Call Sick

Call Sick

Artist: Campbell Patterson

Showing 17 June – 1 Oct at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, FREE


Campbell Patterson is really good at climbing out of windows, particularly for someone wearing bizarre and little garb. There are few slips and falls, mostly carefully managed limbs making their way out of windows, again and again and again. And the garb - oversized grey sweatsuit pants (not baggy, actually, comically oversized), replicas of the ones readily available at your local Warehouse for no less than $9.98, often worn as ‘at home’ attire, after injury (physical and emotional) and/or while sick. Call Sick, the recently opened exhibition at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, by the 2017 Francis Hodgkin Fellow, Campbell Patterson, examines “the particular pleasure of the sick day—the kind taken when you are not actually sick”.

Exhibited in the BNZ Gallery on the ground floor of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery are three films, projected floor to ceiling, titled escape 1, 2, and 3. In the still-frame video, Patterson climbs out of windows, he lands, walks out of frame, and re-enters the building, only to do the motion again. Two of the three spaces have domestic qualities, possibly homes, while one is clearly a faculty block - in this case, the artist’s studio on the University of Otago campus grounds. Patterson’s practice often reflects his emotions, as he stated in conversation with Curatorial Intern, Lucinda Bennett, and these emotions are clear throughout his oeuvre: anxiety and agitation (heightened by his use of repeated acts) but with equal amounts of humour. His work is funny. Visitors to the gallery laugh-out-loud while viewing the works, as do I. The films are, like the sweatpants, bizarre, but they evoke a sense of anxiety, empathy and concern for the artist. What is he running from? We sympathise with Patterson’s quick exit, the luxury of abandoning it all, just for one day, and retreating to bed - a simple act of self-care.

In a peculiar space adjacent to the BNZ Gallery hangs four of the oversized sweatpants, Call Sick 1, 2, 3 and 4, similar to the ones seen in escape 1, 2 and 3. The pants are used, saggy and pilled. Patterson has spent his time, since arriving in Dunedin in late January, wearing the sweatpants as pyjamas, lounge wear and dining attire, and the noticeable stains of these activities accompany them; both food stains and bodily fluids. He’s worn a pair for 4-5 weeks, developing their qualities, stains and smell (there is a faint waft when entering the space), before swapping the pair out for a new one. For their stains and noticeable wear, they are intriguing - perfect replicas of grey sweatpants but approximately five times the size. Too big for any person, they’re ridiculous, and from viewing the video works in the adjacent space, not particularly easy, or convenient, to wear. Patterson can be seen hoisting them above his shoulders, rather than his waist, again re-emphasising the agitation, between laughs.

Call Sick perfectly iterates the feeling of longing for immediate relief and, at times, the need for it - a small break in daily anxieties and routines, the true pleasure of a sick day.

This article first appeared in Issue 14, 2017.
Posted 1:19pm Sunday 9th July 2017 by Grace Ryder.