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many-to-many

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ET AL. (2013). many-to-many, Freedom Farmers: New Zealand Artists Growing Ideas, Auckland Art Gallery,Toi O Tamaki, 7 day collaboration with choreographer and performance Sean Curham.

(No. Of Pieces: multi-media installation: 50 adapted (painted & inscribed) office chairs on rollers, 15 metal fabricated extendable (telescopic) steel poles, 15 fabricated bases, 20 sandbags, 10 A4 billboards,  temporary fencing diamond fencing  3.3m x 13.2m and security mesh, 6 swiss balls, 100 helium balloons). Photographers Jennifer French & Kathy Ross
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social solidarity

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ET AL.
MAINTENANCE OF SOCIAL SOLIDARITY
ART GALLERY OF NEW SOUTH WALES JUNE 2009

et al. is the name of an elusive collaborative group of artists from New Zealand. They keep their individual identities discretely to themselves and issue limited interpretive material to explain their public art works. The works themselves arguably require no such interpretation as they constitute powerful ambient contexts for presenting rich historical and current geopolitical content. No clear ideological position is imposed even though the content of individual works is potentially chilling. The Group tends to respond to enquiries about the work by directing the curious to existing informational websites where relevant data is on public display rather than expressing their own views. Perhaps their anonymous g.oup dynamic subverts any such singular position. The group has had many members. over the years and has collaborated with musicians, scientists and others. Their work explores complex aspect^ of human behaviour, including philosophy, religion, technology and politics.

In this case the installation includes access to Google earth where you can track the locations of infamous military intelligence facilities around the world that are known to have been used by the CIA in their grotesque policy of ‘rendition’. In secret locations prisoners were interrogated off the record and beyond the recourse of international law. In this way the previous I- 3 administration managed to circumvent the Geneva Convention. Under the rule of Ronald Rumsfeld barbaric practices such as water boarding and violently applied forced feeding, sexual humiliation and beating were routinely used to collect intelligence. The juxtaposition of such methods with intelligence sounds like an oxymoron and yet the practice was staunchly defended by members of the administration. This is one in a series of projects where et al. looks at mind central in its various manifestations; social, medical, industrial and cultural.

This network of secret intelligence facilities has been widely denounced and will hopefully be demolished by the new administration in Washington. Sadly ho v ever once created such secret and illegal networks can survive and adapt to new and possibly even more dangerous purposes. By definition there is no clear trail or the public record, movements were elaborately concealed even flight control in host nations connived at falsifying flight paths, a dangerous and extraordinary contravention of international convention. Many of these pathways and facilities are probably still for sale.

 
(continued) This instillation captures the seedy secrecy and run down institutional atmosphere of ‘Rendition’ that by its nature preferred dysfunctional or impoverished locations’ including the old Soviet bloc, the middle east and parts of Africa. The installation on captures an ethos that is both sad and threatening. The elements cannot be easily’ codified and interpreted, are the rows of chairs left from a military briefing, a press conference or a political re-education seminar? They certainly set up the opposite on of passive audience and controller.

The ambiguous and uncomfortable ambience of the space none the less helps us identify personally with the raw data they display on locations and covert practices. We are ^given a faint glimpse of the terror that may trigger our empathy with the victims and prompt our disgust that the richest nation on earth could defy civilised conventions in the name of international safety. Clearly this was not the way to make the world safer the only way to do that is to support international conventions and to lead civilised behaviour by example. A safe world will not be a secret and illegal one run by the biggest bully on the block but on: where the clear light of day is allowed to shine on rational, humane and just policies.

The anonymity of the artists is clearly both in ethical position taken against the market exploitation of individual authorship, the cult of the individual, and a group preference. However anonymity also feeds into the holistic quality of the art work as we experience it. Is their secrecy suggestive that they could be prosecuted as social or cultural terrorists? In reality they are acting as conduits for information that is already in the public domain but the affective quality of the installation is another thing. It might recall the feelings engendered by the claustrophobic installations of the ex-Soviet artist Ilya Kabakov who in his work; re-created the stultifying and often frightening atmosphere of soviet institution; In Soviet controlled society and in the web of homeland security whispers surround us and can randomly condemn us. In any case the secrecy of the collaborative et al seems to potentially be another signifier in the elaborate field of effects assembled here. In the end though we can only assume that their rejection of identifiable authorship is principally a strategy to open the issues for individual audience response.

Anthony Bond, Director Curatorial AGNSW (1983-2013).

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Archaeologies of the Present

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INTERSTITIAL ZONES
Historical Facts, Archaeologies of the Present and Dialectics of Seeing. ARGOS CENTRE FOR ART & MEDIA (2009)

An artist’s work should not be viewed solely in terms of creation; it is also an act of resistance. But what does it mean to resist? Most of all, it means to have the strength to de-create what exists, to de-create reality, to be stronger than what is
already there.
Giorgio Agamben

In the media, historic events obey the laws of the media. They are simplified and misrepresented in single dimension. The false economics of current events and info-entertainment that govern the news grind reality up. Reality no longer has anywhere to flee. We see either clichés (the repetition and proliferation of the same thing, over and over) or we see nothing at all (discrimination against context and background, or censure). In both cases, there is a form of blindness whereby the world can no longer be looked at and the viewer is shipwrecked. The media knows only the here and now, that which is fleeting and bears no inner memory. The media shows facts over which we have no power. Interstitial Zones offers a critical alternative or opposing space, with the work of 15 artists and/or collectives that have sought out the crooks and crannies of postwar
history that the mass media never reveal. The topics are diverse: The Red Army Faction or RAF, George Bush’s inaugural speech, the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, 9/11, Iraq, the extra-legal regime of the Guantánamo Bay detention centre, the assault on Salvador Allende, Argentina’s economic failure at the beginning of the millennium, the Gaza conflict, religious suicide attacks and so on. These specific historic events could equally be exchanged for others. The meta-narrative breaking up of the mechanisms of media representation and seeking out intervals make up the starting point of the exhibition. These intervals manifest themselves, for example, in voice-overs detached from the visual presentation, interchanging multiple time spans and the use of black or white monochrome images. As a result, a dialectic is set in motion between representations by the mass media
on the one hand – with all the consequences for the way they take hold in our collective memories – and an ecological/iconoclastic position synonymous to the singularity of the artist on the other hand. Inherent to the interstitial space is the fact that it is a space of possibilities, a place where a new, different kind of visibility is put into effect. This is in part because of the visual mass found in the shadowed zones and off-screen spaces are upgraded, as well as through making us see with our ears. Interstitial Zones wishes to make a stand against the politics of invisibility with which the media confront us on a daily basis. How can we possibly speak of ‘images’ when the surfeit of ’information’ is such as it is? How might we again retrieve the rational from the emotional, the sensational? How do we touch on new political conditions if they continue, by definition, to be a blind spot for the media? The exhibition not only breaks open several decades of history by placing a distorted mirror before the mass media, it also focuses attention on that which transcends the moving image. It is now about the eclipse of politics and aspects of negative democracy, notably that which has increasingly pulled away from electoral legitimacy. How, for example, does the threat of terror lead to such beyond-the-rules conditions as those at Guantánamo Bay, answering to no legal framework and avoiding all visibility? Due to the absence of any images from Guantánamo, the listing of the names of the detainees in the work of Gianni Motti transcends the purely memorial function. Together, the names constitute a virtual space that makes way for an imagining of the reality kept from public scrutiny. Using differing examples, the exhibition investigates interval spaces of this nature.

The French language has the semantic attraction of offering a word play on the words voir and savoir, to see and to know, which did not escape Jean-Luc Godard. This same dialectic is also fundamental to the Interstitial Zones exhibition, where seeing is enclosed within knowing, in an ever-changing matrix of conscious and subconscious recollections. This means that the viewer has an active role in the exhibition. In contrast to the inherent character of television or film, the medium here does not disappear in what it permits us to see, but shows itself for what it is. The dialogue between different kinds of images provides an important place for that which cannot be visualized, but which is certainly conceivable. the authorities and citizens with different points of view, creating short-circuits in the meanings which are inspired by the improbable combinations of sound and image.

Curatorial statement – Paul Willemsen