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It’s the difficult things that linger. A bad night’s sleep, stress, anxiety, responsibility, fanciful obsessions. Happiness can be a distraction to, romance a guaranteed. Day dreams alone are often enough to pull our attentions elsewhere.
Fiona Connor’s What you bring to work with you seeks to makes visible the often unseen and unheard labours of the gallery, both physically and by association. Connor, in a beautifully obsessive process, replicated the bedroom windows of nine art gallery hosts. In the upstairs room of the recently re-opened Christchurch City Art Gallery, three of the windows have been recessed into the gallery walls as part of the ongoing group show Above Ground, an exhibition exploring the impact of architecture, imagination, and memory.
Installed, the windows glass panes give a glimpse into the inner workings of the galleries architecture: the construction of the walls and the supporting framework, rupturing the smooth facade white walls seek to uphold. Easily labeled as a work imploring the theories of institutional critique (a term favoured for work and practices that seek to make visible or challenge the underlying structure of art institutions), What you bring to work with you goes beyond this idea, as who and how the work was made tells an important story.
The series of windows replicate and reveal a position of intimacy. It is commonplace for the personal life and opinions of the artists to be made public, through their work or its surrounding discussion. One of the roles of gallery hosts is to learn these details, becoming filters through which this information can be shared to visitors. Connor’s windows reverse this relationship, as she entered the homes of the hosts, and further still—to their bedrooms, capturing every part of the original architecture in minute detail. Each crack and stain is represented, the sills are layered with the dust someone didn’t care to clean or was too tired to clean, bars barricading a window belonging to a room that seems barely over a meter wide. The original frames were not perfect nor glamorous, but there is empathy to this humility.
What you bring to work with you imposes private details into public and institutional space. Its title asks us to consider how the struggle and triumphs we face at home may seep into the working hours. Addressing the structure of the gallery, the works test our expectations of who can share information in these spaces and who has the privilege of being listened to. For residents of Christchurch, the dislocated architecture and exposed building structures will mirror a different story, as the difficulties of re-building are an ongoing reality. While the windows tell but a small piece of each individual’s life, it is worth admiring the detail.
Jae Hoon Lee, Blue Screen, April 7–30.
Robert Heald Gallery
Contemporary Art Night School with Tina Barton, April 5, 12, 19 from 5.30pm.
City Gallery Wellington