12 April - 26 June 2016
Opening 11 April, 6pm at the Pah Homestead, TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre
Parlour Games features works from the Wallace Arts Trust Collection and site-specific installations at the Pah Homestead by four contemporary New Zealand artists: Matt Coldicutt, Philippa Emery, Natalie Guy, and Amy Unkovich. The artists have integrated their own responses to modern life with resonances of past lives echoing in the Victorian domestic period of the Homestead, further articulated by works chosen from the Wallace Arts Trust.
The Pah Homestead has served in a number of capacities over the decades since its construction – as an orphanage, novitiate, boarding school and now public art gallery – but it was originally conceived, designed and built to be a private residence, an exemplar of domestic life and the aspirations of the upper middle class. It served as such for 22 years, from 1879 until 1901, and was then leased to St Johns Collegiate School.
Parlour Games attempts to articulate two large archives. The first archive may be described as the general economy of the household as it was espoused and, indeed, instructed during the Victorian period. Maintaining a socially correct façade was of paramount importance, and the home played a crucial role in this. The second archive is that of the James Wallace Arts Trust Collection. In 2010 the Pah Homestead became the primary home and place of display of Wallace Arts Trust Collection. The Collection contains items rarely seen in exhibition, a number of these works will form crucial points of articulation in Parlour Games along with the fragments of narrative surviving from the Pah’s domestic period.
Domestic life in the Victorian period was prescribed by manuals such as Cassell’s Household Guide, “being a complete encyclopaedia of domestic and social economy and forming a guide to every department of practical life”. The 4 volumes of Cassell’s Guide contain advice, wisdom and instruction that presuppose a place where this will be practised, a ready built environment of a certain kind. Within that context was also an approved range of indoor leisure activities, enumerated and described in detail in another volume of the series, Cassell's book of in-door amusements, card games, and fireside fun.
The installations in Parlour Games are inspired by a modern interpretation of activities that could have taken place in the rooms of the Pah Homestead during its period as a private residence. Associations are drawn with Wallace Collection works by playing off form, palate and subject and use references from Victorian guides as clues, to form another kind of parlour game – one played out in the current incarnation of the Homestead as a public art gallery.