Art Store #1, Te Papa Tongarewa
Photographs that sumptuously document storage areas in museums - the rooms we never get to see - are part of Neil Pardington's new series entitled The Vault.
In the Christchurch Press of Wednesday, April 18, 2007, Kate Montgomery reviewed The Vault, Neil Pardington's latest exhibition at Jonathan Smart Gallery. The following is reproduced with her kind permission. She describes the show thus:
Turning his attention away for the Foucaultian institution of the hospital or clinic, as seen in his previous show at Jonathan Smart’s, towards the social edifice of the Museum collection, Neil Pardington does much to highlight the provisional status of collections of art and artifacts in his suite of works entitled The Vault.
Taking our potential reading of the institution and flipping our focus inside-out, Pardington presents an array of entertainingly idiosyncratic, large format photographs of the storerooms and workspaces of the Nelson and Whanganui Regional Museums and Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington.
Akin to Louise Lawler’s fascination with deep storage, Pardington sees the ramshackle support structures and make-do solutions of the everyday unmasked out back of the Nation’s hallowed public halls.
Here the shelving unit, the crate and the cupboard become both carapace and coffin for many artefacts as the sheer weight of the accumulating impulse threatens to out-crowd the singularity and biography of each object subsumed within ‘the collection’ as a whole.
Pardington’s triptych of the trophy heads and collected antlers of another age does much to highlight the changing tastes of museological display, as does the juxtaposition in Ornithology Store#1 Te Papa Tongarewa of a glorious glass walled vitrine and a series of plasti-coated cupboards indexed with sections of hand-punched, red DYMO labelling. Another wondrous apparition is Pardington’s documentation of a giant skeleton, propped precariously on slapped together supports and encircled by ‘Danger’ tape sitting patiently next to a similarly decrepit looking mainframe.
Preservation is always an act of mirroring and self-evaluation, as is the ultimate goal of collecting: appropriate exhibition and display. Yet, the distance between the acquisition of an object and its eventual relocation within the public realm of the museum can be an indeterminable chasm. This dusty expanse simultaneously spells out the possibility of prolonged periods of stasis, while reserving the potential for the reincarnation of artefacts within the service of very different social narratives further down the line. The Vault cleverly reminds us of the endlessly mobile nature of those constructs that support even the most basic representations or methods of understanding ourselves and the world around us.Kate Montgomery
April 18, 2007