Curating material mostly from her collection, Barbara Garrie’s knowledge of, and passion for, artist-led publications is evident in Present History. Garrie offers ephemera alongside publications and books, acknowledging a lesser-known side to artistic practice in post-quake Ōtautahi.
The exhibition title indicates an obscured perspective of time. I can’t help but remember how Garrie would joke about ‘contemporary art history’ as a contradiction in terms, questioning where history and contemporary begin and end. The term ‘post-quake’, while having become clichéd in a dramatically short time, dictates no end point. If, ten years on, we can all agree that the people, the land, the water and cityscape is still ‘post-quake’’, what indication is there of when it will pass? This question is echoed in two of Tim J. Veling’s photographic 2014 prints from the ongoing Vestiges series. Isolated in this context, they appear as though they could have been taken last year.
A grim and dislocated beauty is preserved in Sophie Bannan’s vessels. Impossible pots with chunks of rubble and stones embedded in thin clay, they are made from clay dug from the sites of demolished buildings designed by her grandfather, Maurice Mahoney.
The transience associated with the post-quake period lends itself to the ephemera collected during its span. A lot of this material accompanies works which question the dominant colonial narrative of Ōtautahi and look to alternative ways of making and inhabiting space. The Social’s caravan residencies, Plant Gang’s greening projects, With Fluidity, 2015 an audio walk along Ōtakaro, The Whakapapa Project, 2018.
Matt Galloway’s The Silver Bulletin created a space for cultural exchange at a time when physical venues were less accessible. The artist dissects the Christchurch City Council’s logo, representing it in four iterations with cynical humour. In his essay ‘Art Over Nature Over Art’, Galloway reveals the logo as facade – he might be amused by the printed facade depicting the pre-quake Cathedral currently installed in front of the crumbled spire while reconstruction takes place.
Two sessions from Fiona Connor’s Newspaper Reading Club in the gallery, large printed transcripts of the readings, through levels of mediation (reading a transcript of someone reading aloud) seems to make the experience with the text more human and personal than interactions with news media generally are.
A ‘forest for the trees’ type of closeness has meant that the changes I have observed have been so gradual that a time-stamp of ten years doesn’t feel like an accurate indication of what has come to pass. In Present History it was rewarding to reflect on some of the projects and products of ‘the event.’
Barbara Garrie, Present History
Ilam Campus Gallery, off Clyde Road, Ilam
22 February – 5 March
- Present History, (installation detail, including photographs by Tim J. Veling)