February 21, 2020 - Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki - Shahryar Nashat, Sriwhana Spong, Frances Stark, Martine Syms: Honestly Speaking: The Word, the Body and the Internet
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February 21, 2020

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Shahryar Nashat, Sriwhana Spong, Frances Stark, Martine Syms
Honestly Speaking: The Word, the Body and the Internet
February 22–June 7, 2020

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
Corner Kitchener and Wellesley Streets
Auckland
New Zealand

www.aucklandartgallery.com
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Honestly Speaking: The Word, the Body and the Internet brings together works by Shahryar Nashat (Switzerland), Sriwhana Spong (NZ), Frances Stark (USA) and Martine Syms (USA) in an exhibition that engages us in questions relevant to our intimacy with screen life. Through their practice, the artists balance an exploration of subjectivity with a critique of representation as it has formed in the space of film, video and moving image technologies.

While our era may be distinguished by ready-access to digital technologies, information and image-making, this exhibition looks at our current relationship to "screen culture" by referencing the human subjects directly in front of it. It focuses on these subjects in their most visceral or personal form—as bodies in dialogue. 

Together, the works in Honestly Speaking reignite issues that were important catalysts for cultural politics in the 1980s—a time when the spectre of cybernetics attracted the popular imagination along with the notion of "artificial self" as a liberating space where bodies may be mutable and free. In the face of an increasingly compelling and antagonistic digital world, the artists in Honestly Speaking repurpose new technologies through their art to create a more complex, diverse and intimate representation of the human subject.

Honestly Speaking includes a new work by UK-based, New Zealand artist Sriwhana Spong, Now Spectral, Now Animal (2019/2020), at the centre of which is an interpretation of the writing of St Teresa of Ávila (1515–82). Spong uses Teresa’s text to explore the transition between apparent opposites. The crystal castle becomes the permeable membrane between fiction and non-fiction, interior and exterior, the world and the body. This membrane is like the translucent surface of the screen projection itself, through which images are unveiled.

Exhibited for the first time in New Zealand is a selection of recent work by Frances Stark, including her large, four-part painting, Black Flag (Basel) (2018), alongside Stark’s four-channel video, Poets on the Pyre (2015). Within this selection, the artist’s familiar use of language becomes unmistakably visual or word-less. The drama of Black Flag (Basel) adjacent to the diaristic pages on @therealstarkiller in Poets on the Pyre reveals a subject split between critical commentary then rendered aghast via the speechless figure of Nancy.

In company with Stark is Martine Syms’ installation, Incense Sweaters & Ice (2017), exhibited for the first time outside the USA. The striking, purple, wall text painting of Syms’s central character "Girl" provides a lens through which visitors may view Stark’s Black American Flag in the neighbouring room. Following her performance Misdirected Kiss (2015), Incense Sweaters & Ice channels the abundance, legacy and currency of images of black women, which Syms has previously described as a kind of surveillance system.

Three new sculptural works by Shahryar Nashat from his ongoing series, Start to Beg (2019), will be exhibited alongside Nashat’s video work, Image is an Orphan (2017), a haunting monologue on human desire and digital image making. These seven-foot-long, pink polymer and fiberglass abstract structures take on the feeling of recumbent bodies. Nashat’s screen and sculptural installation focuses our attention on the body’s relationship with technologies that filter, fragment and distance intimacy, yet generate desire and a sense of mortality.

Honestly Speaking: The Word, the Body and the Internet is curated by Auckland Art Gallery Curator Contemporary Art Natasha Conland, and is presented by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in association with Auckland Arts Festival 2020. 

Sriwhana Spong's Now Spectral, Now Animal (2019/2020) is co-commissioned by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki with Edinburgh Art Festival and supported by Creative New Zealand.

For media enquiries:
samantha.mckegg [​at​] aucklandartgallery.com 

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