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A ’70s performance restaged at the Govett-Brewster

Jim Allen Contact,
part one “Computer Dance” 1974; Photo by Bryony
Dalefield; Courtesy of the artist and Michael Lett
Jim Allen Contact, part one “Computer Dance” 1974
Photo by Bryony Dalefield
Courtesy of the artist and Michael Lett

Media release

November 25, 2010

A ’70s performance restaged at the Govett-Brewster

Masks, torches and paint smearing will bring an art work to life again when a new exhibition opens at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery on December 11.

The three part performance Contact by New Zealand artist Jim Allen hasn’t been shown since it was first performed in 1974 at the Auckland City Art Gallery.

Allen, 88, will be in New Plymouth to reconstruct his works for the opening of Points of Contact: Jim Allen, Len Lye, Hélio Oiticica, an exhibition that traces the connections between the artists.

Contact is a work in three parts, or ‘performance situations’, titled Computer Dance, Parangole Capes and Body Articulation / Imprint and performed in that order.

Although each part can exist in its own right the event only fully works if their performance is seen in sequence.

Each part takes about one hour to perform by six performers wearing a minimum of clothing and some donning masks and capes.

Connecting the parts are TV screens showing recordings from the last performance so spectators have a visual juxtaposition of live and completed events.

The three parts move progressively involving a cobweb like space, transmitters and various electronic, humming and hissing sounds before reaching a climax with paint smearing in Body Articulation.

Gallery director Rhana Devenport said Jim Allen was one of the key figures of conceptual or post object art in New Zealand who made an important contribution to the history of this period through his sculptural, performative and pedagogical work.

Contact is one of Allen’s most ambitious performative projects, and one that deserves to be seen by contemporary audiences,” Ms Devenport said.

The work only existed in the form of documentation, including video tapes and photographs housed at Elam School of Fine Arts and it was important to reconstruct and preserve it, she said.

Along with works by Lye and Oiticica, Points of Contact re-assembles for the first time the works of Allen’s Small Worlds 1969, Space Plane 1969 and The Water Pillow 1969.

The restaging of Contact will run through the exhibition opening on Saturday December 11 with part one: Computer Dance at 3.30pm and part two: Parangole Capes at 6.30pm and on Sunday December 12 with part 3: Body Articulation/Imprint at 11am.

The exhibition Points of Contact: Jim Allen, Len Lye, Helio Oiticica is curated by Tyler Cann and Mercedes Vicente and is on from December 11 to February 27.

To learn more about the exhibition, join the curators and Wystan Curnow (critic and curator) and Tony Green (art historian) for a lively panel discussion on Saturday December 11 at 2pm.

Also, join the curators in conversation with Jim Allen after the last performance of Contact on Sunday December 12 at 12noon.


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