Sam Eng
First installed outside HSP on Cashel Street in Christchurch, and now fighting for voice in the art-hub that is K'Rd, Auckland, Sandwich Board is proud to host the work of Christchurch artist, Sam Eng. (July 2004).

The stories we tell ourselves

Sam Eng’s work serves to fill a void in more ways than one, as it subversively cancels out the space that has been created within this Sandwich Board project only to make use of it to the full. This installation fills the sandwich board with ominous, grey matter that also plays host to a parasitic flock of miniature sheep. The sandwich board’s dimensions and its strategic role serve to both position and confine Eng’s bucolic parody of the ridiculous-bordering-on-hysterical pastoral optimism and ‘she’ll be right’ ethic of the wider/dominant culture. Here ‘greener pastures’ give way to the murky and pock-marked reality of what lies beneath the glossy surfaces and narratives of everyday life.

What exactly is it that goes on in those dark corners, and repressed spaces that quietly infest and interpolate our lives? Such spaces are most often contained, managed effectively and therefore easily forgotten. Yet, Eng’s work asks us to consider those times at which malevolence re-emerges to re-claim a position within the open and political field of public life, and how is it that we choose to deal with the threatening presence of those things we would rather forget.

Manifesting itself abruptly upon the streets of our nation, this gridlocked installation reminds us that the shelf-life of denial and repression will ultimately expire. Eng’s gesture illustrates that just as those things left unacknowledged can be occluded and effectively forced out of sight (if not out of mind), they equally and inevitably retain the unsettling potential to re-emerge more forcefully than we could ever anticipate. Ignorance may be bliss, but real life is rarely that simple, and an acknowledgment can only ever function as a beginning but at least it’s a start.

Kate Montgomery