Michael Stevenson: Serene Velocity In Practice, MC510/CS183
19 January 2018
“Are all founders criminals of one sort or another?” notes a student who attended the Stanford University elective CS183, taught by Peter Thiel, the famed PayPal co-founder and supporter of Donald J. Trump. This sentiment resonates with Michael Stevenson’s new installation Serene Velocity in Practice: MC510/CS183 (2017) on exhibition at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. In this showcase, the New Zealand-born, Berlin-based artist takes Thiel’s class and the fallout of innovation as its central focus. For Stevenson’s presentation, the gallery’s entire second floor was gutted of temporary walls, exposing a rough patchwork of plaster and paint from previous shows. This provided a warehouse-like environment to foreground his construction, consisting entirely of repurposed objects, which form two partitioned spaces conjoined by a roof-covered corridor.
The corridor and exhibition title reference Ernie Gehr’s acclaimed short film Serene Velocity (1970), which features a modernist university hallway that is animated by methodically executed, jumpy focal shifts, creating a sensation of undulating acceleration and retreat. The incessant perspective variations in Gehr’s film can be compared to the alternating pedagogical ideologies offered within Stevenson’s two interior spaces joined at opposite ends of the corridor. Each space resembles a type of classroom environment and is dedicated to now-defunct courses once offered by Californian educational institutions.