Contact. Artists from Aotearoa/New Zealand

15.10.2012 — 25.11.2012

Opening: October 14, 2012, 7 pm

On the occasion of New Zealand’s invitation as the Guest of Honor at the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair, the Frankfurter Kunstverein presented the group exhibition “Contact. Artists from Aotearoa/New Zealand”. This was the first comprehensive exhibition of contemporary art from New Zealand in Germany for over ten years. Entitled “Contact”, the exhibition brought together paintings, photographs, films, and installations by nearly twenty New Zealand artists. The title is drawn from a 1974 performance by Jim Allen, one of New Zealand’s important exponents of conceptual art. This three-part performance, restaged in 2011, focused on the underlying conditions of human actions in examining the interactivity between bodies, space, and material. It was based on a broad definition of “contact” as a mental, physical, and social interdependency. Allen’s work was created during a time in which the artist was searching for different ways to approach the past and its cultural context. Against this background “Contact” served as the starting point of the presentation at the Frankfurter Kunstverein and is representative for forty years of artistic production in Aotearoa (the term for New Zealand in Te Reo, the language of the Māori, meaning “land of the long white cloud”).

The term “contact” refers to the network of relationships between the two dominant ethnicities in bi-cultural Aotearoa/New Zealand: the indigenous population of Māori and the white settlers, “Pakeha”. Video works by Lisa Reihana, for example, deal with themes of cultural oppression, the search for cultural identity, and the struggle for self-determination. New technologies and old myths are intertwined in works by Rachael Rakena, while Francis Upritchard creates new, hybrid forms based on historical objects. Issues related to the complexity of multicultural society in the scope of a powerful influx of immigrants from the Polynesian islands, as well as the fate of a life in exile, are reflected in the photographs of Edith Amituanai. “Contact” not only presented works that artistically address socio-cultural conflicts in today’s Aotearoa/New Zealand, but also ones of a more poetic nature, like works by Dane Mitchell or site-specific installations by John Ward-Knox. The title of the exhibition is expanded conceptually to include the artistic methods and processes of painters like Judy Miller, who, alongside Francis Upritchard, represented New Zealand at the Venice Biennale in 2009, or Simon Ingram, who employs a programmatic approach devoid of subjective intervention in his “Automata Paintings”.
“Contact” outlines a complex portrait of artistic production of the last forty years in Aoteaora/New Zealand. Here works are not used to illustrate a single thematic point, rather the aim is to create a multifaceted perspective of a highly active and heterogeneous artistic scene within the context of a contemporary dialogue.

Curators: Leonhard Emmerling, Aaron Kreisler

Participating Artists: Jim Allen, Alberto García Alvarez, Edith Amituanai, Ruth Buchanan, Philip Dadson, Alicia Frankovich, Marti Friedlander, Simon Glaister, Murray Hewitt, Simon Ingram, Janet Lilo, Len Lye, Judy Millar, Dane Mitchell, Alex Monteith, Simon Morris, Fiona Pardington, Campbell Patterson, Rachael Rakena, Lisa Reihana, Peter Robinson, Sriwhana Spong, Francis Upritchard, Daniel von Sturmer, John Ward-Knox