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China, classrooms & pin-up boys at Blue Oyster

11 Apr 2011

This content is tagged as Visual arts .

NEWS

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China, classrooms and pin-up boys are the subjects of three new exhibitions opening at the Blue Oyster Art Project Space, in Dunedin, next week. The exhibitions, Indigo Blues by Ana Terry and Don Hunter, Boy Love – Dummy Heart by Angela Lyon, and Nervous System by Ben Pearce, open on 19 April at 5.30 and run until 28 May.

Beijing at the Blue Oyster

The hubbub of the highly commercial and competitive Beijing art market finds an unusual platform in Dunedin's experimental Blue Oyster Project Art Space.

In Indigo Blues, collaborative artists Ana Terry and Don Hunter will install a video and object-based work derived from their residency in Beijing last year that included an exhibition in Beijing at Platform China Contemporary Art Institute.

"We were based in 798 Arts District where we were surrounded by artists, art dealers and galleries. The contemporary art environment in China is very competitive and driven by the mass production of art works. The West is hungry for any Chinese art, which is seen as exotic and desirable," says Hunter.

Terry says they decided to make the focus of this project the art gallery environment itself and the behind-the-scenes activities that support it.

"The 798 Arts District was formerly the Dashanzi Factory complex built in the 1950s and its architecture embodies the military and industrial collaboration between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. These huge cavernous gallery spaces echo the industry, and its socialist history. These now set the scene for another form of industry that dances to a capitalist tune," she says.

The artists say Dunedin's strong historical connections with China make this an ideal location to show the work. There is also an interesting tension between very competitive commercial gallery environments in Beijing and an experimental, not-for-profit space like the Blue Oyster.

Pin-up idols get makeover

Teenage pin-up idols are given a make-over by photographer Angela Lyon in her exhibition Boy Love – Dummy Heart.

Lyon has revisited her teenage bedroom and chosen some of the male pin-up idols she had crushes on as a school girl. She then gives herself a make-over to recreate the men, and photographs herself as them.

"All these men, most of whom were singers and actors, were there to be looked at. There is a light-hearted and cheeky element to the work, but it is underpinned by themes that explore the position of the subject, the photographer, and the objectifying capabilities of the camera," she says.

As well as taking photographs of herself as her pin-up idols, Lyon has made some 90-second videos of herself as them, and transformed the images into watercolour paintings. She is also developing a campaign to infiltrate various websites around the world with her images, including the Facebook pages of Elvis supporters and Robert Smith's Facebook page. The final part of the exhibition is a poster campaign around Dunedin that reflects the fact that most of her chosen idols were performers.

"Some of the exhibition will be inside the Blue Oyster space, but part of it is external. It will sit in the world of cyber-space as well as having a physical presence around Dunedin through the posters," says Lyon.

Classroom, memory, body & mind

A lone school chair and blackboard have been reconfigured into sculptures that represent the tension between the physicality of the human body and the ethereality of the mind in Ben Pearce's installation Nervous System.

Pearce says while the installation is set up like a classroom, this is more of an organising system for his works than the subject of the exhibition. However, it is a useful entry point to it.

"The classroom is the first societal structure we experience outside the home, therefore I find it interesting to be presenting this one inside a gallery space," he says.

"School for me is not so much about childhood, but about how it influences us as adults and the memories it holds. A part of ourselves always remains there and it influences the way we are in the world and the perspective we have as adults.

"Some of the works in the installation have started as found objects. My work is then to unlock a different reality that is trapped within the object, but not visible to us. In many cases the objects have been stripped back to the bare bones, becoming a skeleton of what they were before. It is a fight between the mind and the body, with the body gradually becoming obsolete," he says.

Pearce likens visitors to the exhibition to archaeologists, who won't necessarily recognise what they're seeing to start with, but who can slowly uncover the secrets and meanings of the exhibition as they look.