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Artists explore web of social networks

Artists explore web of social networks in Linked exhibition

Linked: connectivity and exchange opens this weekend at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery bringing together artists who work with a variety of media to explore the web of complex social networks that people experience on a daily basis.

Curated by Charlotte Huddleston the exhibition features artists: Liz Allan (NZ), Maddie Leach (NZ), Dane Mitchell (NZ), Patrick Pound (NZ/AUS), Raqs Media Collective (IND)

Assistant Curator Charlotte Huddleston says: “As humans we instinctively create and look for patterns in our surroundings. We respond to order, making connections between ideas and objects, ourselves and the things that surround us. It is both frightening and comforting to know that everything is connected.”

Artists Liz Allan and Maddie Leach both employ the mechanisms of social systems in their practice, involving the audience with projects addressing interpersonal and economic exchange. For Linked Allan will stay in New Plymouth and work in the new Cafe Govett-Brewster for the month of February. The work Self portrait of the artist as a café worker takes the painting A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882) by Édouard Manet as a departure point to investigate the roles of customer and service worker that are referenced in Manet’s painting. Leach will exhibit and auction a cube of timber in a work which examines notions of use and trade. The work Lawson Cypress stack (or how to enjoy working with wood) invites the viewer to consider a small building project. The wood will be listed for sale on Trade Me™ from February 26. Leach is using the online trade service of as a mechanism for interaction which extends beyond the Gallery walls. The project highlights the role of the internet as a technologically mediated point of exchange.

Also featured in the exhibition is the Raqs Media Collective a group of three New Delhi artists who collaborate on projects which synthesize video, theory, performance, photography, and the graphic arts. Their work is an attempt to be present and attentive to the world as they find it. Their projects involve collaborations with many other artists, including iCON: India contemporary which debuted in the 51st Venice Biennale this year. The work A/S/L. (Age/Sex/ Location) featured in Linked is a 3 screen installation illustrating the emergence of the global call centre industry, of which the city of Delhi is an important node. The work includes transcripts of chat sessions from real and simulated audio recordings of conversations between call centre workers and their clients. A/S/L uses the call centre worker as a metaphor for the web that connects us all and considers what it means to labour across distance and time zones.

Dane Mitchell’s work examines systems of knowledge and power, recognising that culture is a shifting system of exchange. Mitchell specifically addresses the networked system of museums and galleries that as an artist he is working within. Mitchell’s works in Linked represent the museological system as intricate line drawings showing the structure of the organisation as layers of ‘soil’ in a cross section. Other drawings show the floor plans of museums as ruins presenting the museum as the footprint of culture.

Linked also includes a section of a project that Patrick Pound has been working on for several years. It involves a vast, and ongoing, collection of cuttings of images from the daily papers which he collects in categories. The section on show is a part of an enormous collection of clippings of a huge range of people with their arms outstretched. They are pinned in one line as if they were joining hands and there are images of everything from sports people, politicians, survivors, victims, actors, prisoners, dancers, priests, divers. The work responds to order, making connections between ideas and objects, ourselves and the things that surround us.

Linked: connectivity and exchange is on at the Gallery from 10 December – 3 March 2006 and is Huddleston’s first exhibition she has curated during her time at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. Linked is presented in conjunction with Len Lye: Individual Happiness Now! and From mini FM to hacktivists: a guide to art and activism. The trio of summer exhibitions share a common ground based on an active engagement with social and political issues of power, community and activism.

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