Ruth Buchanan, Judith Hopf, Marianne Wex: BAD VISUAL SYSTEMS

Ruth Buchanan, Judith Hopf, Marianne Wex: BAD VISUAL SYSTEMS

Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University of Wellington

Ruth Buchanan, Judith Hopf, Marianne Wex, BAD VISUAL SYSTEMS. Installation view, Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi. Photo: Shaun Matthews.
October 12, 2016
Ruth Buchanan, Judith Hopf, Marianne Wex: BAD VISUAL SYSTEMS

October 2–December 22, 2016

Adam Art Gallery
Victoria University of Wellington
Gate 3, Kelburn Parade PO Box 600
Wellington 6140
New Zealand
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 11am–5pm

The Adam Art Gallery is pleased to present BAD VISUAL SYSTEMS, a major new exhibition by Berlin-based, New Zealand-born artist Ruth Buchanan. The title of the exhibition draws on the idea first articulated by feminist theorist, Donna Haraway, that “self-identity is a bad visual system”. Buchanan is drawn to this notion as it succinctly articulates her sense that there are powerful forces vested in architecture, art, language, society and the manifold organisational and structural systems that take place within them, that affect how the human subject behaves and interferes with how they know themselves. She has self-consciously chosen to work with two other women artists of different generations also based in Germany—Judith Hopf and Marianne Wex—to position her thinking within a feminist history and discourse.

Buchanan has blurred the roles of artist, curator, and designer, playing all three to create a fully immersive installation with objects, materials, display systems, screens, images, and words. These occupy the space ambivalently, playing off the architecture and doubling as the familiar furniture of exhibition making. The show engages the viewer actively with built-in response mechanisms including an audience-activated soundtrack that serves as audio-guide; videos that spring to life with human contact, and room dividers that rearrange familiar spaces and disrupt existing way-finding.

BAD VISUAL SYSTEMS is the latest in a string of solo exhibitions and major commissions Ruth Buchanan has undertaken in Europe, New Zealand, Asia and Australia since 2007. In each, she creates situations she describes as “meetings with meaning”, where the systems utilised in the production of culture—display formats, collection protocols, museum structures—are interrogated, and exhibition and graphic design is re-appropriated as a means to manage the viewer’s experience.

Judith Hopf’s irreverent attitude to art making belies her serious purpose: to address how society, through its institutions and systems, operates to enforce normative behaviour.  For this exhibition, Hopf is represented by three film works that typify her practice. Also included are her untitled concrete ‘serpents’, which have teeth made from tiny paper triangles made from her work emails that derive from her thinking about the precarity of labour under present conditions. Hopf has exhibited widely throughout Europe and the USA, however this is the first time she has shown her work in New Zealand.

Marianne Wex is enjoying renewed attention for Let’s Take Back Our Space: ‘Female’ and ‘Male’ Body Language as a Result of Patriarchal Structures (1977–9) which David Campany has called “one of the great unsung works of 1970s’ feminist history and cultural analysis”, in its compilation of thousands of images of men’s and women’s differing body language designed to analyse the unconscious ways in which the patriarchy literally occupies more space. Excerpts of this project are an important feature of BAD VISUAL SYSTEMS. Marianne Wex lived in Wellington New Zealand between 1983 and 1986.

The exhibition will be documented by a publication designed by HIT (Berlin), with an essay by Mike Sperlinger, who curated the first exhibition of Wex’s work since the early 1980s at the Focal Point Gallery in England in 2009.

For more information and to purchase the publication visit:

The Adam Art Gallery is the art gallery of Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand. It is a forum for critical thinking about art and its histories as well as the professional structure within which the Victoria University Art Collection is managed. The gallery’s programmes aim to test and expand art form and disciplinary boundaries and create new opportunities to bring artists together and generate fresh conversations. The gallery is a remarkable architectural statement designed by the late Sir Ian Athfield, one of New Zealand’s foremost architects.


Ruth Buchanan, Judith Hopf, and Marianne Wex at Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi

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Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University of Wellington
October 12, 2016

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