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August 7, 2017 | by  | in Visual Arts |
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The Tomorrow People

In the Adam Art Gallery’s current exhibition The Tomorrow People, Claudia Dunes and Rainer Weston’s work is on unsteady footing.

Of other spaces (arch) and (drape) comprise two 32-inch screens: one mounted upright and the other lying down, as though asleep. Both show soft dirt, marred by heavy vehicle tyre tread. These are photographs used for computer-generated imagery, and the data embedded in them seems to effect lighting changes, so that the patterns pulse faintly. This oscillation makes me seasick when I look at it for too long, and I’m still unsure if there is any real motion here. Thick strips of vinyl are draped over both screens, a fraction of the images cropped out of view.

I see myself in the vinyl, and in the tyre tracks. I am languid, liquid, reflective, at once there and dissolving away. Slippery — baby, I want to be a speed racerand yet static, tyre tracks just given up the chase.

In of other spaces (arch) and (drape), Dunes and Weston locate our place immediately after something has happened, a truck rolling over a landscape, and before its traces are lost. Thus, their works exist in real time on screen, but also in the moment just before we look. Of other spaces (arch) and (drape) have always already occurred, and we have always just missed them. We are reeling, left behind in the uncertainty of inhabiting a space that wasn’t created for us.

The exhibition builds on this feeling a lot; sometimes it teeters on the edge of cultural capitalisation. This is an unexpected discomfort that wriggles its way into small corners of the show. What are the implications of an exhibition that attempts to negotiate the unsureness of existing as a part of this generation, yet still hints at a gate-keeping that allows Māori and Pacific artists to be exhibited only in the context of youth, and for youth to be celebrated only in the context of its vulnerability?

Fresh and Fruity don’t buy these tropes. They are both present tense and future, “a sexy new look.” An indigenous online art collective, their existence is primarily digital: a realm beyond fixed time or space, that doesn’t privilege the physicality of the gallery as white cube. I am a Pākehā woman, and Fresh and Fruity don’t need my words either. Their work, Manifesto vol 1: Fresh and Fruity is a sexy new look, is DayGlo pink and hot to touch.

It’s the inclusion of artists and collectives like Fresh and Fruity that mean my apprehensions about the intentions of The Tomorrow People are mostly fleeting. It feels like something is being overcome with Hikalu Clarke’s Choke Point, a physical intervention onto the banisters that run down the stairs between levels. There is security in disruption that has been orchestrated for you, architectural anarchy played out against a historical stairwell. The bannisters jut too far, and bow too low, but there’s more support, more to hold onto now. This is crowd control for broken dialogues.

The Tomorrow People is suspended in the hypothetical, a juncture between doubts, but this is not posited as the end point. There is space for humour, for anger and healing, and anger again, and transformation.

I don’t feel as unsteady anymore.

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