I have just published an essay in Eyeline on the work of Stella Brennan. I have worked with Stella for years, and this was my first indepth consideration of her practice. It was so interesting to have to think through a history of material encounters whilst always conscious I didn’t want to reduce her work to a series of material encounters. I began by thinking about the walks we had taken around the North Shore of Auckland, and our various fossickings in and out of op-shops. The essay ended up musing on the reality of our generation of New Zealanders; the people who in voting for the first time, elected a Labour government that embraced neo-liberal economics and sold everything we never knew was for sale back to us.
The essay also benefited greatly from the care and vision of Trish Clark, and it was great to spend a day sitting in her gallery in Auckland and drafting the essay. It starts like this:
“It was the result of an inevitable break in the surface of things, as if a fire from the centre of the earth or a volcano beneath its skin had at last been forced through into an overtaking of the visible world.” Janet Frame Living in the Maniototo.
Stella Brennan’s early works began from the birth pangs of the Internet age and the messianic phase of neo-liberalism. They mark the decade when the world changed. By 1990 New Zealand, Japan and Australia had joined the magical mystical tour named the Internet, and packets of data were flying through deep underground cables and across starlit southern skies. A Labour government was well along the path of a neoliberal reformation of the country’s economic and social policies. The market had won out over equality and solidarity, and we were immersed in a new language of “return on investment,” “choice,” and “deregulation.” The global concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere reached 350 parts per million by volume. Walls and stocks had fallen, the Exxon Valdez ran aground, and the earth became a little warmer.