JUSTIN SPIERS: BEFORE THERE WAS HOPE
On view at 6 Castle Street
14 August through 5 September
Photographer Justin Spiers, currently located in Dunedin, has a long-standing interest in documenting and exploring the relations between humans and their environment, especially, but not exclusively, with regards to the other animals that share their planet.
He is perhaps best known for “Pet Photo Booth”, initiated in 2005 with Yvonne Doherty while he was Director of the Perth Centre for Photography, a position he held from 2004-2007. Works from the “Pet Photo Booth” project have been widely exhibited, including at the National Portrait Gallery (Canberra, Australia) in 2009, the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art and the Australian Centre for Photography in 2012, as well as at the Pah Homestead in Auckland, which houses the James Wallace Art Trust’s collection of New Zealand art, in 2019.
Spiers’ photographic works investigate the ecological complexities of contemporary human experience and activities:“Castlelands” (The Blue Oyster, 2011) records the architectural intersections between fantasy, domesticity and nature, while the photographs included in “The Colony” (Christchurch, 2016) take up issues arising out of the larger environmental context. Further exhibitions including “The Sides of My Intent”, at the a gallery, Dunedin, in 2012; Zoo Series exhibited as part of Hijacked III (Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts) also in 2012; and “Meat Fence,” another project that resulted in a 2014 exhibition at the Perth Centre for Photography with Jonathan Marshall––all served to invite viewers to reflect on the more difficult and vexed aspects of humans’ relations with other animals.
One of Spiers’ collaborators, Jonathan Marshall remarks that “Neither Justin nor I can fully decipher what these animals stand for. They are enigmas that in the end can only reflect back our own compromised gaze like a dull, opaque mirror.” Not surprisingly, then, Justin Spiers’ exhibition at RDS Gallery, which runs from 14 August – 5 September 2020, returns to many of these themes––the connections between humans and other animals, their representations and their implications––the broader ecologies that define their lives.
Sources––Jonathan W. Marshall, “Trophies Remain”, Performance Research: A Journal of the Performing Arts 22.8 (2017): 86-98.