Rocking up fashionably late, as always, to the Blue Oyster Art Project Space on Dowling Street, I am pleased to see the front door flung open invitingly, with small groups of people milling around in the front room. I enter the space where this month’s exhibition opening is unfolding, eager to acquaint myself with the avant-garde pieces and people inside.
Blue Oyster gallery director Chloe Geoghegan quickly takes me under her wing, introducing me to the exhibition, cultivated by Auckland based group Uniform. Uniform is “sound, art, film and writing by underground women, for everyone.” Though based in Auckland, the group has strong ties to Dunedin and its arts scene, and aims to create a community which incorporates the atmosphere and people of the two cities, forming a collective of art and ideas from both. During the month the exhibition is held, Uniform organises a series of !No Venues! events, spurning the idea of a set gallery space or venue for their work. This focus is emphasised in their manifesto, which hangs proudly in the hallway of Blue Oyster. The manifesto declares Uniform to be “taking back the carparks, streets, the parks and the bedrooms for the women who dance through them”.
This opening is the first of their Dunedin based events, with a DJ spinning tunes in a dimly lit back room, free punch and artists and members of the public alike spilling into a back alleyway, rejecting the conventional gallery opening space. Ducking under the monochromatic, text heavy works hanging in the main space, I meander into a tiny side room, the walls of which feature a distorted projection of flowing lava, an homage to Auckland’s volcanic landscape. Light reflects off the thick cellophane-like paper hanging from the roof, creating the illusion of a tiny, evolving nebula on the wall to my right. The works in the main room and from the ceiling and combine textural paper and fabric with thought provoking text, and are in various states of disrepair. Chloe tells me this is because the artists don’t take themselves and their work too seriously, storing and arranging the works as casually as they please, another rejection of conventional art and galleries as at times, elite, inaccessible spaces where art is to be revered and treated with utmost care.
The concept of non-space art and the art community transcending galleries or cities is integral to the exhibition, with a variety of events and recordings being held over this month all over Dunedin for this reason. Uniform’s Exchange exhibition and !No Venues! series is a holistic way to experience all forms of art, not restricted to orthodox gallery spaces. This interactive, all encompassing style of exhibition is one which is truly innovative, and a must see for the open minded art student or follower. Uniform frequently hold events around New Zealand.
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