Reading and Writing Rooms brings to the fore a New Zealand artist who played a vital role locally in the 1970s, and has gone on to achieve success as an artist internationally from his base in Canada. This major survey exhibition of Bruce Barber’s work is the first time that the full span of his 40 year career is gathered together in one exhibition. Reading and Writing Rooms makes apparent the full importance of Barber’s contribution to art making, both locally, and to a wider international audience.
From Barber’s early conceptual performances using the body to his two major series’ Reading Rooms and Squat Projects, his art practice demonstrates the potential for art to engage in communicative or social action. Described by eminent art critic Lucy Lippard as ‘the quintessential dissident theorist/artist’, Barber's art practice raises questions of value, labour and cooperation as these relate to the spaces of social and cultural transformation.
His art work is often described as ‘littoral’ – a word which literally refers to the indeterminate space between the sea and the land, or the foreshore. Applied to art ‘littoral’ acts as a metaphor for a liminal space between, as Canadian critic Marc Leger has written; ‘the private realm and the public sphere, between the every day and the institutionalised art world.’
Reading and Writing Rooms is a partnership project with Artspace Sydney and has received support from the Manukau School of Visual Arts, Manukau Institute of Technology and Creative New Zealand.