like steel poles and the black lines on the top of each suspended photograph subtly refer to the black steel present throughout Blue Oyster. The continuation of the galleries’ architecture provides a subversive element to the structure giving it a sense of permanence - a consideration that removes the sense of ‘foreign element’ in the space.

This reference is noticeable in both the front window and the back of the space. It is also apparent in a series of photographs of plaster cast moulds, which are used in reforming Victorian buildings, thus alluding to the gentrification of Dunedin. It allows one to see aesthetically ornamental features for their processual value; the technique of moulded plaster found prominently in traditional Italian construction and drawing not only on the gentrification but the multifarious influence of different architectural styles in New Zealand cityscapes.

The archival photographs on the walls are partially cropped with rectangles of grey that appears to emphasise an abstracted labour. As if satirising the aestheticisation of labour, this obstruction of the images echoes the other photographs within the floating frames. The archival photos come from a number of sources, including the late sixties, and eerily mirror Kennedy and Western’s suspended photographs - images of various manual skills and flashes of skin in dichotomous harmony with images by photographers like Duncan Winder.

In the middle gallery are two videos by Western projected onto walls on either side. As with the rest of the exhibition instruction is central. These videos outline the process of casting concrete and the ways in which you can manipulate the wooden casting structure, using different woods to give different finishes. The script is taken from a manual and read by a Dutch friend with soft jazz playing in the background, introducing a reflective quality that references the multicultural influences that shaped the spaces - both the natural environment of New Zealand, and wider global sensibilities.

There is a fullness to ornamental labours, with its sparse but highly meditative treatment of images, for when contemplating the gallery as a whole, one disregards walls as restrictions, while acknowledging them as facades. There was a coldness in A hollow room, a room held together by letters, that makes ornamental labours in comparison more successful. This is because of the multitude of spaces, both those created specifically for the project and those already existing within the space.

It also successfully allows a site specific meditation to engage with Dunedin’s architectural histories and their subsequent gentrification. Indeed the latter has become especially pertinent given both the recent redevelopment of the Princes Street end of the city and also the University. These artists have perhaps unintentionally created a space in which people of Dunedin can reflect upon the changes happening in their city.

Hana Aoake and Zach Williams

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