April 2012 I am just back from the project embarked on five weeks ago where I was one of five international artists selected and commissioned to produce works in a residency/symposium situation and to participate in ISF2012 exhibition in the Hangaram Art Gallery in the Seoul Art Centre. http://www.sculpturefesta.com/en/sub23.html It was exhilarating to be part of this project and some initial reservations were unfounded and quickly extinguished.
Organised by the ISF, a collective of Korean sculptors and administrators with an aim of creating an internationally prominent exhibition focusing solely on sculpture, this is reported to be one of the biggest events of this kind in Asia. ISF 2012 is supported by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the president of ISF is the renowned Korean sculptor Young-Won Kim. The curatorial role was taken on by an independent professional body called Hzone http://hzone.com/ and the selection process was a collaboration between the two where sculptors websites were searched globally and fifty artists invited to submit a proposal. The other 4 artists selected were – Braddon Snape (Australia), Devin Laurence Field (Portland, USA), Kate Raudenbush (New York, USA) and Leslie Fry (Vermont, USA). Artists were asked to make a substantial, permanent work exceeding three metres.
The project was well funded/hosted by Crown Haitai, a corporation embarking on a 3.3 million square metre sculpture park project called “Songchu Art Valley” – to the north of Seoul. http://www.sculpturefesta.com/en/sub42.html
Crown Haitai provided artists with accommodation in one of the several hotels in the valley purchased by the corporation and modified for a range of Art focuses, as well as workshops, access to production companies, equipment, all materials, stipend, assistants and a support team. Hosting was generous and included music recitals by the corporation’s orchestra of traditional instruments, and traditional Korean restaurant meals daily.
The works we produced were installed in the prominent plaza in front of the Hangaram Art Gallery http://www.sac.or.kr/eng/Space/space_art.jsp and the Seoul Opera House and music centre. This accompanied the huge exhibition of 120 Korean and Chinese sculptors exhibiting some 600 works inside the Hangaram complex. A highlight was the inclusion of works by Armand Fernandez, Joel Shapiro, and Arnaldo Pomodoro . The exhibition was supported with a comprehensive 320 page catalogue, with curatorial insights under a number of categories . The event was well advertised with posters, banners etc and a grand opening incorporated traditional music, speeches and food. The organisers anticipated some 16,000 visitors.
My work in this show builds on my Auger/Augur series and Weighting/Waiting series, over a number of years, which comprise “faux” tools and imprecise measuring ,navigating, clock-like devices questioning how we describe our relationship with the environment at this crucial point in history
As well as the 3.6 metre work Tipping Point in the plaza I was invited to exhibit the related work Wait Watchers comprising 15 tiny, precise wall-mounted units also completed during the residency. With a play on the multiple meanings of minute (a point of time, 60th part of hour or degree; small, trifling, precise; to take a note of), this work partnered Tipping Point’s focus on the last quadrant of the ticking environmental clock. I was honoured in that my proposal drawing was chosen to feature on the invitations, posters, advertising and banners.
Following the exhibition the large scale works by the 5 invited artists are to be re-installed for permanent display outside in the Crown Haitai’s Art Valley sculpture park. The Koreans offered us wonderful hospitality and support and being part of the first international group invited we could see great potential for their initiative to go from strength to strength in the future.
Tipping Point, 2012; 3.6 metres, patinated stainless steel, brass, stainless steel, aluminium; wind responsive.
Wait Watchers, 2012; 15 components each 130 x 100 x 100mm; stainless steel, brass, wood.
These days it is the wrecking ball that creates the dust, and news of failing sewerage systems are at the forefront of economic analyses.
Six weeks down the track, having spent significant time and energy picking up pieces, I can say I have come through the Christchurch earthquakes relatively unscathed and all my large and public works remain as part of our heritage.
The requirement to restore order from the chaos created by the churning and scrambling of accumulated collections of treasures and trash or “stuff” invited a rethinking of storage solutions and archival systems on both the home and work fronts. Ambivalence reigns when considering old, dusty and/or damaged possessions – to keep because so much else has been irretrievably lost, or to toss in order to be released from the pain of losing it again, or of the cost to repair.
Of particular interest to me has been the questions that arose when I saw 20-30 year-old experiments, abandoned ideas and maquettes thrust to the top of a pile or catapulted across the studio to land amongst current works in progress – what is this telling me about the development or resolution of ideas?
Direct experience and extra layers of meaning now inform my understanding of the dynamics of tectonic plates and the implied instability in my work takes on new poignancy when viewed with these fresh eyes.
On another front it is disturbing that the dealer galleries, including those housed in new buildings in the central city, are forced to relocate. Even the few remaining habitable venues are unlikely to be available for months. Livelihoods are in tatters. My exhibition planned for the Arthouse this year is cancelled with that gallery choosing to maintain an internet presence for the foreseeable future. Artists are working together to seek out exhibition spaces and platforms to ensure the community is not starved of creative input for too long. There is evidence in some quarters that feeding the body is starting to give way to debates re feeding the soul.
For so many Christchurch inhabitants extra time and effort are required on a daily basis to function in a damaged city. The prospect of winter looks bleak and may see an already weary population describing their routine as a daily grind. For those that are upbeat a challenge will always provide an opportunity, so at the moment some may be seeing “opportunities” in abundance.
For me, the future is always unpredictable, so while some Christchurch commissions are on hold and plans have changed 2011 into 2012 remains really busy. Graham.
The Arthouse – 16 September – 4 October 2009
The word latitude – with implications for measuring, charting and describing relationships in geography, astronomy, aeronautics, photography as well as its implications in social contexts relating to manner, disposition, posture, viewpoint, or freedom from restrictions – sums up many notions in Bennett’s work.
A focus of this 2009 exhibition is the work Manipulate completed in November 2008 at the ZAIM Contemporary Art Space in Yokohama, Japan. During the period of the Arthouse show Bennett intends replacing the work Head-Space, currently outside the gallery with a new street work Orbit – eight metres in height, and extending notions of latitude further.
Latitude promises more of the unique Bennett amalgam of precise contemporary technology with hands-on experimentation and low-tech attention to detail and surface nuances. Robin Woodward’s description of T.R.I.G., How Near, How Far? offers some general insight into this show where several works are reminiscent of technologies
of land marking, surveying and navigating. They prompt immediate questions – what are these objects? Are they measuring devices? Clearly they are making a stand, stating the importance of measurement. But exactly what do they measure – physical, cultural, social dimensions? Or is it the precarious health of the globe, environmental issues, land claims, global warming? ….. Is there a suggestion that although the issues may be global, they need to be, and can be, addressed locally?
“Graham Bennett’s sculpture continues to offer an exploration not only of the spaces it occupies, traverses or creates, but also of the knowledge which pre-empts the initial enquiry and the significance of each subsequent work in relation to others. … offers the viewer endless dialogue …. and a physical expression of the human mind and energies and their relation to the wider environment.” (Praxis in Practice abstract,Dr CassandraFusco, catalogue for NICAF Tokyo 1999)
“There is no single answer to the questions he poses: but neither does he pose just a single, simple question. His work operates on a multiplicity of levels that reward close study and engagement both visually and intellectually.” (from essay by Dr Robin Woodward How Near, How Far? for Koru Contemporary Art catalogue 2008, ISBN978-988-17747-2-9)
A full-on twelve months for Bennett saw a major milestone installation in the Arthouse – PoDs – a description and an acronym- Points of Difference, Perpetuating our Divisions, Plot or Determine, Pathway or Direction, Proof of Doubt – Bennett’s list goes on. For Christine Whybrew the PoDs
are engaged as devices operating within broader systems of ritual, social relationships, demarcation or control. (Points of Difference, Christine Whybrewfor the Arthouse 2008)
The year also saw the mounting of solo shows in Japan, Hong Kong, and Waiheke Island. A highlight was the construction of an installation in ZAIM Contemporary Art Space in Yokohama, Japan. This work heralded a fresh, new approach to the now familiar divisions of latitude and longitude. Suspended from the ceiling it comprised three sets of three metre long black, white, and transparent fins twisted, contorted and intertwined.Running concurrently at Galerie Paris, Yokohama was an exhibition of Bennett’s sculpture, and subsequently his small scale works were included in a show, entitled Attitude, launching garments from Donna Tulloch’s fashion label Mild Red. A successful collaboration for Dunedin’s ID fashion week had led to the invitation for Bennett and Tulloch to showcase aspects of NZ contemporary culture, timed to coincide with Yokohama’s Triennale of Contemporary Art.
Participation in numerous group shows included Conversations Across Time at Canterbury Museum, a clear statement on water conservation entitled Logic Evaporates in NG gallery, and larger outdoor works for Headland, Sculpture on the Gulf (Waiheke) and Sculpture in Central Otago (Wanaka).