Monday, November 11, 2013

Farming news

If you want to see contemporary art Auckland Art Gallery is the place to go. Three floors of it. Has the AAG ever shown as much in one hit? OK, you may not like all of it but for now anyway the contemporary rules on Kitchener Street.

Of course this comes at a cost. How is it even possible that in a brand new building the only way the AAG can put a serious contemporary foot forward is by stripping out most of its historical collections? These are the best all-purpose spaces in the Gallery so how Freedom Farmers curator Natasha Conland persuaded the history curators to let her have the run of them is anybody’s guess. Still now we know the way this is the obvious venue for big contemporary exhibitions such as the proposed Billy Apple survey.

As for the Farmers show, it's certainly a graphic demo of the magnetic attraction of Auckland. Only four of the 20 artists on show were actually born in the city (that’s only one more than the number who were born outside NZ) but 65 percent of them live there. And Elam has had nearly a clean sweep with all but three of the 20 artists having graduated from or teaching there.

Sometimes it's the public programmes that clarify an exhibition's intentions. Freedom Famers quirky title and poppy presentation come together around something called "creative living". The links back to the 1970s (the current hot curatorial decade) and guides like the Whole Earth Catalog will be made material on 1 December via an "Ideas Market" with beer brewing and composting. 

In this out pouring of utopian alternatives viewers may be surprised to find much of the actual work in the exhibition is dystopian to the point of despair. On the other hand, as writer Rose Lovejoy once dryly noted, “Every dystopia is masked by a utopia.”