Judy Darragh and Sean Kerr present In Kahoots, a collaborative exhibition played out in the key of a present-day fable that spreads its whimsical schemes throughout the entire gallery. Encompassing sculpture, real-time animation, video, sound, wall-based collage and digital photographs, In Kahoots draws on Plato's Allegory of the Cave to locate a shared meditation on collective resistance, transformation and ecstatic revolution. Across the exhibition the artists invoke myth as a means of way-finding through a collective contemporary fray and as method for making-sensible the dynamic, circular and present tenses of time.
Time, as it gathers its threads into thickets, shapes the horizons and ellipses by which meaning is made. Licked by the shadows of future and past, the present forms its contours in the manner of magma or stardust. Pervasive and formless, flickering in a shapeless rhythm, it moves ever further from the minds attempts to take hold. In the short fable-theory, Thumbelina, the late philosopher Michel Serres, speaks to this temporal landscape as irrevocably transformed by computation and contemporary technology. Reflecting on the implications this poses for human consciousness and its multitude of imaginaries, Serres writes of the transmission of knowledge and the creative potentials of cognition as now oscillating in an environment radically altered from that of our ancestors. The horizons of both future and past now extend to scales that were previously unthinkable, while the speed and scope with which we can access, act, communicate, and exchange knowledge in any given instant, create a plethora of new freedoms and concerns. The minds energy and focus, now liberated from the rote tasks of memory and recall, might invent new purposes, posits Serres. But these conditions also necessitate the creation of pedagogies and story-forms with the capacity to cultivate new connections and empathies. For young urban-dwellers born within the last five decades, he observes;
'Know nothing of the rustic life, domestic animals, or the summer harvest. They have not lived through ten wars, the wounded, the starving, the motherland, bloody flags, cemeteries, or monuments to the dead. Nor have they ever experienced, through their suffering, the vital urgency of a morality. What literature or history will they be able to understand?'
Drums roll in the distance: what shadows through yonder cave-window breaks? Of what present ruptures do the signs now speak? Serres stance is by no measure one of morose condemnation, rather it is a call to, and celebration of, contemporary stories and sensibilities. With a carefully measured paternalism, he looks to a generation with 'pockets filled with all of the knowledge in their smart phones.' It is their bodies, Serres writes, that are now free to leave the cave, where once they were shackled to the lectern and their seats. The new autonomy of our understanding, he writes, "finds complement in corporeal movements without constraint and a brouhaha of voices."
Sashaying between allegory and animistic world-building Judy Darragh and Sean Kerr follow Serres to the scene of Plato's primal 'Allegory' to refigure the cave as a site fit for the return of said bodies and voices. Yet they find it already shaking with the energy and messengers of new movements, already overfull and all a-mingle with the shadow-forms cast by the real fakes, fake reals, deep fakes and algorithmic manipulations of the mediated landscape. The images spark and go out, alight and go out... Yet an invisible rhythm of uprising remains. The mythical cosmic egg cracks open, from Zeus' splitting headache, Athena is born. Classic. They return to the classics, drawing on the sculptural legacy of gesture as bearer of the news.
The real-time animation work Sleep on It develops from Kerr's current research exploring the interactive potential of new media technologies. Built with the gaming platform Unity, Sleep on It sets in motion a self-generating conglomeration of viewpoints and dance routines in a shifting, in-the-present world. Shaped with signature Darragh & Kerr panache, levitating wigs and the ghost of painting's past float amongst the cave fires of the street-cum-nightclub. A large roving eyeball becomes one gaze among many, ears flex for the sounds of battle cries and beats, figures rework their own scripts and priorities. Bouncing between the rocks of purification and poiesis, revolution and revelry, with their evolving cast of characters Darragh and Kerr hone in on the echos, imaginaries and emerging collective bodies with all of the mirth and generosity characteristic of both artists practice. Judy Darragh is a New Zealand artist renowned for her brightly coloured sculptural assemblages, collage, video, photography, and poster art. Her practice came to prominence during 1980s, at which time Darragh's trademark eclectic iconoclasm modelled a fleet-footed critical position in response to the rampant materialism and free-market reforms that characterized this period of New Zealand history. In 2004 Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand mounted the major survey exhibition Judy Darragh: So... you made it? which was accompanied by a full colour catalogue published by Te Papa Press. Judy Darragh lives and works in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland where she has played a significant role in the development of ARTSPACE Aotearoa, artist-run spaces in Auckland such as Teststrip, and Cuckoo, has taught widely at both secondary and tertiary level, and has taken on mentorship roles for wide range of artists. She is currently a co-editor of Femisphere a publication supporting women's art practices in Aotearoa. Darragh continues to exhibit extensively throughout Aotearoa New Zealand and her works are held in numerous public collections including Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetu, Christchurch; Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand, Wellington; Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Auckland; and Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth.
Sean Kerr is an Auckland-based artist working across sculpture, new media, and participatory engagement who has exhibited and performed in galleries and venues in New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea, USA, Brazil and The Netherlands. Best known for his capture of technology's uncanny which he deploys across a range of object-entities and good-natured affronts, he is also regarded for his influential body of work in sound, installation, video and 2D formats. Kerr is currently a Senior Lecturer at Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland where he was awarded a Doctorate of Fine Arts in 2017. He has co-authored two books Bruce is in the garden, so someone is in the garden (2011) and Pop (2009) with Clouds publishing. Notable exhibitions and projects include: Lost, Sydney College of the Arts Gallery, Sydney, 2019; One thing after another West Space, Melbourne, 2016; What's it doing Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland, 2014; Song and Dance The Physics Room, Christchurch, 2012; Bruce danced if Victoria sang, and Victoria sang; so Bruce danced, Part 1: Artspace, Auckland and Gus Fisher Gallery, Auckland, 2010, Part 2: Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, 2011; Superdelux, Tokyo 2011 and 17th Biennial of Sydney, 2010, Neighbourhood Watch, Music 4 100 Computers, Rhizome.org Commission, New Museum of New York, New York, 2006; The Mountain, Prospect, Wellington, 2004; and The Conversation, Seoul Biennale, Seoul, 2002
Press release courtesy Two Rooms.