Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 10 - The New Age
Log 10 - The New Age

Christchurch Roundup
Dan Arps


Much like the car of the same name in the legendary eighties TV show, Knight Rider, the globe-trotting collective KIT seems to be chock-full of hi-tech wizardry, deep electronic voices (à la hal-9000) and enough good intentions to join the fight against evil - in whatever technologically advanced form evil may take. In this episode, set in the darkened halls of The Physics Room, KIT takes us back into prehistory, or rather takes prehistory back to us, for a camping trip, as it were, in Joy riding in the Land that Time Forgot. Appropriating imagery from the Jurassic Park playstation game, KITtransformed the gallery space into a primordial forest scene, with a deep floor of bark underfoot and a row of tents, illuminated from the inside and printed with the aforementioned primordial forest scenery and sound giving me such useful tit-bits of information as the fact that I now am on full speed and have limited invulnerability, and the whole thing starts to remind me of trying to find my tent at the gathering, except it isn't raining.

I tried to think of a really clever way of linking KIT's effort to that of Toronto-based artist Mitch Robertson, but the best I could come up with was that KIT (from Knight Rider) was driven by David Hasselhoff, who is now better known as Mitch, the beefcake macho lifeguard from Baywatch, and the even more way-out Baywatch Nights. Is this the stuff that curation is made of?(Log probably welcomes comment on this and other issues.) Anyway Mitch Robertson's latest attempt at world domination, Red Bird Paparazzi, follows the latest adventures of those 'cute little red birds' as they flitter around, elude that 'wily garden gnome', pooh on your washing, and generally try their damned hardest to make Mitch famous. I was lucky to see the man himself in action, with an anonymous member of the KIT collective, swapping project space e-mail addresses like bubblegum trading cards...

Speaking of fame, certain celebrity sleuths at The Physics Room allegedly spotted infamous Las Vegas crooner Tony Bennett painting en plein air by the Avon River. Rumour has it that the performer (replete with staunch looking body-guard) was dressed in a white polo shirt, white tennis shorts, white sports socks, and white tennis shoes, and was reportedly painting in a faux naive style.

While on the topic of art/music crossovers, avant-garde Japanese turntablist Otomo Yoshihide unleashed his own brand of turntablism (I guess) on the hallowed chambers of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery recently. Using such novel tactics as a drum cymbal mounted on a turntable and played with a violin bow, Yoshihide's serenely chaotic compositions left the old McDougall all shook up. I sat there mesmerised as flecks of paint from the ceiling gently snowed down on me. I looked to see the glass skylights above my head loom ominously as if they were about to come crashing down on me, much like the guitar that nearly flattened Yoshihide as it fell off its perch, feeding back to a speaker towards the end of his performance. Serenely minimal and with the tense comedic atmosphere of traditional Japanese Noh Theatre, Otomo has a unique ability to bombard the audience with what seems like pure waves of sound. It is hard to tell if this is actually this indescribable, or as I am beginning to suspect, the process of listening to his performance actually targets the part of your brain that can describe what's going on and destroys it with a little atomic explosion. Either way, emerging from the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, I couldn't help but think that I had been sitting in a microwave set on high, and that I had been cooking from the inside out. There were three electronic bleeps and then they let me out the door.

Aqua is the new Kraftwerk.

Judy Darragh, Sunspots
Judy Darragh
Courtesy Jonathan Smart Gallery.

Right on the money with the New Age issue were Richard Reddaway and Judy Darragh, recently showing at Jonathan Smart. Both with their own take on a kind of intuitive organic geometry, the unlikely pairing came off with a sense of shared purpose which worked pretty well in a kind of slap-dash thrown-together kind of way. Reddaway hit the ground running. Delivering three or four works on the way up the stairs, this guy means business, or rather, this guy means Disco. Yep. The mirrors are back, this time mounted on Joel Shapiro-esque groupings of wooden blocks and attached to the wall. This was vintage Reddaway, but where are the little men that I recall being unimpressed with all those years ago? They don't seem too far away. My guess is that they are doing John Travolta à la Saturday Night Fever strut moves...

Judy Darragh, still in fine form, presents life at a more sedate pace - but still, I suspect, on the same drugs. Either an acid flash-back or a tribute to the late, great Frederick Hundertwasser, or even perhaps both, Darragh presents us with a series of beautiful romantic landscapes, waterfalls and forest scenes, punctuated by a flurry of stuck on labels, dots, and price tags. Strangely cinematic, these images remind me more of the yellow brick road than the yellow submarine, and despite their hallucinatory nature retain a quaint innocence about them and perhaps present some kind nostalgia for lost youth.

Speaking of lost youth, Boyd Webb has finally hit the McDougall. For all the innocence and ambiguity of Darragh's images, Webb seems a little precious, and his straight-forward comes off as a little too didactic. Even so, the works have a quaint Englishness about them. Not surprising, considering that he left the most English city south of Rangiora for the real thing long ago. The early works pile on the Monty Python bottom humour, something which I'm not sure entirely works, but I'm finding hard to complain about. Most of the work from the mid-eighties becomes much of a muchness, as all the work starts to look like an all-too-clever Greenpeace campaign, but things lighten up later on.

In the more recent works, like the one where the fillet steak has run-in with the barbed wire in the psychedelic oil slick, the images become richer and more abstract and some have the added bonus of being light-boxes. These are a little nicer, but over all, Webb's work only manages to get maybe one-and-a-half thumbs up, as the show loses its momentum through sheer repetitiveness of the images, perhaps exacerbated by the Robert McDougall and its 19th Century salon-style galleries. This seems to bring out the worst in the images, making them perhaps even more contrived than they really are.

But what really bugs me about Webb's images is that they seem to lack some kind of relevance, especially when compared to the likes of Judy Darragh's images with their immediacy almost to the point of urgency. Perhaps it is the blatant environmental ideology, something that requires direct action, communicated by Webb through an extremely indirect and mediated technique. I can't help but think that Webb is only adding to the problem by using this ideology as a smoke screen so that it is see what he is really on about. And that's pollution. Bit of a double standard really.

And finally, everybody's favourite marauder from the north is in town. Billy Apple, like a cross between Mel Bochner and that fat guy from E!'s Fashion Emergency, has come to teach CoCA a lesson. 'Censure, the Given as an Art Political Statement', comes off more like a decree from the inquisition than a minimal installation, although it is kind of pretty in that way that nuclear submarines are pretty.

Compared with a nuclear submarine, Billy Apple's work is the more spacious option, with only the smallest of interventions to interrupt the grandiose modernist architecture that is CoCA. Small interventions, but applied with an iron fist. The first room contained a shape like a deranged necktie, make from red string stretched between nails suck in to the floor with an air hammer. Apparently this had something to do with painting the walls red in another gallery across town. I wonder why he didn't. Good manners can get you anything.

The second work, for the Robert McDougall, couldn't be done because there was a Luddites meeting on at the same time he wanted to install the work, and they confiscated his power tools. This work, one of my favourites, consists of a single nail in the centre of the McDougall's marble floor with a little red circle around it. It even looks good at CoCA.

Work like this make you look at the details and the details were there. Evenly-spaced flood lights on the lighting track, and residue from a very hurried-looking paint job were the best ones. I guess it's hard to use a paint roller with those heavy iron fists.

The third, a work conceived especially for CoCA, sit is in the back end of the gallery where they normally have probably the worst painting shows ever anywhere. The paintings as you would figure, sit on two long picture rails, which Billy Apple has Censured. That is, he has painted them red. Billy Apple has issued an ultimatum, either: (a) leave them painted red for all eternity, (b) remove the damn picture rails, (c) wimp out and paint them white again.

This is like CoCA getting a celebrity make-over, only instead of options you get an ultimatum and you can't take an art gallery on a hot date. Anyway I'm on the edge of my seat and I just can't wait to see the next show at CoCA, so that I can find out what's going to happen to the picture rail.

Stay tuned.


Daniel Arps is a Taurus [Dragon] who enjoys Thai cookery and long walks on the
beach. He lives and works in Christchurch.

Log Illustrated apologises for not printing Mr Arps' last c-town round-up properly. He was the blameless victim of a small team of adept blame-avoiding, but highly adequate magazine-makers. He ended up looking all arty and illegible and we are quite sorry. It is there in full on this website if you are interested.



Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room