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Go Girl at New Plymouth’s Govett-Brewster Gallery


Photographs that shocked the nation go on show at New Plymouth’s Govett-Brewster Art Gallery on 12 October.

"Mayor shocked by dancing pictures" read 1975 newspaper headlines as a media tempest gathered around young artist Fiona Clark and the exhibition The Active Eye.

The exhibition, New Zealand’s first major photographic survey, was touring the country to escalating moral outrage over the inclusion of two of Clark’s images of transvestites dancing. Public outcry was so strong that the exhibition was not allowed to open in Auckland, and these two images were removed from the exhibition at many venues throughout New Zealand. The images eventually went missing from the exhibition.

Both an exhibition and a catalogue, revisits this episode, one of the most controversial in New Zealand’s photographic history. It presents for the first time Fiona Clark’s complete photographic series Dance Party, from which these two images were selected. Go Girl traces the controversial history of the works, the refusals to exhibit them, and the prejudices in the media and public imagination against their subject matter.

Go Girl includes a larger group of images from the early 1970s, which focus on the gay, lesbian and transgender community in New Zealand at the time. The artist has brought the series up to date by re-photographing a number of the surviving subjects in a warm and engaging manner. The exhibition is completed by a series of video interviews between Clark and the subjects.

Comparing and contrasting New Zealand of the 1970s with the New Zealand of today, the exhibition tells a story of gender and identity over a 30-year period. It documents the coming out of the homosexual, lesbian and transgender community within mainstream culture. The story also provides rare insights into the birth of performance art in New Zealand, and the emergence of photography as a serious art form in New Zealand.

Go Girl is a major project for Taranaki based artist Fiona Clark, one of New Zealand’s most accomplished photographic artists. The images make up one of the most significant bodies of photographic artwork ever produced in this country.

The substantial catalogue will feature all of the images exhibited. The publication extends the exhibition with the inclusion of essays by David Lyndon Brown and Blair French, and a comprehensively illustrated interview with Fiona Clark conducted by Gregory Burke.

Go Girl runs at New Plymouth’s Govett-Brewster Art Gallery from 12 October to 1 December 2002.

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