Curated by Su Ballard and Aaron Kreisler
AMONG THE MACHINES challenges thirteen contemporary artists to document a twenty-first century in which machines, humans and nature have come together. Situating the long-term concerns of ecology alongside the hopefulness of utopian thought, and with a focus on the South Island of New Zealand, the works in the exhibition offer a speculative map for the future.
The exhibition brings together for the first time a number of leading contemporary Australian and New Zealand artists, including Susan Norrie, Ruth Buchanan, Jae Hoon Lee, Aaron and Hannah Beehre, Hayden Fowler, Ronnie van Hout, Stella Brennan, Daniel Crooks, Fiona Pardington, Ann Shelton, Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, Douglas Bagnall and Nathan Pohio. Each artist presents two works: one chosen by the curators and the other a new work that creates a response to or provides a counter to the original work.
AMONG THE MACHINES expands on Samuel Butler’s late nineteenth-century imagined journey to the unknown interior of the South of New Zealand. In his novel, Erewhon, published anonymously in 1872, Butler presented a satire of western society, machines and environment that prefigured a disturbing shift in societal and technological relations. Butler suggested that the next step in Darwinian evolution belonged to the machine, perhaps at the expense of the human. AMONG THE MACHINES examines connections between geographical locations, fictions, and fragments of our technological imagination.
Ecology is key to Aaron and Hannah Beehre’s site-specific installation where physical access is denied, yet the audience still impacts on the environment. Blurring the line between nature and technology the installation is made from generative data that reflect the eccentricities of animal rather than digital matter. Jae Hoon Lee’s video installations Sea of Desire and Ice Column maps an endless journey across sea ice that is picked up in an urban environment by Daniel Crook’s time-slice experiments. Both artists in very different ways use video and communications media to map the uncanny experience of revisiting multiple temporal spaces. This sense of shifting relationships to time and space, is most clearly articulated in Crook’s latest work in which audiences move through a labyrinth room. This unsettling scenario continues through Bronwyn Holloway-Smith’s Pioneer City, which offers the opportunity for all visitors to AMONG THE MACHINES to apply for residency on Mars. Is this our new Erewhon?
Through a diverse collection of artworks, AMONG THE MACHINES focuses attention on constructions of nature, the individual, place, and our understanding of the role of technology in society. Most significantly, AMONG THE MACHINES gives us the opportunity to rethink both the stories we tell of the future, and the kinds of images that will help us get there.
This will be the second in an ongoing series of collaborative curatorial projects in which the Gallery works on visualising a new body of research with an internationally recognised academic in their area of expertise. AMONG THE MACHINES brings the Australian-based New Zealand art historian Dr Susan (Su) Ballard into discussion with Dunedin Public Art Gallery’s curator Aaron Kreisler to realise a survey exhibition and publication.
Dr. Ballard is a New Zealand-born art writer, curator and senior lecturer in Art History, Visual and Media Art and the University of Wollongong, Australia. Her research focuses on systems, aesthetics, utopia, noise, machines, nature, accidents and errors in contemporary art and the art gallery. She co-edited The Fibreculture Journal 20 “Networked Utopias and Speculative Futures” in 2012 and The Aotearoa Digital Arts Reader published by Clouds in 2008.
Artists: Douglas Bagnall, Aaron and Hannah Beehre, Stella Brennan, Ruth Buchanan, Daniel Crooks, Hayden Fowler, Jae Hoon Lee, Susan Norrie, Fiona Pardington, Nathan Pohio, Ann Shelton, Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, Ronnie van Hout