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Auckland-based artist Eddie Clemens mines well oiled racing strips on the edge of suburban sprawls for this exhibition, drawing out familiar aspects of culture and magnifying them in a playful examination into shifting cultural contexts in an increasingly globalised New Zealand. You can almost smell the burnouts as Clemens riffs off the American influence in local New Zealand culture and plays this off against international corporate giant BP’s international ‘green washing’ marketing campaigns. Clemens highlights some absurd contradictions in the statement ‘think global, act local’.

 

Inspired by childhood toys – think ‘weebel wobbles’ and bounce-back punching bags - Clemens’ Rebel Wobbles letterboxes have a cartoon styling that reflects the dizzying impact of force inflicted on them by a baseball bat in the hands of bored suburbanites. Developing on earlier work by Clemens exploring the New Zealand postal service, the work nudges at the politics surrounding the privatisation of this service. In this work the mailbox is resilient, but not immune to the aggressive temper of the American century in New Zealand as the trace of violence suggests.

 

Beyond draws on the notorious re-branding of BP’s corporate logo which features a green, yellow and white sunburst, which has been criticised by environmental groups as trying to ‘greenwash’ their public image. Greenies protest that the information they circulate about alternative energy credentials does not equate to a serious investment in environmental issues but is merely a public relations exercise.  This new logotype replaced BP's green shield, shifting the branding from a static defensive visual reference towards, somewhat ironically, the mark of Helios (Helios, the son Phaeton, is a mythological figure who attempted to drive his father's chariot but lost control and set the earth on fire) which suggests the message is being sent by the suns rays . This culminates in the accompanying slogan for the campaign “beyond petroleum” been criticised for letting perception get ahead of reality.

 

Beyond continues Clemens interest in iconic rural farming references such as silage globes that hint at the transformative process that lie beneath the cover.  Beyond mimics the shape of Silage Globes, an earlier work by the artist that also used tyres as a reference to the shifting value of recycled commodities such as the iconic use of the tyre in New Zealand gardens in a decorative capacity and on farms for practical purposes, all which reference a journey from local to global commerce.

 

 

Danae Mossman