The Slipping Away

Published: Wed 5 Jun 2019 05:10 PM
Plastic pollution has now reached the deepest points of the Earth’s oceans. It exists seven miles beneath the surface in the Mariana Trench. As supermarkets ban single use plastic bags and images of sea life tangled in plastic waste fill social media feeds, is it possible to prevent what feels like an inevitable man-made destruction of our blue planet?
Located on the original shoreline of Tāmaki Makaurau Gus Fisher Gallery will activate a discussion on the value that Moana brings to our lives. Conceived as an immersive experience, The Slipping Away will take visitors on a journey above and below the ocean through filmic interpretations of the deep sea and light-based installations of the water from above.
As an island nation, Aotearoa has over 15,000 kilometres of stunning coastline and is renowned for its natural beauty. Yet, Aotearoa also produces five times the global daily waste average making it the tenth most wasteful nation in the world. In poignant connection to this context, The Slipping Away features a large-scale light based installation by renowned artist Bill Culbert called Pacific Flotsam (2007), a centre-piece of Culbert’s presentation for the New Zealand Pavillion at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013. Pacific Flotsam’s inclusion in The Slipping Away brings renewed attention to the wider references of Culbert’s installations and the environmental issues so prescient in the work.
Pacific Flotsam will fill the entirety of the Gus Fisher Gallery’s largest space creating a visually immersive environment. Following the artist’s passing earlier this year at the age of 84, this timely and poignant presentation provides an important way to remember the artist whose contribution to the New Zealand and international art world will be greatly missed.
Accompanying Bill Culbert is a seminal work by Copenhagen based artist group SUPERFLEX called Flooded McDonald’s. Made in 2009, SUPERFLEX’s mesmerising film shows a life-size replica of a McDonalds’s burger bar as it slowly floods with water over the course of twenty minutes. Set in a replica McDonalds where everything featured is meticulously hand-made, the film is an epic testimony to the impotence of Western corporations to cope with the impact of climate change. As used coffee cups and burger wrappers get swept beneath the incoming torrent of water, Flooded McDonald’s is a haunting reminder of the reality of the health of our oceans.
Taking us to the imaginary depths of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean is Flightdream (2015) by Walters prize nominee Joyce Campbell. Joined by a new projection by the artist called Falls in Flood (2018) Campbell’s work reminds us of the fantasy underworld of the ocean deep and the vastness still awaiting discovery. Bringing to light the power of fictional stories and mana of the ocean as a source of inspiration is Mata Aho Collective’s ongoing project Taniwha Tales. Presented on a touch screen for visitors to read, Taniwha Tales is a collection of stories of the Taniwha, a mysterious sea creature in Māori culture, donated by friends and family members of the artists. Accompanying the poetry by Mata Aho Collective is Climate Change Heartbreak Poems (2006-2013) by Wellington-based artist Raewyn Martin. These poems conflate shifting consciousness of climate change with experiences of heartbreak. A decade later, these fugitive texts are now cast within the highly-sensitive cellulose and will respond to shifts in atmospheric conditions throughout the course of the exhibition.
Also featured is a video called Bottles / Mosh (2005) by Auckland based artist Terry Urbahn. Footage of plastic rubbish churned up in a river under a bridge in Rome is animated by the relentless guitars in Motörhead’s Ace of Spades. As the sound spills out from the gallery’s entranceway, Bottles / Mosh captures the tensions of the exhibition that are once enjoyable, provocative and serenely beautiful along with their urgent call to action.
By bringing together these activating artworks, The Slipping Away asks us to act now rather than wait. And perhaps Motörhead can provide the soundtrack.

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