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Science, nature & art in Govett-Brewster's summer

Media Release
9 November 2009

Science, nature and art in Govett-Brewster’s summer

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Image: Len Lye The Birth of the Robot 1936 (film still detail)
Courtesy the Len Lye Foundation and the New Zealand Film Archive

Nature, science and uncertainty are explored in the summer season exhibitions at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.

Colombia’s Alberto Baraya investigates the role of a 19th century expeditionary botanist, Len Lye looks to science to spark his imagination, and the third instalment in the Gallery’s year-long investigation of contemporary Chinese art sees Zhang Peili resist being restricted to a single meaning.

Alberto Baraya: An Expedition to New Zealand

12 December 2009– 20 March 2010

Colombian artist Alberto Baraya collects, identifies and classifies every artificial plant he can get his hands on. Many of these plastic, cloth or paper specimens have been picked from waiting-rooms, or liberated from their habitats in restaurants or homes, re-enacting the ethical quandary of ‘collecting’ by historical scientific expeditions.

Baraya’s plants are dissected, annotated and displayed in his ongoing Herbarium of Artificial Plants, mimicking botanical taxonomies and questioning the objectivity of scientific orders and their claims to truth. He compares colonial approaches to the natural environment to current forms of desire in the consumption, use and ownership of nature.

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In recent years Baraya has gone a step further, following the expeditions of 18th and 19th century botanists, collecting artificial specimens in some of the most fertile places on earth. He will set out to collect New Zealand additions to the Herbarium during an ‘expedition’ in the North Island. Baraya also presents the new offsite project SilkFern, related to his Herbarium, in Pukekura Park’s celebrated Fernery.

This exhibition is curated by Alejandra Rojas.

Len Lye: The Cosmic Archive

12 December 2009 – 15 March 2010

The career of New Zealand-born artist Len Lye (1901-1980) coincided with a period of tremendous expansion in scientific enquiry. The Len Lye Collection and Archive at the Govett-Brewster contains hundreds of articles the artist gleaned from the popular scientific press, in fields ranging from psychology to astronomy, particle physics to palaeontology.

Featuring several of these articles alongside Lye’s paintings, sculptures and films, Len Lye: The Cosmic Archive, explores the space age scientific imagination and its impact on one of New Zealand’s most celebrated and visionary artists.

The exhibition presents the newly reconstructed kinetic sculpture, Moon Bead (1968 / 2009), the rarely seen Bones, as well as films The Birth of the Robot (1936) and Particles in Space (1957¬–1979). This exhibition is curated by Tyler Cann.

China in four seasons: Zhang Peili

12 December 2009 – 15 March 2010

Zhang Peili has worked at the threshold of experimental practice in media arts in China since the 1980s.

Averting the tendency towards a singular meaning or interpretation being derived from his works, Zhang Peili’s video practice suggests political and social contexts while adopting associations with memory, personal experience and states of mind. Impermanence, discontinuity, uncertainty and unexpected forces inform the artist’s ongoing investigations.

This is the third in the Govett-Brewster’s year long series of solo exhibitions China in four seasons, which explores the breadth, power and specificity of art from the world’s most populous country. The other artists involved are Jin Jiangbo, Guo Fengyi, and Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen.

Zhang Peili is the dean of the New Media Department of the China Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou. This exhibition is curated by Rhana Devenport and Pi Li.

The exhibitions are supported by Fondo de Promoción de la Cultura, Radio Network Taranaki, Te Kairanga Wines and the Asia New Zealand Foundation

Alberto Baraya will be in New Zealand for a month from 11 November.

Zhang Peili and curator Pi Li will also be here in December, dates to be confirmed

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