SITE 2015
In Art in Mind: How Contemporary Images Shape Thought (2005), Ernst van Alphen writes: “Art is a laboratory where experiments are conducted that shape thought into visual and imaginative ways of framing the pain points of a culture.” Our completing Bachelor of Visual Arts and Graduate Diploma students have risen to this challenge in a wide range of ways evident from SITE 2015. The issues of our times are foregrounded and addressed critically.

An awareness of the state of ecological systems in our age of the Anthropocene sits alongside pointers to the wasteful ways of our culture: waste in materials, waste in landfill, and waste in food management. Disorientation, conflict, and ‘nature’ understood as a lost paradise vie for attention with the recognition of the interdependency of all who inhabit our world. Animal ethics question our relationships with our fellow creatures while highlighting the vulnerability of both humans and animals.

Violence to the body, the fragility of the ageing body, the construction of identity through the body, anxiety felt through the body, the formation of masculinities in relation to the body, feminist protest against misogyny and enforced domesticity, the link between obesity and diabetes and the inadequacy of a governmental response – all acknowledge the body as the locus of experience and understanding. It is clear that we have come a long way since the Western binary between mind and body placed the latter firmly in secondary position.

Some works flaunt consumerism so that the viewer becomes aware of its spectacle and excess; other works make our consumer objects strange: furniture becomes uncomfortable, objects litter our streets, and surfaces corrode – at once beautiful and terrifying.

Contemplative, meditative engagement with ordinary objects in our everyday environment provides a quieter tone in SITE 2015. Personal moments, dreams, a play with colour and tone, familiar domestic items, and an acknowledgement of the smallness of our perspective add other dimensions to the exhibition.

In the art laboratory, ideas become material, become transformed into physical shape whereby they become public. The senses become involved. Van Alphen writes that art is not just intellectual; it is “…aesthetic – binding the senses through an indelible bond forged between the subject and the world it tries so hard to inhabit” (xxi). It is the aesthetic transformation of current ideas into material form that lies at the heart of an ineffable quality that speaks from SITE 2015: the works – and the exhibition – are more than the sum of their parts.

My sincere congratulations to all the completing Bachelor of Visual Arts and Graduating Diploma students represented in SITE and in this Yearbook 2015. You have done the Dunedin School of Art at Otago Polytechnic proud.

Prof. Leoni Schmidt Head: Dunedin School of Art Otago Polytechnic New Zealand November 2015
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