Ceramco Wall and interior exhibition, Lopdell House Gallery, Auckland 2014
Site Unseen, 2014, Ceramco Wall and interior exhibition, Lopdell House Gallery, Auckland New Zealand.
Artsdiary Documentation: http://artsdiary.co.nz/bt46/1286/1.html
Site Unseen (Catalogue Essay excerpt)
Herber’s large masking tape works clothe and conceal, but this very act accentuates the place where she has woven her sticky web. Whether it is a rocky outcrop, a utility shed or a pathway, the material drapery invites a prolonged looking where a peripheral view might have previously sufficed. Herber offers the viewing public, with a particular thought for those who are local, an opportunity to share this act of active presence in a moment experienced.
In this particular location, Site Unseen is an invitation to notice the rather extraordinary façade of the historic Ceramco building (officially named Ceramic House), which she has sheathed in a skin of tape. A connection with the community is amplified through a kind of shared performance of the work, as Herber has invited locals to pause and fully engage with her materials and process through participation in the meticulous and laborious tearing and sticking of tape to an intermediary sheet of backing paper in preparation for installation on the wall.
Interestingly, this particular modernist edifice provides a host surface of cast geometric forms that simulate stacked ceramic pipes, which is itself indebted to modern abstraction and the architectural grid. However, rather than the rigour of formalism, there is an imperfection to both these grids in their handmade quality, which is very human, very bodily and seems to belie their industrial or conceptual origins. This apparent contradiction lies at the core of this project: repetition is always present but uniformity is not. Neither the torn tape nor the kiln-fired clay pipes are exact copies of their neighbours, and these nuanced shifts create sensation and emphasise experience. The artist calls our attention to this site – ‘Look here. Notice this!’ – when perhaps the passer-by has hitherto hurried along the path below, seldom glancing up. Paradoxically, the wall is now sheathed in another grid, pattern-on-pattern, so that this call to attention also frustrates engagement with the site, perhaps inviting instead a moment of pause, even wonder at such an extraordinary project.
There is something very poignant in the fact that a material as quotidian as masking tape can become so arresting in these works. This is true even when the tape is brightly coloured, as it remains a product designed primarily for its utility rather than its form. Herber’s process involves tearing these tapes into strips. Counterpoised against the straight edges, this introduces an element of chance and a soft feather of colour against the support. With origins in process art, where reduced materiality and a focus on transience are key concerns, Herber’s installations remain similarly impermanent. Torn down and discarded after the exhibition, they function as an invitation to respond in the moment.
Perhaps it is fitting to conclude with the words of Roman Opalka, an artist who embarked on a lifetime project, which located his work both in and of time, and was similarly bound by a set of rules: “Time as we live it and as we create it embodies our progressive disappearance. We are at the same time alive and in the face of death — that is the mystery of all living beings.”