303 Gallery presents our third exhibition of work by Jane and Louise Wilson. Following a two-month residency with the Sofa Gallery and the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, they are showing a new piece, “Erewhon”, a five screen video installation and new photographic works.
“Erewhon” takes its name from the title of Samuel Butler’s satirical novel of a young British man who goes to New Zealand to build a new life on the isolated continent – a classic colonial experience. Jane and Louise Wilson encounter the vast landscape looking particularly at two sites in the South Island. The once functioning mining town of Denniston on the West Coast and the recently vacated sanatorium of Queen Mary’s hospital in Hammer on the East Coast. These expansive exterior spaces coupled with the interiors of neglected hospital buildings, dating from 1916, emphasize the physical and emotional seclusion of a particular time in New Zealand’s history. After the First World War the country suffered huge losses of its young male population. Their devastation, and a need to colonize a relatively new country, prompted a discreet government sanctioned approach to implementing early eugenics policies. This resulted in a proliferation of state run sanatoriums and asylums, where recovery and prevention were instilled on willing and unwilling patients. The level of commitment to the idea that every person should be physically fit became a national preoccupation.
For this new installation, Jane and Louise have filmed several women in a gymnasium inspired by archival photos of ladies exercise classes from 1910. At the time, the concern of procreation in New Zealand was at its height. The medical profession equated a women’s adoption of physical culture with the regeneration of the population. These images perpetuate an anthology of poses in a rigid geometric setting, removing it from a recorded document into an abstraction. This footage is projected on screens that surround the viewer from multiple sides, including overhead projections – bringing us more fully into the cinematic experience of the Wilsons’ work.
This year Jane and Louise Wilson have had solo exhibitions at De Appel, Amsterdam, The David Halevim Foundation, Milan, Porri Art Museum, Finland and last year they exhibited their 13-screen installation “A Free and Anonymous Monument” at the BALTIC, The Centre for Contemporary Art, England, which traveled to Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria. In 2002 the Wilson’s had a show at Kunst-Werke, Germany and in 2000, solo shows at the Dallas Museum of Art, Texas and the MIT List Visual Art Center, Cambridge, MA. A forthcoming exhibition of new work will be presented at The Blaffer Gallery, The Art Museum of the University of Houston and Bergen Art Museum, Norway. A major catalogue on Jane and Louise Wilson titled “A Free and Anonymous Monument”, with a text by Giuliana Bruno, is being published this fall by Film and Video Umbrella BALTIC, New Castle and distributed by Art Data, U.K.