June 9–July 28, 2018
In 1958, weaver Ilse von Randow was commissioned to produce a major work of woven curtains for the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki in New Zealand. Her ‘Auckland Art Gallery Curtains’ became the largest piece of hand weaving created in New Zealand. In her first presentation of work in North America, Ruth Buchanan’s exhibition ‘Dead Marble’ revisits von Randow’s curtain, and the newly designed Auckland Art Gallery sculpture court (1953) in which they were hung, as a departure point to reconfigure the complex relationships between gendered representations, institutional hierarchies and the burden of inherited legacies.
Buchanan’s work often begins in the archive and here she turns to how the ‘Auckland Art Gallery Curtains’ by von Randow, a textile artist from Germany, reflects a moment when European modernist influenced ideas began to take shape in New Zealand. The newly designed Auckland Art Gallery courtyard reflected wider social and cultural changes that were being implemented in daily life during this period. Acting as an entrance to the sculpture court, the curtains architecturally demarcated the space in such a way that signified the necessity for a different form of engagement and practice. The intention of the addition of the sculpture court was to allow for a more performative and ‘lived experience’ of the institution on the part of the audience, hosting poetry readings, piano recitals, and a reading room.
‘Dead Marble’ is an installation that stages a series of performative provocations drawing attention to the ways in which both people and architecture determine the experience of the institution. Through an audio guide, several characters—all of whom have a distinct relationship to the sculpture court—will “inhabit” the space. Each week for the duration of the exhibition, the tone of the installation will shift through the scripted audio presence of one of the seven characters: the visitor; the weaver; the plinth; the cleaner; the director; the piano; and the architect. ‘Dead Marble’ takes shape through the subjectivities of these characters, who essentially become custodians of the space of Artspeak as they set up the embodied conditions through which we experience and encounter the works within the installation. Through this contingent equivalence between characters and their respective narration, there is a defiance to comply to a singular system of interpretation or institutional perspective. Questions of how power plays out within institutions, across time and sightlines, emerge. These staged encounters broker new networks of relationships, as they draw attention to the way the audience becomes both an active agent and spectator as they move through and experience the literary and formal sculptural installation of ‘Dead Marble’.
Artspeak gratefully acknowledges Creative New Zealand for their support of this exhibition. Ruth Buchanan would like to thank Andreas Müller and Hopkinson Mossman (Auckland/Wellington, New Zealand).
RUTH BUCHANAN, TA'I SMITH
June 9, 2018
T’ai Smith leads a discussion with Ruth Buchanan about diagonals as a form of disruption and the role of textiles in Buchanan’s exhibition Dead Marble.