Making connections to see what unfolds

Auckland artist Xin Cheng and Dunedin Public Art Gallery curatorial intern Andrea Bell discuss the exhibition, surrounded by rejected items they hope people will use to create new things. Photo by Chris O'Connor.
Auckland artist Xin Cheng and Dunedin Public Art Gallery curatorial intern Andrea Bell discuss the exhibition, surrounded by rejected items they hope people will use to create new things. Photo by Chris O'Connor.
Material rejected or destined for the rubbish will be repurposed as part of an exhibition with a difference at Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Rebecca Fox talks to those behind the concept.

Punctured bike tubes, an old mannequin, broken pipes, offcuts of wood, vinyl and foam.

All destined for the rubbish, it has been donated by businesses for a new exhibition ''Small Modifications''.

Auckland artist Xin Cheng, in collaboration with Chris Berthelsen, will challenge people's perception of what a gallery space can be by turning it into an open studio where people can come and make things and interact with each other.

Dunedin Public Art Gallery curatorial intern Andrea Bell said the exhibition started with nothing and during the past week they had visited local businesses collecting free materials which could be transformed in the gallery space.

''It is about improvising structures using creative solutions with whatever is at hand, in a time where people don't fix things any more.''

It was a different exhibition for the gallery, which usually invited the public to see completed installations of art work. Instead, ''Small Modifications'' would develop during its five weeks from just about nothing.

''It's not so much about the finished outcome, what is important is the process.''

The process would be documented as well, on the blog sm.making-doing-info.

''It's about making connections between people and groups and bringing them together to see what unfolds,'' Cheng said.

''The role of the artist is more of a facilitator [here]. We want people to touch things, make things.''

Cheng had been researching the city and looking back at work done during residencies in Cambodia, Japan, Taiwan, Korea and parts of Europe to see what concepts could be used in Dunedin.

She was heavily influenced by the work of Japanese architect and artist Kyohei Sakaguchi, who created makeshift housing using objects rejected by mainstream society on land that had no clear ownership.

Cheng and Berthelsen visited Japan to meet with Sakaguchi to talk with him about his work.

''It was very inspiring.''

They also used rubbish including banana boxes and wheels to create a mobile house kit.

''This is informing this project.''

In previous projects, Cheng and Berthelsen, who met over a shared interest in their approach to their art, had repurposed materials such as pallets and old rope and wire to make furniture and she planned to do the same in the gallery.

They had also held workshops for children where they used free materials to build their own shelters.

It was hoped the public and community groups would visit the gallery space, bring their own do-it-yourself (DIY) projects and help make other objects.

''We hope it will be a gathering point for the community to share skills and ideas - a grassroots approach to DIY,'' Cheng said.

''This is a call-out to local community groups to come to the gallery.''

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