By Saskia Willox
Te Papa approached Weta Workshops about a collaboration to create an exhibition commemorating the 100-year anniversary of Gallipoli. This exhibition showed through the eyes of real New Zealanders who were there the tragedies of the 8 month long campaign in which 2779 New Zealanders lost their lives. Te Papa set out with the intention to unpeel any myths that remain around the 8 months of the Gallipoli campaign. I think they did this very successfully. I did not know a huge amount about the experience of the New Zealand soldiers and left feeling incredibly informed. Weta and Te Papa really set the tone for what it was like for New Zealanders and how they felt and remembered the war.
The exhibition contained various artifacts such as weapons used in the war, three-dimensional maps and projections as well as countless photographs some of which were taken by the soldiers on the front line. Some parts of the exhibition were extremely intimate. You got the opportunity to hear recounts from veterans and read letters written by the soldiers at war, some who were killed soon after. There were eight giant sculptures of the men who were actually at Gallipoli. They were so realistic it felt almost as though they might suddenly move or get up and walk off. They were 2 ½ times the average human size and this made the detail of these figures even more amazing. You could see their pores, veins, hair and even beads of sweat rolling down their face. They were truly spectacular. The team at Weta did not shy away from the brutality or the gruesomeness of Gallipoli and showed disease and infestations of lice and flies as well as blood, dead bodies and the wounds of soldiers. They really captured the cramped and filthy conditions in with the soldiers endured.
There was a perfect combination of things to read, things to look at and things to interact with at this exhibition. I could imagine people from all age groups being fascinated in something there. This is not the kind of thing that I would usually be interested in but this exhibition made me forget the world outside. I was completely encapsulated in all that was Gallipoli for the 2 hours it took me to navigate my way through the exhibition. The only thing that tainted my experience of this exhibition was the amount of people that were in there. I had thought as it was during the week and quite a long time after the exhibition had opened that it might be quite quiet but I was constantly tripping over people and there were queues to use any of the interactive pieces. This project took an estimated 24 thousand hours to produce and cost a ridiculous 8 million dollars. While I think this exhibition was breathtaking and will be very important in framing future generations perceptions of Gallipoli I find this kind of money really difficult to justify. Although I was pleased that it was still a free entry exhibition.
In 2003 in Mérida artist Jorge Pardo started on a commission from the no longer existent London gallery Haunch of Venison. Pardo bought a small, dilapidated building between two houses in Mérida and used the $100,000 exhibition advance to completely renovate it. The renovations were designed by architects Mecky Reuss and Ana Paula Ruiz who are both part of Pardo’s studio staff and have worked with him before on the building and renovating of homes for the purpose of exhibition. In 2005, the house was constructed at an accelerated pace by hundreds of local laborers. As the exhibition was due to take place in the London galley in 2008 the curator and Pardo came up with an idea: Pardo took over four thousand images of the houses interior, photographing every inch. He then used the images as a backdrop in the gallery’s exhibition space and created an abstract notion of a house. The entire house was mapped out onto the gallery space. Morphing one site into another. In front of the photographs, the room was filled with decoy furnishings, lamps and paintings that were superimposed on the photographs of the houses interior. The space also featured sculptures from all stages of Pardo’s career. The house built by Pardo in Mérida, Mexico basically became a photographic prop. It was an object that’s final destination was photography. It was displayed in absintena, in the commercial gallery, in a completely different city that was thousands of miles away.
An interesting relationship was created between Pardo’s house in Merida and the gallery in London. The exhibition in London served as a portal through to view his house in Mérida. Working between the site of his house in Mérida and the gallery in London is nothing new for Pardo. As an artist, he is always shifting between sites and spaces with many functioning studios across America. Pardo has been quoted in saying “wherever I am, the studio is.” whether that be the house in Mérida, Mecky Reuss and Ana Paula Ruiz house (the two architects working with Pardo), the workshop or his car that functions as a portable studio used to transport himself between the different locations. Pardo’s studio or site of art production is a completely flexible, fully reflexive, transdisciplinary process.
Pardos house in Mérida was the second house he has built as a surrogate artwork for exhibition. The first being 4166 Sea View Lane, Los Angeles a commission by the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), in which every element was designed by Pardo: the house, lamps, furniture, tiles, garden, and kitchen cabinets. For five weeks in 1998, visitors were led on tours around the house. Once the exhibition finished Pardo moved in. For Pardo his houses in Mérida and Seaview Lane, LA, were still sculptures that conveniently function as residences for him to move into once the exhibition of the work has finished. It’s his works usefulness and functionality that prompts viewers and critics to ask questions of the work such as ‘Was it art? ‘Design?’ ‘Design art?’ or ‘Architecture?’ He has also been questioned in regards to scamming the gallery to build a free house for him to live. Pardo has long made functional sculptures and questioned traditional definitions and boundaries of art, using design, architecture, photography, painting, and sculpture.
By Saskia Willox
Andrea Zittel is an American artist who trained in both art and industrial design. Today she sees herself as a designer working for the position of an artist. Zittel’s interest in social practice, architecture, interior design, urban design, her awareness of her environment and surroundings and her use of functional objects to fulfill peoples needs have placed her somewhere between the disciplinary boundaries of art and design. Despite Zittel’s interest in many areas of design, she preserves a strong commitment to what she believes are essential objectives of “artistic endeavor”. She works within her own criteria of what constitutes something as ‘art’. She believes that art really should transform the way someone experiences something.
Zittels’ A-Z Wagon Station Encampment does exactly that. There has been two generation of Wagon Stations. The first generations were given to friends or people that Zittel collaborated with. These Wagon Stations were completely autonomous and customized to fit the needs of each individual person. The second generation of Wagon Stations are a more standardized version and are located permanently at Zittel’s private residence known as A-Z West which is on thirty-five acres of desert in Joshua Tree, California. Twice a year, Zittel opens up her private residence when the dessert climate is mild and allows artists, hikers, writers, thinkers, campers and researchers to stay in the Encampment. The Wagon Station Encampment sits adjacent to Zittel’s home and studio and consists of ten A-Z Wagon Stations, a communal outdoor kitchen, open air showers, and composting toilets. Protocol sheets are sent out regarding how to use these communal spaces before individuals arrive. Each A-Z Wagon Station consist of a bed, a brush for sand that might blow in, a shelf, a string to hang clothes and a hook with a hat. Although the wagon stations do not have wheels, they are easy to collapse, transport, and reassemble if need be.
The way the Wagon Stations are arranged facilitates social engagement as well as personal exploration through a combination of both communal and private spaces. Residents come together to cook, to eat and to go on hikes but can also spend time in their individual pods without feeling like they are defecting from the group. The Wagon Station Encampment which functions as a cross between a retreat and a residency, is a way for artists and creative people to come together in a no pressure environment. It can be seen as Zittel’s way of inviting people out to the remote location of Joshua tree and promoting it to them. It is also a great place for people to come that like Zittel are interested inventing their own structures for living.