Work for Stairwell

Artspace Aotearoa June 2019

A laser-cut fabric banner commissioned for Guy Ngan: Either Possible or Necessary¬†, a survey exhibition of the Wellington sculptor’s life’s work. This project marked the 20th anniversary of Brennan’s inclusion of his 1973 Mural for Newton Post Office in Nostalgia for the Future at Artspace in 1999. The text is inspired by a timeline Ngan wrote plotting out his life, work and influences.

Photos by Sam Hartnett

Work for Stairwell Transcript

HUMAN TIME
OBJECT TIME
THE TIME OF MAKING
AND THE TIME OF USE.

WHEN TO BEGIN?

479 BCE
CONFUCIUS DIED

OR

1926
YOU WERE BORN IN WELLINGTON

1951
AT THE ROYAL COLLEGE
YOU SEARCHED THE
BOMB SITES
OF THE IMPERIAL CAPITAL
LOOKING FOR TIMBER TO CARVE.
DID YOU UNEARTH
A KAURI BANNISTER?
VARNISHED PLANKS
FROM THE SHARDS
OF A GREAT HOUSE?
WHAT THEN DID THAT
OLD WOOD REMEMBER?

1960
YOUR SON IS BORN
AND THERE IS FAMINE IN CHINA

1972
MAO AND NIXON
AND THE ARTS ACADEMY

HOW TO RECONCILE
THE GRAND SCHEME OF HISTORY
WARS, REVOLUTION
INVASION AND MIGRATION
WITH BUILDING A HOUSE
OR GROWING A GARDEN
THE BIRTH OF A CHILD.
WHAT IS IT THAT STALIN SAID?
A SINGLE DEATH IS A TRAGEDY
A MILLION DEATHS
A STATISTIC
A POINT
ON A TIMELINE.
HOW TO HOLD THESE THINGS
TOGETHER IN YOUR HEART?
SCALE IS ALL

1973
THIS MURAL
POURED OF THE FIRST ALUMINIUM
FROM THE SMELTER AT TIWAI.
THE LIQUID METAL
BURNING THE POLYSTYRENE
OUT OF THE MOULD.

1986
ON A SCHOOL TRIP
I SAW YOUR WEAVING HANGING
IN THE MARBLE CORE
OF THE BEEHIVE
TAPESTRY HOLES
REVEALING THE STONE BENEATH.
LIKE LOOKING UP
THROUGH TREE TRUNKS
INSIDE AND OUTSIDE
AT THE SAME TIME.

SCULPTURE IS A KINSHIP
WITH OBJECTS
A THINKING WITH OUR HANDS
IN STONE AND TIMBER
NYLON, NEOPRENE
AND POLYTHENE.

FOLLOW THE ANCESTRY
OF THE MATERIAL.
LIKE THAT IDEA YOU HAD
OF ANCIENT PEOPLE
SAILING FROM CHINA
INTO THE PACIFIC
IN SEARCH OF POUNAMU.
AND NOW
ALL THE MODERN
TAINTED THINGS
A GYRE OF STUFF
FROM OILFIELD
TO FACTORY
TO CONTAINER SHIP.
BRIGHT IMPERMEABLE OBJECTS
CROSSING THE OCEAN
INTO MY HAND
AND THEN OUT TO SEA
OR UNDERGROUND
WAITING FOR TIDE OR FLOOD
TO RETURN AGAIN.
WE ARE FORGETFUL
BUT STRANGLED BY OUR
DREAM OF PERMANENCE

HOW CAN WE
RECONCILE OURSELVES
WITH OUR OWN INDUSTRY?
THE THINGS WE MAKE
THAT THEN MAKE US.
CAN OBJECTS EVER TEACH US
THE PROPER RELATION
BETWEEN
THE HAND AND
THE MACHINE?

2019