I W T --- '((' 2017.


Introduction to the IWT project.

On the 18th June 2016, while undertaking a two month residency at the Varda Artist Residency, the residency hosted a presentation and critique evening for current artists in residence. Gallerist Hilde Lynn Helphenstein and curator Misal Adnan Yildiz were present and I decided to share the documentation of my experience in San Francisco to that date. The experience was still fresh in my mind, and my developing intentions during the residency were still near impossible to clearly express. There was one point made that has continued to influence intent, outlook, thought process, and direction in my work. Helphenstein, in response to my photographic portrayal of individuals in San Francisco City, brought up the term ‘manipulation’, referencing my perspective as similar to a FSA photographer of the 1930’s, who’s documenting photographs were a sort of visual ‘situational manipulation’ of individuals affected by The Great Depression throughout the United States. Yildiz rightfully agreed with this response, and the simple term ‘manipulation’ has continued to hold a strong effect in my mind. I have come to see the result of this critique as invaluable. In the following months my experience and understanding of that term took twists and turns in ways I would not have imagined possible.

On the 31st of July 2017, I signed the lease for a shop front space in Point Chevalier, Auckland.

The space was initially intended to be a working studio, but another opportunity presented itself. The terms of the lease allowed a time frame for a potential project, and the context of a shop front allowed an approach that was outside of myself. The project that developed was titled IWT (I Was There) Project Space, IWT used the format of a project space to facilitate a context for  contributing artists. The curatorial approach utilised notions of situational manipulation as an initial action of curatorial process. There was no intended outcome for this curatorial experiment.

Five individuals were invited to contribute works as part of the first show, which opened on the 1st September 2017, and titled '1ST XFive'.  This show became the first in a series of five, that became collectively titled ‘((’. The first show enabled a structure to develop the following shows. The result was a curatorial methodology which had the potential to be repeatedly employed.

Each show was made up of individuals chosen by the previous contributors, less one that I chose to remove. This removal allowed the series to count down to a final show that included all who participated in the series plus the final contributor, and of course less one.

The series included a total of fifteen artists showing works over five separate, but connected group shows from September to December 2017.  The aim of ‘((’ began to develop as a facilitation of direct and indirect conversation between contributing individuals, allowing the initial curatorial intent to exist in the background.  The context of a project space allowed each artist to be celebrated as individuals and as a whole.

Curation as a term has a relation to notions of manipulating situation. Content is understood in relation to a prescribed and imposed context. In saying this, the definition of curation is “expressed by the meaning of its Latin etymological root, curare: ‘to take care of,” it is an action in creating a context for something to be housed, witnessed and understood. Hans Ulrich Obrist’s description of curation as an ‘orchestration of a situation’ for example, can be understood as social influence, and depending on the result be deemed as a form of manipulation. It is the outcome that determines if manipulation was prevalent in a curatorial process.

There is potential danger in the choice to use curation as medium and the act can be deemed as somewhat reductive. For me the action of curation is an especially fitting response to an experience of having my own artwork part of a manipulated situation. (This experience is described in the exhibition ‘A Series of Events,’ 2017, which notes one of the twists I did not imagine possible.)  

In experiencing and then perpetrating forms of situational manipulation, I readily agree with Obrist’s point that a curator’s role should be that of a facilitator, actively avoiding manipulative action. Facilitation, where manipulation is removed, is ultimately more difficult than previously understood, especially as the action of curation has the potential to be the ultimate form of manipulation. Explaining manipulation as methodology is a difficult position to stand in, but within this context the metaphor of curation should be examined in a lateral manner.

As a painter I’m interested in the manipulation of an object's vitality, ontological existence, and understood visual surface. There is a personal fascination in the construction of a situation, a situation which gives example to material relations within an object.  The object’s materiality is also seen in terms of context, where the object is experienced / viewed, it is manipulation of a situation which enables an experience to occur in the first place.

On reflection of the excessive use of the term manipulation, and after these situational exercises, I would now deem the term to describe the influence of a person, situation, or object within a supportive and constructive context. Showing each of these individuals work was an action carried out as a facilitator, but I do see this project as my own ‘gesamtkunstwerk.’  The final result has given example to the action of influencing a situation, very different to my original introduction to the term manipulation.

This project is survived by a publication that includes text from myself, Miranda Bellamy, and includes documentation of each contributing artists work, project documentation and publication design by Ivan Lourens Muller.


I would like to extend a warm thank you to the following artists who took part in this curation project: Caroline Faigan, Robyn Jordaan, Whitney Nicholls-Potts (Ngāti kurī), Jamie Cowie, Rohan Hartley Mills, Shelley Simpson, Robbie Fraser (Ngāti Porou ki Harataunga), Jazmine Rose, Mish O’Neill, Priscilla Hunter, Krystina Kaza, Daniel Ellison (Ngāi Tahu), Matilda Woods, Taylor Wagstaff, Elyse Scott, and a special thank you to Miranda Bellamy for providing a body of text for the publication.

Edition of 50, ISBN 978-0-473-42402-2



* Varda Artists Residency / VAR . Sausalito, San Francisco, California. (http://www.vardaartistsresidency.to/past-residents/jonathan-a-kennedy)

* ‘Situational manipulation.’ Yamada, Natsuko, (1997). Situational Manipulation and Impressions Formed from Evaluation of Another Person's Personality, Volume: 85 issue: 3, page(s): 975-986. Kyushu University, Japan.

* ‘A Series of Events.’  3rd - 25th February 2017. playstation gallery, Wellington.  (http://playstationspace.com/a-series-of-events/)

* ‘Curation,’  (“It means to preserve, in the sense of safeguarding the heritage of art. It means to be the selector of new work. It means to connect to art history. And it means displaying or arranging the work.” - Hans Ulrich Obrist on curation) and (‘...Obrist insists that he primarily sees himself as a facilitator. “I’ve realised that the curator’s role is more that of enabler,” he said. “I’ve never thought of the curator as a creative rival to the artist. When I became a curator, I wanted to be helpful to artists. I think of my work as that of a catalyst—and sparring partner.”). Neuendorf, H. (2016). Art Demystified: What Do Curators Actually Do? The influence of curators, explained. Artnet News, November 2016. Sourced on 20 March, 2018 from, (https://news.artnet.com/art-world/art-demystified-curators-741806/amp-page). Originally published in The Guardian, ‘Hans Ulrich Obrist: the art of curation’, interviews by Stuart Jeffries and Nancy Groves, Sunday 23 March 2014. (https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/mar/23/hans-ulrich-obrist-art-curator).

* “Expressed by the meaning of its Latin etymological root, curare: ‘to take care of….’” Obrist, Hans Ulrich, (2014). ‘Ways of Curating,’ Page(s): 24-25, Allen Lane.   

* ‘Gesamtkunstwerk,’ Obrist, Hans Ulrich, (2014). ‘Ways of Curating,’ Page(s): 30-32, Allen Lane.   




''((' 2017.' series part of the IWT project space project. 1st September - 17th December 2017. 179a Point Chevalier Road, Point Chevalier, Auckland, New Zealand.