Tauranga Art Gallery has invited Christchurch-based artist Steve Carr to present a selection of moving works ‘from the vault’.
Produced over a 10-year period in the early 2000s, Carr regularly figures in these films—be it dressing up as a Mr. Whippy rep and making free soft serve ice creams for a class of preschoolers, or participating in an epic hay fight in an idyllic barn setting. While depicting familiar scenarios, Carr draws on the expertise of experienced cinematographers and carefully considered settings to ensure that each activity is imbued with significance. Carr seems to be striving to visualise the gravatas that these games have in the minds of children, even if the origins of these activities overlap with consumerist aspects of pop culture.
Of course, the videos were never just ‘for kids’. Carr considered these works as performances for the camera, drawing on and probing a longer history of performance art. Each work also brings to mind the fundamentals of sculpture—stacks, balls, balance, weight, etc.—but unlike many sculptors and performers, Carr embraces accidents with deadpan humour. Seen many years on, while initiated in a safe environment typically involving relatives that Carr clearly has a rapport with, it’s impossible not to observe his social influence on the younger participants – his ability to coax them into participating in the games. A subtext of the work then seems to be an invitation to pause and observe the inherent vulnerability of child-like wonder and the deal of care and wit required to bring those qualities to the surface.
Steve Carr is represented by Michael Lett, Auckland.
Image: Steve Carr, Hayfight (still from video), 2004. Courtesy of the artist.