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Power And Propaganda At The Adam Art Gallery

Power And Propaganda At The Adam Art Gallery

BOMBS AWAY (5 July – 15 August 2003)

While the war on ‘terror’ and Iraq is played out on the international stage, a forthcoming exhibition – Bombs Away – at Victoria University's Adam Art Gallery explores the meaning and impact of nuclear power.

Bombs Away features the work of six leading New Zealand artists, including new works by Tony de Lautour and Jo Randerson, and additional works unseen in New Zealand by Austrian-born, New York-based artist, Rainer Ganahl. Concurrently, the gallery presents: Remembering Toba Tek Singh by internationally acclaimed Indian artist Nalini Malani.

In what promises to be a topical and provocative presentation, the New Zealand component of Bombs Away responds to government films of atomic testing in an exhibition presented 16 years after legislation was passed making New Zealand a nuclear-free nation.

In Bombs Away, visual artists Richard Reddaway, Fiona Jack and Tony de Lautour, dancer Megan Adams with Paul Redican, and writer Jo Randerson, each explore the pro-nuclear argument from the perspective of one of the five original nuclear nations (United States, Russia, China, France and Britain).

Exhibition curator Sophie Jerram says by using the official government atomic testing films as a starting point, the artists take on the role of nuclear propagandist in order to reveal more about New Zealand's position as a nuclear free country.

The government films include one from the US, Testing Nuclear Weapons, at Nevada, and emphasises safety and security controls, without recourse to the wider implications of the work scientists were doing.

"Fiona Jack's smoky artworks made in response to this film refer not only to radioactive clouds but also to the gases of propaganda that threaten to seep into our minds and muddy our thoughts. She was three-years-old when the United States film was made and her work recalls her childhood fears of nuclear attacks."

Dancer Megan Adams, in collaboration with Paul Redican, has created a video capturing the refined, celebratory aspects of the Chinese army's highly practised military exercises (as shown in Mao's Little Red Video of 1966) by creating a fictitious comrade who doubles as a cultural performer (dancer Liana Yew). Digitally cloned, this contemporary comrade dances as an army of tightly choreographed soldiers in a countdown sequence.

In another work, sculptor Richard Reddaway's luminous, brittle wax growths resemble the coral of Moruroa Atoll, and are pliable but unstable, unable to hold their form after exposure to extreme climatic changes. His work is a response to France's 1995 film of nuclear testing at Moruroa Atoll.

In his works, Ganahl, Austria’s representative to the Venice Biennale in 1999, uses texts and images from news broadcasts and print media as a starting point, to examine the role of the media in the understanding and framing of international conflicts.

REMEMBERING TOBA TEK SINGH (5 July – 15 August 2003)

Remembering Toba Tek Singh, first shown as part of the Asia-Pacific Triennial in 2002 at the Queensland Art Gallery, deals with the ongoing implications of the 1947 separation of India and Pakistan, and is a reaction to nuclear testing in both countries.

In Remembering Toba Tek Singh the iconic clouds of nuclear detonations at Hiroshima and Nagasaki are juxtaposed by the large-scale images of two women from India and Pakistan attempting to fold a sari – an act that is doomed to failure on account of the unbridgeable physical space that separates them. Images encompassing the cycles of life, birth and death are seen alongside drawings that Malani has animated as a filmic montage of figures that melt and reform – a provocative reminder of the physical consequences of nuclear radiation.

The work is based on a short story by Sadat Hasan Manto that tells of the exchange of Indian hospital patients transported from one country to another when India was divided. According to the story, the patients themselves were unable to distinguish whether they were in India or Pakistan. The story follows a man called Bishan Singh from the village of Toba Tek Singh. During the changeover, Singh became so confused as to the precise location of his native village that he stood on the border between India and Pakistan and fell down.

KAINGA TAHI KAINGA RUA (5 July – 15 August 2003)

Kainga Tahi Kainga Rua brings together, in collaboration, the artistic direction and work of Brett Graham and the research of Dr Katerina Teaiwa. A major audio-visual installation, the exhibition centres on Banaba, a small island in the Republic of Kiribati, and explores the issue of phosphate mining undertaken by the Australian and New Zealand governments from 1900 to 1979.

For developing farming industries within New Zealand and Australia, phosphate fertiliser was highly sought after as a commodity, and over 20 million tonnes of phosphate was shipped from Banaba, destroying 437 hectares of the 607-hectare island. As a consequence of the mining the indigenous people of the island, the Banabans, were removed to Rabi Island in Fiji in 1945.

Kainga Tahi Kainga Rua reveals the history of Banaba and its people, and raises questions about the role New Zealand played in the fate of the island and the country’s place in the Pacific.

Brett Graham is a leading New Zealand sculptor having worked on many public commissions, including work for the old Broadcasting House site in Wellington and more recently for the North Shore Court House. In 1996, at the Bartley Nees Gallery in Wellington, he created an exhibition, Bravo Bikini to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the nuclear weapon testing programme at Bikini Atoll. Dr Teaiwa is Assistant Professor, Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai'i.

Bombs Away with Rainer Ganahl is presented by the Physics Room and The Stealth Foundation while Remembering Toba Tek Singh is presented in association with Queensland Art Gallery with the support of the Asia 2000 Foundation of New Zealand and Sony. Kainga Tahi Kainga Rua is presented at the Adam Art Gallery with support from The University of Auckland.

Adam Art Gallery, Victoria University, Tuesdays - Sundays 11am - 5pm. Closed Mondays and Public Holidays.

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