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The medium is the message - Wellington Media Collective


18 October 2012
The medium is the message

Wellington Media

Wellington Media Collective Trust, 2012.

Following on from ‘Behind Closed Doors’, the 2011 exhibition that brought to light art works from private collections in Wellington, the latest exhibitions at the Adam Art Gallery reveal another unsung aspect of the city’s cultural history. This is the graphic work of the prolific Wellington Media Collective, a confederation of graphic designers, printers, photographers and associates who produced posters, magazines, catalogues and leaflets for community and political groups between 1978 and 1998.

‘We Will Work With You!’, which opens 23 October, captures the ethos of the Wellington Media Collective, which sought to empower disenfranchised groups by providing a visual form for their messages and enabling groups to take the medium into their own hands.

“Based on the principles of equality and social engagement, the Collective’s members have had a lasting impact on the social, cultural and political life of the capital,” says Gallery Director Christina Barton.

The exhibition is part of an archival project underway in collaboration with the Alexander Turnbull Library and Victoria’s Museum and Heritage Studies Programme to ensure that a record of the Collective’s work is preserved for the future. A book documenting the group’s work and activities will also be published and launched at the exhibition’s close.

Seeking to extend the Collective’s vision, the Adam Art Gallery has commissioned a project by White Fungus magazine, which sees a new series of posters and a free newsprint publication created as part of the exhibition.

Based on a statement by Prime Minister Right Hon John Key: “Our children are important… they are the consumers of the future,” they interrogate the impact of neo-liberal thinking on Wellington’s urban and architectural fabric over recent decades.

To engage a younger generation, White Fungus editors Ron and Mark Hanson are working with the Gallery to invite students and the public to create their own posters, which will be presented in the gallery in the new year; the winning art work will be published on the Gallery’s website and in the next issue of White Fungus.

These two projects are joined by a one-work presentation of American artist, Martha Rosler’s ‘The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems (1974-75)’, a series of photographs and texts that document what was once New York’s most impoverished neighbourhood.

Given that neither the images nor the descriptive words that comprise the work actually reveal the victims of urban blight: those people suffering poverty, homelessness, and addiction—this work has become a key monument in debates about the ethics of representation.

Gallery curator Michelle Menzies says: “What these exhibitions make visible is the interface between the constructions of visual and graphic art and the lived complexities of social life, which is where the politics of style resides.

“They ask big questions about how the socially marginalised in a society can be represented, and who can properly do the representing.”

A lively programme of lectures, discussions and film screenings accompanies the exhibition, one highlight being the first live Adam Art Gallery Skype Conversation with Martha Rosler on 26 January 2013. For a full programme see

The exhibition opens 23 October and runs until 10 February, closing from 21 December until 22 January over the summer holiday period.

What: We Will Work With You! Wellington Media Collective 1978-1998; Martha Rosler, The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems; and The Consumers of the Future, a commissioned project by White Fungus.
Where: Adam Art Gallery, Victoria University of Wellington, Gate 3, Kelburn Parade
When: Opening 6pm Tuesday 23 October, press welcome from 11am.
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday, 11am to 5pm

Free entry


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