The Arrival

1 January 1970

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September 26 – October 21 2006

The Arrival is an international exploration of cultural adaptation, upheaval and displacement, either by imposition or choice. Contemplating the rippling after-effects of more than two centuries of cultural migration, this exhibition examines the implications of arrivals into new worlds, journeys to old, and the contemplation of unfamiliar frontiers.

Surprisingly, globalisation hasn’t caused the relativity of historic perspective to become homogenised but instead has made it increasingly complex. Successive waves of cultural expansion have left layers of indelible imprints in the landscape, resulting in a complex overlaying of social and ecological systems. Contemporary Western art once hinged on the singular advance of Modernism, propelled by industrialisation and often influenced by so-called primitive art. Subsequent readings of cultural identity must negotiate the travel and translation of signs and symbols, complicated by cultural resilience or diasporic acclimatisation.

According to Ronald Wright’s A Short History of Progress, the industrial revolution, which underpinned Modernism, was largely fuelled by the colonisation of resources found in the ‘New World’, which has in turn accelerated the process of globalisation. The impact of these false notions of progress and misjudged political alliances are architectural relics that leave lasting scars on the landscape and psyche, commemorating both empires and ruins. As successive civilisations rise and fall, these shifting sands remain indelibly marked with the ghostly presence of previous eras of exploration, invasion and development.

Using video, photography and sculpture, the artists in this exhibition play the role of observer and social anthropologist, offering insight into global processes that have led to urban industrialisation and social dysfunction. They document legacies of the outmoded belief systems and bankrupted ideals that have created a world of imbalances, misunderstandings, and crises of identity. Side-stepping didactic rhetoric for a more fluid approach to the detailed perspectives of cultural exchange, their work is haunted by lost dreams and despair whilst still suggesting humour, irony, and the potential of the future that inspires all migration.

The Arrivals includes artists Mark Adams (NZ), Allan DeSouza (Kenya), Merilyn Fairskye (Australia), Brett Graham (NZ), Zwelethu Mthethwa (South Africa), Lisa Reihana (NZ), Haruhiko Sameshima (NZ) and Bridget Smith (UK).