A Rock That Was Taught It Was A Bird

Dan Arps, Kim Beom, Layla Rudneva-Mackay and Koki Tanaka

16 October - 20 November
Curated by Emma Bugden


Things are real. We draw close to the reality of things by accepting a thing as it is. And what is a thing as? A thing, we notice at first, is silent. But the thing has something to offer!

With a word we entice the unheard voice from a thing. Only the word hears this voice. The word registers or marks the voice of the thing. This voice, marked with a word, speech utters. Here speech meets with music, which is the heard voice of a thing.
OHO Manifesto, 1966

A Rock That Was Taught It Was A Bird presents four stand-alone artist’s projects that investigate the complex relationship between objects and people.

Even though the 20th century was one in which language was brought under rigorous critique, a trend well represented in the popular consciousness, we still tend to position ourselves in a privileged, hierarchical relationship to objects.

A Rock That Was Taught It Was A Bird nods to the Slovenian ‘transcendental conceptualists’ OHO who staked out a space for practice in the late 1960s and 1970s, located somewhere between transgressive play and strict conceptualism. OHO worked to the concept of ‘reism’, conjuring up a non-anthropocentric world of things, drawing on Heidegger’s crisis of humanism to reject the notion that humans are located at the centre of the world. Instead they sought out a relationship to objects that might be considered equal.

A Rock That Was Taught It Was a Bird offers four very different perspectives on the intersection of human and sculptural form.

Auckland artist Dan Arps reconstructs fragments of what has become known as the world’s worst theme park — Fantazy Land, in Alexandria, Egypt. Playing ‘Dungeon Master Formalist’ Dan Arps gives sculptural form to the recurrent monsters of imperative enjoyment and global capitalism, by riffing off, as Arps says, ‘a really bad fun park where you’re not allowed to touch anything and none of the attractions are attractive’. The resulting installation, Arps provocatively suggests, is ‘more or less the same as what might commonly be found in an art gallery’.

The title for this exhibition comes from a work by Korean artist Kim Beom. In A Rock That Was Taught It Was A Bird, a rock is earnestly given lessons on flying in an effort to defy the logical rules of physics and gravity. A Rock That Was Taught It Was A Bird is part of a series The Educated Objects which looks at the structures and limitations of pedagogy.

Layla Rudneva-Mackay’s photograph, titled Taking a moment to lose himself, when found most unexpectedly squashed between a mattress and its base, is from a series in which the subjects are literally masked by their interaction with simple domestic elements—a curtain, a bed, a sheet. A tableaux is performed, one in which the protagonist is somehow consumed and integrated into the environment.

Koki Tanaka describes the process of making his work as ‘objective observation’. His films and installations document a series of performative actions enacted by the artist, from inserting a very large tarpaulin into a car to creating a circle from squirted tomato sauce. Part serious investigation of object and action, part a choreographed dance of slapstick, his works form a curious narrative that emphasises ‘looking carefully, looking clearly at things which seem ordinary’.

A Rock That Was Taught It Was A Bird has received funding support from the Asia New Zealand Foundation towards Koki Tanaka’s visit.

EyeContact review