Set Up

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Media Release: May, 2003. 

A captivating exhibition that explores the concept of staged worlds and features new work by four Wellington photographers opens on 15th May at the Michael Hirschfeld Gallery. Curated by Rebecca Wilson of City Gallery Wellington, Set Up includes photographs by Wayne Barrar, Jenny Gillam, Ben Cauchi and Mary Macpherson.

The six works by well known photographer Wayne Barrar blur the line between the real and the imagined. Part of an ongoing project exploring the histories of towns in the South Australian outback the images in Barrar’s photographs include both actual sites and museum displays in the outback towns of Woomera and Coober Pedy. Eerie dwellings carved out of caves complete with television sets and carpeted floors seem familiar yet slightly bizarre. While museum exhibits which at first glance appear to be real upon closer examination reveal themselves to be staged.

For her haunting series Giving Up the Ghost Jenny Gillam has re-photographed work by Auckland photographer Clifton Firth (1904―1980), who encouraged his subjects to assume glamorous poses as if they were actors or models. It is these 1940s portraits that re-appear in Giving Up the Ghost. Interested in photography’s role in memory and history-making, Gillam has photographed and enlarged Firth’s original prints which have deteriorated over time, taking on a truly ghost like quality.

Up and coming photographer Ben Cauchi’s work continues to explore ideas of staged worlds as he leads the viewer back to a time gone by. Setting up make-believe scenarios and using photographic techniques popular in the nineteenth century Cauchi’s works have a soft dreamlike quality to them. These one off images show enactments of tricks and illusions in which the photographer himself often plays the lead role.

Mary Macpherson’s colourful, vibrant work also involves setting up and photographing dreamlike scenarios. Using a maritime painting found in a junk shop, fabric, lace and plastic sea creatures, her tiny stage sets play out the idea of being ‘at sea’. The layered, watery world she creates is a site of dreams, journeys and adventures both real and imagined.

On Tuesday 27 May at 6pm in the Michael Hirschfeld Gallery, join Wayne Barrar, Jenny Gillam, Ben Cauchi and Mary Macpherson for an artist’s flootalk as they discuss their individual contributions to the exhibition.

Set Up is presented within the 360 programme – a full perspective on Wellington art and design, which is generously sponsored by Designworks.