Ever Green

Ever Green
A Light Box Project
Courtenay Place, April 3rd – August 6th 2012

Another frustratingly conservative exhibition in Wellington’s highest-profile public art space. There’s nothing technically wrong with Dieneke Jansen and Jenny Gilliam’s photographs of native shrubs, which have been carefully arranged so it looks as though they’re growing inside the enormous panels along Courtenay Place. It’s good to finally see an exhibition which considers the unusual proportions of the light boxes right from the start, instead of just awkwardly cropping an existing photo. Unfortunately the photos are not particularly interesting, and using the Latin names of the native shrubs as titles just looks pretentious.

The artist statement says the exhibition seeks to “engage with concepts of nature as a social construct and the mediated ways in which urban dwellers experience it”, which is all very laudable except for the fact that Wellington is not exactly a soulless urban concrete desert – the panels are already surrounded by bloody trees, and the fact that the real trees will lose their leaves in winter while the photos stay green is not quite enough to blow my tiny mind. If you want to experience evergreen nature in that particular part of Courtenay Place, it’s fairly easy to turn to the right and look at Mount Victoria – it’s teeming with it.

I understand that street art needs to be accessible, but too many of the Light Box exhibitions have played it safe, producing work which challenges and enlightens no-one. Compare it with the fine and daring sculptures in the City Gallery’s The Obstinate Object exhibition and you’ll see what I mean.

One Response to “Ever Green”

  1. mafalda Says:

    In my humble opinion as a pedestrian and someone who appreciates public art, I think so far none of the exhibitions have fully achieved the challenges presented by the Public Art Panel, which are:

    explore and present new artistic practices that engage in various ways with the physical character, history, culture and social meaning of public space

    Pompous paragraph that my tiny mind struggles to understand to be honest, but if it means novelty and originality, I haven’t seen much of that. Also, I think the content of most of the exhibitions has been more personal rather than engag[ing] with the meaning of public space (whatever that meaning is).

    seek to engage with specific cultures and communities and their histories – to encourage deeper understanding of Wellington’s rich and diverse cultural heritage and contemporary makeup

    I haven’t seen much cultural diversity -apart from a few of the artists involved being from a different ethnic background which hasn’t necessarily meant their work ‘engage[s]’ with specific cultures or ‘encourage[s] deeper understanding’ of Wellington’s diversity.

    promote a new understanding of public art, and in doing so initiate debate and discourse about the direction of art in the city

    I think the light boxes themselves, as new display artefacts, are a novelty. Congratulations to whoever convinced the Council to put them up. However, regarding the content of the exhibitions, I don’t think they have contributed to ‘initiate debate’. I haven’t seen much public discussion about them (in print or digital media) and I think they frankly pass unnoticed by most members of the public.

    In summary, I think so far this project has been a wasted opportunity to use public art to surprise/amuse/provoke/challenge Wellingtonians, which makes me angry and sad.

    I should sue the Council and demand a trip to Barcelona as compensation!

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