Doors of Perception
High St, Auckland
Until July 21
Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples
The “Doors of Perception” exhibition at Visions is related to the ideas of psychogeography which the Marxist theorist Guy Debord used to describe playful and inventive ways of navigating the urban environment in order to examine its architecture and spaces. Such an approach also asks why we respond to particular environments and situations and how our perceptions are determined by personal, political and social influences .
The works are also linked to Aldous Huxley’s account of his use of mescaline in his book “The Doors Of Perception” of 1954 and his later book “Island” which imagine utopian environments where drugs perform an entirely beneficial function, providing serenity and understanding as well as a way to transcend the traditional sociocultural context of contemporary life.
This has been emphasised by the Covid crisis and its impact on the world in creating a sense of disconnect and unease.
The works in exhibition highlight this anxiety, with images of various environments connecting to history, science, mythology and the spiritual. Some provide concrete depictions as with Shana Moulton’s “The Undiscovered Drawer” (USD 17,250) others are more metaphysical such as the photography of Ben Cauchi. Some have a more political dimension as with Emily Karaka’s ”Rahui” (NZD 20,000) while others such as Star Gossage’s “Beside the Sea, our Pakiri” (NZD 17,500) are more spiritual.
With Shana Moulton’s “The Undiscovered Drawer” the artist enters a dream world through a cabinet that contains drawers and drawers which conceal other drawers, opening up worlds within worlds. The drawers contain objects of her fears and desires such as roller facial massage tools or keys to further doors.
The artist also engages in applying makeup to create new images of herself in this new surreal world.
The images and actions are reminiscent of the early surrealist films of Bunuel, Leger and Duchamp (some of which are showing at the Surrealist exhibition on in Wellington).
The artist search for meaning and discovery seem to be frivolous and quirky but in this creation of a mindfulness world the surreal dream takes on a serious investigation of the individual trapped in a self-referential and oppressive world with a feminist reading of cultural issues.
Ben Cauchi’s photographs also create surreal spaces. “Dead Time” (NZD 11,000) depicts a halo of light projected onto patterned wallpaper., This hovering nimbus or astral fog hints at another dimension while “The Waiting Room” (NZD 11,000) is a slightly creepy space of indeterminate use.
One of the most impressive works in the show is the video work “Enso- Cold Light” (USD 97,750) by teamLab who are an interdisciplinary group of artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians and architects who refer to themselves as “Ultra-technologists
The work derives from the simple, single flourish of a calligraphic brush stroke as in the work of the traditional Japanese master Sengai Gibon or the more recent brushwork of Max Gimblett.
The digital work imagines the brush stroke emerging as though from the Big Ban, expanding and morphing with energy.
At one level it is a meditative work evolving out of its Zen historical narrative as well as describing a scientific phenomenon, seeming to reach forward into the cosmos.
By contrast Joyce Campbells set of photographs ($3800 each) depict the very beginnings of the life process. They are images from The Mariana Trench, the lowest point on the surface of the Earth. The organisms in her photographs are emerging simple life forms, looking like alien creatures.
Other works in the show are by Tamara Dean, Angela Lane, Dale Frank and Adam Lee.
The exhibition has been curated by Pippa Mott Curator at Mona – Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart.