After decades of scientific and technological development hurtling us ever faster forward, we know that science fiction can be close to science fact.Read More
Science fiction scenarios are often played out by way of horror stories that become engrained in the popular consciousness. Childhood nightmares from reading The Day of the Triffids or 1984, for example, remain with us as adults in the shadows, warning of the dangers that come with genetic modification or surveillance by unseen forces.
Playing with these shadows, Brit Bunkley’s art explores the tension between nature and culture – something increasingly mediated through computers. Working digitally, Bunkley plays unsettlingly with the quicksand material that is nature manipulated, altered and industrialised. He gives nature a shunting, mechanistic sheen: things aren’t quite right; there is a ghost in the machine. There is also the sense that nature just might bite back: take for example, the giant computer-rendered Avondale Spider to be found rampaging through an industrial zone, as if in a B-Horror movie, in his video installation The Huntsman.
In Bunkley’s work you sense an apocalyptic raincloud hanging over the New Zealand landscape. As an apparition it is like a modern memento mori – the grim reaper in the shape of a fighter plane. And yet Bunkley doesn’t just evoke horror or protest environmental degradation. There is beauty and wit. He celebrates our landscapes and popular culture as much as he tunnels down under their heavily marketed, glossy surfaces. The gnomes and angels that sometimes appear in his work remind us of the preciousness of nature and humanity, and the delicate fabric that holds the human, natural and spiritual worlds in balance. Like the shimmying shadows of dancers in Bunkley’s Downbreak on 1, Upbeat on 2 there is beauty in the push and pull of nature and culture’s dance.
Whether video, public object or a drawing of a 3D wireframe model, Bunkley’s work is all in essence sculpture: how material and the shapes it might take express our relationship to the world. Natural or synthetic, he is concerned with the construction of things, how a material’s potential might be extended, and how everything is ultimately made from a series of building blocks or pixels.
Bunkley’s background has bearing on the distinctiveness of his practice. He moved from the United States to Whanganui in 1995, bringing with him a rich public sculpture practice just as the digital revolution was upon us. Now surrounded by green, undulating chemically-altered farmland, Bunkley had shifted contexts dramatically, but this step away provides him a keen eye on militaristic attitudes towards our environment.
Bunkley’s work seems to suggest that the way we engage with our environment here in New Zealand might not be so different in its aggression to the way his former homeland engages as a superpower within the world. On the other hand, in his study of insects and landscapes, Bunkley is also celebrating the combative resistance nature itself asserts.
With this much drama embedded in our landscape, who needs horror movies?
Essay by Mark Amery
Born: New York, USA
Lives: Whanganui, NZ
Education: Senior Lecturer in Sculpture and Digital Media, Quay School of Arts, Whanganui UCOL (1995-); Master of Fine Arts, Hunter College, New York, USA; Bachelor of Fine Arts, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minnesota, USA
Awards/Distinctions: EVA - Experimental Video Architecture – Special Mention, Best Idea Category (2013); The Wallace Art Awards – Finalist (2013); Now&After ’12, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Russian Federation – Third Prize (2012); Sculpture Whanganui Award - Winner(2011); Connells Bay Temporary Installation Project, Connell’s Bay Sculpture Park, Auckland (2008); Wallace Arts Trust Grant (2005); Rome Prize Fellowship, Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome (1985-1986); Project Grant, New York State Council on the Arts (1983-1984); New York State Council on the Arts Artist's Fellowship Grant, Creative Artist's Program Service (1983); Artist's Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts (1980-1981)
Collections: Whanganui District Council (Hear My Train a’ Comin’Commission); SarjeantGallery, Whanganui; The James Wallace Arts Trust, Auckland; The New Zealand Film Archive;Minnesota Percent for Art in Public Places,Minnesota History Center, USA; New York City College, USA; Bay Shore Train Station (N.Y.M.T.A., New York Arts for Transit, Commission)
Public Exhibitions (selected): Digital Grafiti, Florida (2014); Odd Peer Nexus, The Young, Wellington (2014);The 10th Berlin International Directors Lounge [DLX], Berlin(2014); Hand, Eye, and Mind, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, India (2013); Festival Images Contre Nature 2013 -International festival of experimental video, Théâtre des Chartreux, Marseille, France (2013); Video Art Festival Miden (Now&After ‘13), Kalamata, Greece (2013); CologneOFF IX, A Virtual Memorial Vilnius Lithuania, 2013, Kedainiai Regional Museum, Lithuania (2013); KANTOR: cultuurfestival in leegstaand kantoorpand, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2013); Paradox of Plenty, Pah Homestead, TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, Auckland (2013); Oslo Screen Festival, Public screening at the Oslo Central Station, Norway (2013); Rosebank Artwalk/Sitework, Auckland Arts Festival (2013); White Night, Auckland Arts Festival (2013); Now&After ’12, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Russian Federation (2012); Something in the Water, Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui (2012); CologneOff8, META House, Phnom Penh (2012); Budapest International Shortfilm Festival, Hungry (2012); ExTeresa, Arte Actual, Mexico City (2012); O:4W Film Festival, Cardiff, UK (2012); Dio-noia (Dioramas of Paranoia), The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatu, Nelson (2011); E4C, ElectronicGallery, Seattle (2011); Images Contre Nature 2011, International Festival of Experimental Video, Théâtre des Chartreux, Marseille, France (2011);Sanctioned Array-Other2 Specify, WHITE BOX, New York (2010); Hybrids, Media and Interdisciplinary Arts Centre, Auckland (2010); Rencontres Internationales Madrid/Berlin/Paris, Reina Sofia National Museum, Madrid,The Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, The Centre Pompidou, Paris (2010); File 10 Nurbs Proto 4KT, Galeria De Arte Do Sesi, Sao Paolo, Brazil (2009); Urban Screens Melbourne 08, Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne (2008); 809 International New Image Art Festival, Yichang City, China (2008); Slow Train a’ Comin’, The New Zealand Film Archive Pelorus Trust Mediagallery, Wellington (2007); 404 Festival: 4th Edition, Trieste, Rome, Vienna, Hasselt (2007); Rural Vignettes, The New Zealand Film Archive Gallery, Wellington (2006); Following Gravity’s Rainbow, The New Zealand Film Archive Pelorus Trust Mediagallery, Wellington (2005); Signs (“and other similar entities”), Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, Auckland (2002); Monuments and Icons, Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui (1998)
Publications/Articles: ‘Thinking well outside the box’ by Mark Amery, The Dominion Post, Feb 2014; ‘Train of Thought’, Art News New Zealand, Winter 2012; pg 24; Artsville, TVNZ, 2011 (Documentary); Marshall, John (ed), Perimeters, Boundaries and Borders, Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design, Lancaster, UK: Fast-uk, 2008, pp 40-41; Fleming, Ronald Lee, The Art of Placemaking: Interpreting Community Through Public Art and Urban Design, London: Merrell Publ., 2008, pp 84 -85; Bloodworth, Sandra and William Ayres,Along the Way: MTA Arts for Transit, Celebrating 20 Years of Public Art, New York: Monacelli Press, 2006
Text courtesy Sanderson Contemporary.