Messing about with everyday things
Now that no less an art world figure as a former director of the Tate Modern has told us young men who don't clean their rooms are the pinnacle of New Zealand contemporary art, the latest show at Artspace is timely.
Koki Tanaka has made an art form out of making a mess. He's been funded by the Asia New Zealand Foundation to come here from his base in Los Angeles and reprise a performance/installation he did in Yokohama.
Tanaka takes stuff that's lying around, finds ways to trash or scatter it in a random way, and has a video of himself doing it. Which actually helps to make it make some sense. It explains how all that stuff got on the floor, and why it's damn well going to stay that way for another month.
Over in the corner is another video, a sort of greatest hits package of Tanaka performances: stuffing a large tarpaulin into a small car, jumping on a pile of cardboard cartons, squirting tomato sauces on the ground in a circle.
What supposedly ties Tanaka's work with the others in the show is that they offer "perspectives on the intersection of human and sculptural form".
Tanaka says he wants to make viewers aware of everyday things. "You normally ignore how you sit down, so even when we sit down in a chair, you can find something strange or something new or something fresh in that.
"I try to find something different in everyday routines, so in this work I try to use every object in a different way to show its possibilities."
The works, which turn out to be the products of three separate sequences of actions, and grouped around a pentagonal divider, which is imported from Tanaka's works about disrupting the linear curatorial flow that galleries get into.
His interest in what he calls "temporary sculpture" is a reaction to Japan's ongoing economic crisis.
"When I was at art school in Tokyo from 1996 to 2000, I felt not only the economic crisis but that I cannot make any art. There are so many artists already, so many nice works, I cannot add anything new, so I start to focus on our everyday, because we don't need to do any art any more, so just focus on the everyday to find something different," Tanaka says.
He was inspired by a student exchange trip to the Vienna Secession in 1998, where American artists Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy collaborated on Sod and Sodie Sock Comp. O.S.O, a giant installation and performance piece around the idea of a boot camp featuring cartoon character Sad Sack.
"I saw it and felt, 'I can do anything, make anything,"' Tanaka says. "Maybe it's a huge mistake but I keep going because I can't go back to making just painting or use my cultural background, making animation or whatever. I feel guilty if I make something like that."
Layla Rudneva-Mackay's work at Artspace is a large photograph of a figure trapped face down under the mattress of a bed.
The title work is a video of Korean artist Kim Beom talking to a rock in a classroom. Beom seems to have made a career out of Joseph Beuys' How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare. Maybe Anne Tolley could learn something.
Another Beuys work was a cycle of drawings he claimed was an extension, requested by the author, of James Joyce's Ulysses.
Walters Prize judge Vicente Todoli said Dan Arps' work was "a development of a concept first created by James Joyce in Ulysses, which is the epiphany of everyday life ..."
In the side room at Artspace, Arps has modified an insulated container.
A conversation with Dan Arps. "I've got a little cave going on."
Are you going to make it more cave like or will it be a room like that? "You know I'm kind of just making this up as I go along. Yep."
So you've got the space and ...? "I was kind of interested in the idea you have like, something that is one thing on one side and something quite different on the other side. So it's a facade and kind of illusionistic, kind of riffing on the way theme parks operate with almost full-scale representation of things, and everything is like a facade."
Have you spent much time in theme parks? "I've never been to a theme park. This is my way of going to a theme park. It's kind of the Against Nature way of working. I just make it for myself. There's probably going to be a few other things going on.
"The idea was that I have a mock Tudor face on the other side. I really like mock Tudor because it's like really hard modernism, like brutalism or something, and then it has this obviously thin facade layered over the top and what that does is connect it to a history so it's like a facade of being connected to a history."
So how will this relate to your Walters Prize entry?
"I kind of think of my work as being a separate thing from myself. The work comes from this other world so we say this thing comes from the same universe as the things in the Walters.
"The aesthetic will be similar. There's a kind of similar dirtiness, there's a similar approach to materials."
Or non approach? "Non-approach."
It's a bit more composed isn't it? "I wouldn't necessarily say that. I think the Walters Prize is very, very composed. I guess this has a much more directed narrative flow than the Walters Prize, maybe that's what you are getting at."
What: The Rock That Was Taught It Was a Bird, by Dan Arps, Kim Beom, Layla Rudneva-Mackay & Koki Tanaka
Where and when: Artspace, Karangahape Rd, to November 20
Published October 23