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Scoop Fringe Art Shows Reviews - Lissa Mitchell

Urban Dream Capsule, Farmers Window, Cuba Street, 12-26 March, 24 hours.
Smash, Cuba Street, 3-25 March, 24 hours.
Ugly Nature, The Dell, Botanical Gardens, 12-18 March, Daily till 9pm.
Out Of Range, TV Lounge, Film Centre (Rialto Cinema Building), 10-16 March, Daily 12-5pm.

Review: Lissa Mitchell

Shop windows sure are hip as a venue this year. The sweet guys in Urban Dream Capsule down on Cuba Street are wooing the crowds. Looking in you wonder why anyone would do this. But why they would is hardly the point – when I am prepared to stand there staring at them like a predictable voyeur... or is that pervert? Thankfully it is more complicated. You get draw in – gesturing and mouthing sentences and wishing you had taken the time to learn lip-reading. A fantastically oblique routine, featuring a packet of mallowpuffs and a New Zealand map, provoked the crowd into a flurry of communication. Everyone had his or her moment – even the person that had to tell everyone else what was happening while it was happening.

Is being able to communicate better with people around us an urban dream? A woman arrived with her folio of design work to show one of the guys. Clearly she and made some sort of connection on her previous visit and he seemed to remember her. Together, with a pane of glass between them, they poured over the folio while her boyfriend looked on shuffling his feet. I suspect the Urban Dream Capsule has already become very addictive.

Also on Cuba Street is Smash, an exhibition by 11 artists using 11 shop windows for (surprise!) display purposes. The most direct works are those that engage with the context of the shop whose window the artist is 'borrowing'. Aaron Frater's "Written in Stone?", at Victoria Books, questions the rigidity of recorded knowledge, or the authority granted to 'speakers' through publishing. It is a basic question, yet it is a simple one to forget. Frater's work plays on the fact that knowledge is always just another set of ideas to think about, not the absolute truth. The work attests to the fluidity of knowledge as a positive idea. But ultimately Frater's approach is too simplistic. The idea could have been developed – for example, why would we ask such a question in the first place?

In the context of a fashion store, Janette Goodey's whimsical "Composition in Pink Fluff" at Frutti, is wonderfully frivolous. This work is executed with lightness and delicacy – it is a permissible pleasure just to look at. Other works on the street are weaker, appearing much like the shops' usual window displays. In this way the currency of selling is only slightly obscured – are these people trying to be window dressers or artists?

At the 247 Op Shop, Mike Heynes's window work is refreshingly overt. Heynes has used the window for marketing purposes. This is a simple but effective approach – one that reflects his marketing savvy. The window advertises Heynes's other show, Ugly Nature, in The Dell.

Ugly Nature is a group installation and mini ecological disaster. The work is a self-contained unit that generates its own power to run mechanical ribs, lights, television, and a talking bird. This is exciting art made by Wellington based practitioners – it is substantial, provocative and entirely mesmerising.

Something completely different is Out Of Range, a multimedia installation in the TV Lounge at the Film Centre. Film loops, sound and obscure exhibits are the components of this interesting and complex installation. Among the exhibits featured is the previously ignored story of amateur marine biologist, Alice McCallister. The artists have apparently rescued McCallister's life's work from going to the tip. It might be a good foil, but are you really any wiser for not believing it? In fifty years it could be the fruits of your life's passion. Who will save what the archivists discard as 'not of archival value' and why? Think about this show for too long and you won't be able stop thinking about the 'what ifs'.


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