Buchanan is an artist from Aotearoa New Zealand who lives in Berlin. She works across exhibition making, writing, design and teaching. Her work draws out the contested and dynamic relationship between the body, power, language and the archive. This process of contesting often relates closely to the types of relationships that standardized infrastructures such as archives, libraries and museums have contributed to creating between our bodies and society at large. Buchanan actively asks how these relationships could be otherwise. Recent and forthcoming exhibition projects include Heute nacht geträumt, Kunstmuseum Basel | Gegenwart, and The scene in which I find myself / Or, where does my body belong, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, Ngāmotu New Plymouth. Recent editorial projects include Uneven Bodies (Reader) including contributions from Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Gabi Ngcobo and Tina Barton, and www.evacuationtapes.net including contributions from Anna Gritz and Sriwhana Spong. In 2019 she received the Walters Prize, the preeminent biennial contemporary art award for an Aotearoa New Zealand artist.
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.