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Rated-201 Photographs By Wayne Youle

Working in a range of media Wayne Youle (Ngäti Whakaeke, Ngä Puhi) tends to explore racial issues, particularly identity issues facing Mäori and bicultural New Zealand. A defiant stance threads through much of his work: he has defaced perfectly rendered road-signs, such as the bright orange 'Men at Work', with facial moko to jolt stereotypical assumptions; and he has constructed pointed white KKK hats out of old Bank of New Zealand money bags to comment stridently on the effect of colonial land grabs on Mäori. Rated also holds up a challenge, requiring viewers to see for themselves what they find offensive or morally problematic.

Youle has scoured books, magazines, CD covers and websites to photograph the 201 images in Rated, and his selection and arrangement of photographs is intended to test the limits of acceptable visual culture. There are graphic images of acknowledged atrocities and of those still swept beneath the carpet, such as modern-day sweatshops and the imprisonment and maltreatment of late nineteenth century Mäori. There are the sexually explicit images which have given the exhibition its R.18 rating-some from magazines and others from reproductions of the explicitly erotic work of American artist Jeff Koons, but all publicly accessible from bookshop or library shelves. There are photographs of artwork picturing Mäori people and motifs by historical and contemporary artists-images which Youle finds personally offensive.

These softly toned black and white images printed on old photographic paper half-peeling off the wall evoke the atmosphere and aesthetic of an archive in miniature. A record of our visual culture unfolds around the gallery; a record of the ethics of image-making and the subjectivity of interpretation. The feat of filling the Michael Hirschfeld Gallery with 201 photographs seems suggestive of the image-laden nature of contemporary culture, but the small-scale of each individual photograph requires the viewer to peep into, to get perhaps uncomfortably close to the ethical implications of each image.

The artist thanks the City Gallery staff, his family and friends and, most of all, his best friend Cush for all their continual support. Arohatinonui, Wayne

Rated, 2001, 201 black and white photographs, courtesy of the artist


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