Ruth Watson: Geophagy
16 December 2017 - 18 February 2018
CURATED BY KHYE HITCHCOCK, BRUCE E. PHILLIPS and Linda Tyler
CoCA presents Geophagy by Auckland-based artist Ruth Watson. First exhibited at the Gus Fisher Gallery in Auckland, this critically acclaimed exhibition is reworked and up-scaled to respond specifically to CoCA's galleries. Featuring a towering sculptural installation, poetic video works and photography, Watson explores how our relationship to the earth and each other is influenced by technology in complex ways. The artworks specifically provide an all-encompassing picture of how international transportation, instant communication, digital mapping and surveillance, environmental degradation and global migration have fundamentally changed our social fabric and natural ecosystem.
The exhibition is centred on the sculpture titled Geophagy—a large-scale construction assembled from hundreds of wooden pallets and clad in a mound of second-hand clothing. The term ‘geophagy’ is the practice of incorporating soil substances into one’s diet, such as chalk or clay to provide mineral and bacterial enrichment. Nestled within the structure are a number of videos that explore the literal and metaphorical associations of geophagy by revealing how humans have charted, traversed and consumed the earth in different ways.
The video work Unmapping the World takes Watson's family history and connection to the Canterbury region as a starting point to delve into the societal complications caused by global mobility, immigration and colonisation. The Surface of Things is a three-channel video work that questions the thin veil of global stability in a poetic scrolling text and footage of a military base in San Francisco. Transient Global Amnesia suggests the ephemerality of human knowledge and civilisation through a serries of photographs depicting disintegrating street maps, found in the streets of Auckland.
Ruth Watson is one of Aotearoa New Zealand's most respected artists. Her work has been exhibited and collected by public galleries and museums throughout New Zealand and has also been shown internationally at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Frankfurter Kunstverein; the Sydney Biennale; Gallery of Modern Art Brisbane; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb; Asia Society Gallery, New York; and the Kunst-Werke, Berlin. She has been the recipient of the Olivia Spencer-Bower Art Award, The Fulbright-Wallace Art Award, The Washington D.C. based Ristow Prize for an essay in cartographic history.