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April 9, 2018 | by  | in Arts Visual Arts |
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All My Favourite Places are Closing Down

I feel like I am always watching all my most familiar and favourite places closing down. I feel this acutely when I visit Fiona Connor’s exhibition Closed Down Clubs and Monochromes at Hopkinson Mossman. The part of the exhibition that half its title is taken from, the closed down clubs, is a series of vacated doors. I do not recognise the doors themselves— they vary in texture, shape, form— but the familiarity lies in the state of closure.

The four sets of doors that occupy the centre of the gallery have been replicated from various closed American establishments: restaurants, clubs, an American Apparel store. Connor has not removed these doors from their original environments, instead meticulously recreating them in her studio, taking care to imitate the closure notices, signs from failed health and safety checks, and that layer of grime that signals that a premises has been vacated for a short while. These resulting replicas speak to a very specific moment in time.

A gallery context has a tendency to halt the ephemeral. Whereas natural elements would normally continue to erode an object, the responsibility of the gallery is faithful preservation. I didn’t attempt to, but I imagine that in Hopkinson Mossman, Connor’s doors can’t be touched; can’t pull my finger through the thick layer of dust, paste a new poster, try to open them. However, there is still a version of the doors that these things can be enacted on, the “authentic” originals. They are susceptible to all the normal and real things of urban life and deterioration, and then also, the undoing of this. Decomposition and recomposition. With time, the original closed doors, and the past establishments that were shut with them, will undoubtedly open again; the gallery replicas still sealed, lips keeping a good secret. For those doors in the real world, the disinterested future hurtles towards them; and Connor’s versions become less of facsimiles, and more of things themselves.

These things, in themselves, can be a record of our changing communities. Transformation in a city is a seeping thing. The nature of this transformation is that everything new also erases. We can remember past places in histories shared by word of mouth, and expired listings somewhere on the internet, but for places that were never destined to stay long, opened with optimism, they are forgotten easily. It’s harder to pinpoint what has changed in a community if you cannot remember what was there before, and for those who can influence patterns of gentrification, it’s easier to pretend that nothing is happening if it is made invisible in real time. Connor’s sculptural works focus on America, but the economic, political, and technological conflicts that often force their end, noted in Hopkinson Mossman’s exhibition essay, are also relevant here. Recently, the confirmation of the closure of the Newtown PostShop has local business owners, who rely on the PostShop, concerned about their own fates. This is what Connor’s work makes me think about: the traces of human existence in our built environment, our precarious social geographies, the often intangible characteristics of these things. Local services shut, and suburbs shrink, and the city swells sickeningly, and the city sucks everything into a homogenised zone, and one closed door will usually not be the only one.

Closed Down Clubs and Monochromes is on at Hopkinson Mossman until 14 April.

Level 2, 22 Garrett Street, Te Aro

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