Winner Exhibition Excellence Art, New Zealand Museum Awards
The unsettling and liberating nature of social behaviour is explored in Share/Cheat/Unite, an exhibition in three parts: a group show, a research initiative and a series of live offsite commissions. The exhibition delves into the human psyche to consider how altruism, cheating and group formation appear to play a key role in shaping society, but not necessarily in the way we might assume. Could it be that when we cheat and lie we are not doing wrong but rather acting out instinctual aspects of innovation for the greater good? Likewise, when we claim to be altruistic by sharing are we not aiming to personally benefit in some way? When we form groups are we really free-thinking individuals or do we become mindless units bound by social mimicry and crowd unity? And could this moral ambiguity between our destructive and our humane tendencies be the reason for our evolutionary advantage over other species?
These questions are also particularly important in the work of artists who directly address social relations. At best such artists can contribute moments of political clarity, lateral thinking, social cohesion or warranted provocation. At other times artists can get it considerably wrong by misunderstanding cultural contexts, superficially engaging with communities, dabbling in areas in which they do not have expertise and manufacturing positive outcomes. For better or worse, artists are irrevocably embroiled in the social fray and aspects of altruism, cheating and group formation are intentionally or unintentionally bound within this exchange. With this in mind, Share/Cheat/Unite is also intended to be a forum for scrutinising current artistic practice by asking: What role do art objects and documentation play in addressing the social? How do artists utilise conversation as a tool when working in a social capacity? And, what social function does the live context play in art?
Share/Cheat/Unite is also an experiment in curatorial practice, intentionally seeking out an emergent proposition rather than a didactic theme. For instance, some of the selected works are inadvertently related to the topic, while others could be perceived as a resistance to or a contradiction within the curatorial premise. In the commissioning process, the artists and other participants have been invited to debate, collaborate and even direct the curatorial framing. The concept of the show is also intended to contribute towards a type of long-term conversation with other curators and art organisations. As part of this initiative, a different show of the same name is planned to be curated in 2017 by Jamie Hanton at The Physics Room in Christchurch. Through this curatorial approach, it is hoped that the exhibition might become an unpredictable forum that unfolds over time to encourage discussion and participation. Supported by: Frame Visual Arts Finland; Arts Promotion Centre Finland; Long March Space; Vermelho Gallery, Brazil; Prometeo Gallery, Italy.
The group show features an international selection of existing artworks that unpack social psychology by addressing a range of socio-political topics through photography, design, documented performance, collaborative and video-based practices. Hu Xiangqian performed an impassioned motivational speech to an assembly of indifferent school students. Aníbal López staged a public event where the public could talk to a contracted assassin. Sasha Huber deconstructs the racist legacy of a nineteenth-century glaciologist. Jonathas de Andrade convinced officials to allow a horse race in downtown Recife, Brazil. Yu-Cheng Chou's publication tells the life story of a man called Lu Chieh-Te. Vaughn Sadie and the Ntsoana Contemporary Dance Theatre group organised a series of public happenings that questioned the supposedly democratic process of urban planning.
Live Offsite Works
In October, Share/Cheat/Unite also features a series of live offsite commissions across Auckland that aim to entice, empower and confound. These include projects by artists Darcell Apelu, Mark Harvey, Ivan Mršić, John Vea and an ambiguous movement called YOUAREHEREWEAREHERE. For more information click here.
Generation Exchange (Patea), 6:00-8:00 am, 24 September 2016
Generation Exchange (Auckland), 6:00-9:00 am, 1 October 2016
Apelu’s Generation Exchange (2016) invited people to join her on two separate walking tours. The first, in the township of Patea to trace the memories of her maternal grandparents and to exchange family stories and local knowledge with others; the second, in Auckland from New Windsor Road to Mangere Lawn Cemetery to trace the memories of her paternal grandparents. In both instances, Apelu employed the notion of a pilgrimage as a way to embody and share personal histories. As Apelu explains further in this publication, this approach created a momentary forum through which members of the public felt comfortable to exchange by finding commonalities in their own whakapapa.
Turquoisation: For the coming storm, 2016
instructional video and series of public interventions
performers: Sara Cowdell, Lisa Greenfield, Kristian Larsen, Ivan Mršić, Claire O’Neil, Adrian Smith, Val Smith and Chancy Rattanong.
commissioned by Te Tuhi, Auckland
The power of emotional contagion and our proclivity towards groupthink is a key driver behind Mark Harvey's participatory performance Turquoisation: For the coming storm (2016). Together with a troop of turquois garbed performers, Harvey infiltrated the Share/Cheat/Unite exhibition opening, paraded down busy streets in downtown Auckland and seamlessly merged with the carnivalesque atmosphere of a community art festival. In each iteration, the group slipped between strategies of religious evangelism, corporatised mindfulness, cult-like unity and neo-liberal positivity. “Follow” chants the instructional video as the performers convince members of the public to join them in repeating facial expressions and body actions. While ridiculous fun, these repetitious requests have an exploitative agenda—to make us suspend critical thought and to be mindlessly directed by others.
Kakokarangaphonia Orchestra, 2016
a collaborative offsite performance, 12pm - 1pm, 15 October 2016
Karanga Plaza, Wynyard Quarter, Auckland
supported by Panuku Development Auckland
commissioned by Te Tuhi, Auckland
performers: Tom Cadillac, Xin Cheng, Sean Curham, Malcolm Dunn, Phill Dryson, Ben Holmes, Rui Inaba, Kevin Kim, Kristian Larsen, Melissa Laing, Ivan Mršić, Immi Paterson-Harkness, John Radford, Adam Rotgans, Maurice Reviol, Balamohan Shingade, Paul Smith, Marek Billington, Joel Vinsen, Dedee Wirjapranata, Colin, James Woods, Inda Yansane, Tristan Hancock.
Ivan Mršić's Kakokarangaphonia Orchestra was an experimental sound art ensemble comprised of musicians, sound artists and enthusiasts who will play together for the first time. This unpredictable one-hour event was guided only by a random composition, based on binary code, that the performers will then translate into improvised sounds and movement. Through these many variables, the Kakokarangaphonia Orchestra is an attempt to gain insight into how society is not always rational and ordered but rather a patchwork of chance encounters, innovative chaos and serendipitous symphony. By combining the Greek word kako (bad or unpleasant) and the Māori word karanga (a ceremonial welcome, or to call out), Mršić also references the complex nature that sound plays in our social encounters as a vehicle for unity, discord or ingenuity.
One Kiosk Many Exchanges, 12:00-1:00 pm, 8 October 2016
In collaboration with Kaitiaki Taonga Taini Drummond and artists Valasi Leota-Seiuli, Sione Mafi, Newman Tumata and Jimmy Wulf. Emilia Maud Nixon Garden of Memories, 37 Uxbridge Road, Howick, Auckland
One Kiosk Many Exchanges is a collaborative performance art event instigated by artist John Vea that responds to the entwined histories of the Emilia Maud Nixon Garden of Memories in Howick, Auckland. The garden was established by Nixon in 1962 to recognise the tangata whenua Ngāi Tai and the legacy of European pioneer women. Situated in the heart of Howick Village, the garden has additional significance as being a site of Māori habitation for at least 300 years and also a colonial significance for being strategic land that the British military secured through occupation by Fencible soldiers. In more recent years, the garden has been the site of change owing to a fire that damaged Te Whare o Torere and then later through the construction of a new building, Te Whare Matariki.
One Kiosk Many Exchanges seeks to create an exchange with this history through a series of performative actions within the garden using a pop-up marquee. The title for the work borrows the Turkish term 'kiosk', a word originally used to describe an open pavilion-like building to gather under, but was later used by Europeans to describe a space to serve or sell goods from. Vea brings this mixed understanding of the kiosk in relation to the complex legacy of the gardens as a place of colonisation and community, of collapse and rebuilding, and of trauma and healing.
Recognising that they are manuhiri to the garden and New Zealanders from many different cultural backgrounds, Vea and his collaborating artists will also explore what it means to be visitors responding to a site of rich local significance. They will attempt to do so by engaging with shared notions of unity, temporality, permanence and precariousness that have further significance within the wider context of Auckland's burgeoning population and growing housing shortage.
various locations and times, 1:15-5:00 pm, 22 October 2016
(as part of the 2016 Whau Arts Festival: Twenty Whau Seven)
Outside Salvation Kitchen, 1843 Great North Road, Avondale, Auckland
YOUAREHEREWEAREHERE is an ambiguous group that intervenes in the institutional rituals that frame socially engaged art. This collaboratively driven project specifically experiments with the promotion and reception of art through a series of online works and live events. For the online works and documentation of live events click here
The research initiative, run by artist and academic Melissa Laing, is a month-long programme of discussions, workshops and lectures taking place throughout September that explores the importance of conversation in artistic practices.
Since the 1990s there has been a well-documented rise in the use of conversation as a method and medium within contemporary art practice. As a result, conversation as a tool and medium is now embedded in our collective understandings of art. However, when the conversational aspect of an artwork is acknowledged it is often only stated that discussion took place and what it resulted i,n without delving into the nature of the conversation or its formal properties.
The Share/Cheat/Unite research initiative, run by the Performance Ethics Working Group, seeks to go deeper and examine the specific aesthetic, ethical, social and political aspects of conversation in art. It plans to build a nuanced understanding of the skills and considerations that artists bring to bear on the act of conversation – situating this practice within the increased interest in the role of conversation in contemporary society.
During September 2016, a Performance Ethics Working Group will gather at Te Tuhi to undertake a research project alongside the exhibition Share/Cheat/Unite. The research will be furthered through a variety of forums including a discussion group, public talks and interviews.
The Performance Ethics Working Group is a research cluster in the University Without Conditions. Led by Melissa Laing, the working group’s structure is open and flexible, bringing diverse participants together around a question or event. The group's previous research focused on the intersection of ethics with contemporary performance practices across and between the fields of theatre, dance, live and visual arts and produced a performance ethics podcast series published at: universitywithoutconditions.ac.nz
Members of this gathering of the Performance Ethics Working Group will include Leon Tan, Jeremy Leatinu’u, John Vea, Tosh Ahkit, Xin Cheng & Chris Berthelsen.