Re:configuring @ The Shutter Room, Whangarei

14 Apr

Detail of Re:configuring by Sarah Kippenberger and Chris Schreuder

“Re:configuring” by Whangārei-based artists, Sarah Kippenberger and Chris Schreuder in the artist run The Shutter Room gallery and studio space, makes the aesthetic experience mutable and participatory.

Sarah Kippenberger and Chris Schreuder

Detail of over 80 images on one of the walls.

You are instructed to choose an image and then to find it peeping out of one of the orfices of the stacks of 80 or more banana boxes in the gallery space.

Detail in the Shutter Room gallery, Whangārei

The title of the show refers to the continually changing configurations created by the visitors. While the photographic images by the artists showing snippits of their lives are framed to be looked at, pondered over or recognized, the frames obscure more than they reveal and the installation of nooks and crannies and towers is not only random but temporary.

Detail in the Shutter Room gallery, Whangarei

Detail in the Shutter Room gallery, Whangārei

By removing both frame and label this project blurs authorship which often in the art world is an important part of the artwork’s value or reception. Visitors place and re-position the boxes and so affect the way the images or the boxes are read by the participants themselves as well as later visitor-participants. Not only the medium is blurred (installation, performance or an opportunity to rearrange) but also the usual separation between the art object and the gallery visitor. The risk is that the next visitor, expecting their art gallery experience to be about reading a static arrangement, sees nothing resembling ‘art.’ But like many social practice art projects which blur the borders between life and art, a clear context – here in the form of instructions to find the image – helps the viewer to step inside the magic circle and once engaged in the game there’s space for contemplation.

The banana box itself is a migrant entering the country on the back of trade as well as being the ubiquitous storage system. But I am being too serious, because this exhibition oozes with joy and lightheartedness. The images are light or delicate with not a trace of angst and none of the boxes are overly battered. There is an out of the box sense of exploration and play that blurs the lines of “object making, performance, political activism, community organizing, environmentalism and investigative journalism, creating a deeply participatory art” [1] experience. In another sense the box functions as an enabler of alterity (to reference Spivak whose 1997 Documenta lecture made a huge impact on me), a way of exhibiting the photographic in a divergent space – from the inside of the migrant banana box, with whatever baggage it might have that distinguishes it from a gallery wall.

Footnote: Outside the Citadel, Social Practice Art Is Intended to Nurture, New York Times, 2013

“Reconfiguring” by Sarah Kippenberger and Chris Schreuder,
29 March – 27 April 2019,
The Shutter Room, 9 Rust Avenue, Whangārei
Opposite the public library main door
Wed – Fri 12-4pm, Sat 10-2pm
The Shutter Room Facebook page


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