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April 15, 2013 | by  | in Arts Visual Arts |
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Review – City Gallery

The City Gallery is currently featuring a vibrant range of exhibits, with two collections, Moving on Asia: Towards a New Art Network and Len Lye: Kaleidoscope standing out in particular.

The first of these two exhibits, Moving on Asia, currently occupies the ground floor of the gallery, which has been atmospherically dimmed for the duration of the exhibit. The collection, curated by Seoul’s Gallery LOOP, features work from video artists from more than 13 Asian countries, with the gallery refreshing these works monthly. The diversity among the videos is a feat in itself—ranging from the creepy to the trippy, raw to heartwarming. The pieces have been cleverly arranged by the City Gallery to allow for complete immersion in the pieces, with many of the videos being shown in isolated cuboid rooms, and others requiring the specific use of headphones.

One standout piece is Siaram by Park Seung Won, who, in 15 minutes of raw grainy footage, chronicles a night-time trip to the zoo, with one unexpected event after another. The memorability of the video comes from a rare achievement in art of any sort—it is able to evoke a chance feeling with pinpoint accuracy. Siaram celebrates what one might feel when walking home late at night, or grocery-shopping alone—a chilly solitude familiar to any member of modern society.

Another notable artist of the Moving on Asia collection is Meiro Koizumi, who has previously exhibited in New York’s MoMA and Sydney’s Artspace. His videos while all individual, share a common theme of urban absurdity, mixing the sentimental with the surreal. An excellent example of this is seen in his piece My Voice Would Reach You, where Koizumi records an actor reading a dialogue for his deceased mother aloud, not to an audience or family member, but on the phone with randomly chosen Japanese businesses found in the phonebook. The result is a curious mix of humour and melancholy, making it an exceptional and memorable performance-based video.

Upstairs, another dynamic exhibit can be found with Len Lye: Kaleidoscope. Most are likely to be unknowingly familiar with Lye’s work already, as the mind behind the Water Whirler on Wellington’s waterfront. While Lye can also be classified as a filmmaker, poet and painter, this exhibit focuses on his kinetic works—moving sculptures! Some of these are best described as mesmerising—it is almost impossible to look away from the lit-up metal of Zebra slowly spinning from one form to another. Others are less harmonious, Stormbreaker is aptly named, with both the sound and visuals produced by the steel structure frighteningly realistic. Testimony to this was a rather young visitor viewing the piece, who let out a scream and burst into tears upon the sculpture’s activation. The sculptures are complemented by the display of Lye’s experimental films achieved by “composing motion”. Altogether, the exhibit is a successful collection of exciting works, and a rare chance to see a comprehensive number of Len Lye’s pieces in the same room.

Moving on Asia runs until 3 June, and Len Lye: Kaleidoscope until 26 May, both at the City Gallery Wellington.

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