City Gallery City Gallery

Past exhibition

Peter Roche: Trophies and Emblems

24 May–30 June 1991

OTHER VENUES Artspace, Auckland, 16 October–10 November 1990; Dunedin Public Art Gallery, 25 July–8 September 1991 SPONSOR New Zealand Steel PUBLICATION essay Bridget Sutherland

Peter Roche began his career as a performance artist whose works sometimes took a violent turn. In Transformation (1979), the Auckland artist had eleven sheep kidneys sewn onto his naked body. Since 1984, however, he has been making kinetic sculptures. ‘Now my sculptures perform for me’, he tells Alastair Thompson in the Dominion Post. 

Two months after the end of the Gulf War, Trophies and Emblems turns ‘the normal quiet of the gallery’ into a warzone—a ‘cacophony of noises, barks, sirens, and rhythms’, explains Thompson. There are nineteen steel sculptures, which range from beautifully painted to crudely painted, from pristine to raw. Their minimalism recalls military insignia and paraphernalia. There's a five-pointed star, Warden, and the swastika-like Bladerunner (both 1989).

Some move continually, others respond to the proximity of viewers. The show makes visitors feel unwelcome and uncomfortable. Two Sentries (1990) buzz and shout ‘Intruder!’ In Cutter (1990), a circular saw lurches at anyone who dares to come too close. (Visitors must stand behind the red line for their own safety.) When you approach No Go Zone (1990), a pack of dogs barks. Hosts offer guests earplugs due to the noise levels.

Roche says that the works are not about war but are, ‘power symbols, emblems that occur on a global scale, symbols of power and dominance’. In Stamp, Giovanni Intra writes, ‘The sculptures … for all of their ghastly connotations, have the sort of insane humour of a pinball game.’

The public programme includes a panel on the human cost of war, a presentation on wartime media censorship, and a film programme, which includes Ridley Scott’s  Bladerunner (1982) to complement Roche’s piece of the same name, In the Minds of Men (1982), Metropolis (1926), and Battleship Potemkin (1925).