Thursday, 12 February 2009

Fiona Hall - Force Field

I can't remember when I last saw such a stunning sculpture show. Fiona Hall's retrospective at the Christchurch City Gallery is large, rich, and varied, almost too much to take in in one visit. It closes this Sunday, the 15th, so if you haven't already seen it, get down there. More information is here.

I'm going to list some of my favourite pieces to give you a taste:

Cell Culture

These familiar-looking Tupperware pottles have sprouted delicate limbs, claws, fins. They have morphed into new and alien forms of life.

Castles in the air of the Cave Dwellers

Models of insect colonies are attached, like outgrowths, to model human brains. A colony of social insects, which to humans seems like a utopia, a model world, is contrasted with the brain, a colony of cells that houses only one isolated individual.

Paradisus Terrestris

These exquisite sculptures are partly-open tins revealing depictions of human bodies, and each one is surmounted by a plant motif which echoes the human form within.

Syntax of flowers

Flowers are the reproductive parts of plants, and their beauty and their scent are designed to attract pollinators. This work plays with the idea that humans use flower perfumes to attract each other: The bottles of flower essences are decorated with paintings of naked women in frankly suggestive poses.

Scar Tissue

This work is housed in a cross-shaped display case, and consists of videos of war movies, with the videotape unspooling from the cassette and knitted into glittering, dark, frightening forms which hover above them. The forms appear to emanate from the video cassettes, like horrifying afterimages that cannot be erased from the memory.

When My Boat Comes In

In this work Hall explores the economics of plants, how the import, export, and exploitation of particular species, such as sugar, tea, coffee, and rubber have influenced the world economy and created huge imbalances of wealth. Hall has gathered banknotes from many different currencies, all depicting boats or ships, and on the banknotes painted the leaf of a plant native to each particular country.


In this work Hall has meticulously copied the forms of various types of birds' nests, using hand-shredded banknotes as her raw material. As the names of the bird species face off against the serial numbers of the banknotes, we are left to contemplate the consequences of commercial exploitation of natural resources.

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