It is important to note the removal of Freedom of the Migrant 2019 from the Toi Moroki CoCA program in consideration of its content with relation to the recent Mosque attacks here in Ōtautahi Christchurch. Presented months later, instead, at The Physics Room, Freedom of the Migrant re-presents newspaper articles with connection to John Key’s forecast that if there is to be terrorist trouble in Europe, it will only make New Zealand look more appealing to the wealthy (Western European) folk seeking a more stable country, out of the way and free from terror. This vision, first captured by Fran O’Sullivan in a Herald article, is the first in a series of scanned newspaper pages printed large enough to read from a comfortable distance as the viewer moves around the room. The subsequent articles, mounted on three walls of the gallery scream headlines between frames of Galloway’s own text reading “Perpetual Freedom”, “Perpetual Terror”, and “Perpetual Peace”. The treatment of the most recent article, dated 23.03.19, pinned straight on the wall without a “Perpetual” frame, indicates the ongoing nature of this case study. With a research-based design practice, it is not surprising that Galloway has embraced the function of text in the work so boldly, while other artists tend to shy away.
The myth of New Zealand as a distant land with all its freedom, prosperity and potential is examined by the deconstructed glass house implied by the metal frames throughout the space from which hang flags, colourless, unlike those of a nation, with almost indecipherable text across them. The frames, too, have text embedded into them, only to be seen by the right light. The glasshouse acts as a motif for this idealistic image of New Zealand; detached, enclosed and unaffected by the rest of the world’s politics and dangers. In the space there is also a pallet stacked with Galloway’s own newspapers which contain copies of the articles displayed on the walls and interviews conducted by Galloway with O’Sullivan, Richard Jackson, a professor of Peace Studies at the University of Otago and David Hall, a political theorist.
Galloway offers no answers but perhaps a strategy. The colours and forms of the glasshouse structure are alluring, contrasted in strength by the drape of the hanging flags. While the headlines are striking, and alarming connections between the articles can be identified upon reading the body text, the exhibition as a whole achieves a level of calm that seems contradictory but illustrative of the passive nature with which many of us engage with news. Galloway is generous with regard to his presentation of clues and content, but it is up to the viewer to do the work - to draw connections and derive meaning from the symbolism inherent in the work and to apply the same level of scrutiny to all news sources. Perpetual scrutiny.
The Freedom of the Migrant
The Physics Room
16 May - 30 June 2019