The museum context has, for some time, been viewed as a culturally and politically loaded environment with systems of collecting, ordering, and displaying which are selective, exclusionary and elevate the status of some histories over others.
Carole Shepheard, one of New Zealand's most renowned artists, has been undertaking a Doctorate of Fine Arts in which her area of artistic exploration has been an investigation into the systems of ordering and controlling information used by museums. Her explorations resulted in The Museum of Cultural Anxiety, an alternative exhibition space in which she explored the politics of collecting and exhibiting.
In off site at te tuhi - the mark, Shepheard presents an installation of aluminium scaffold towers with glass objects from the Museum of Cultural Anxiety which are intermingled with private collections and objects from generous donors. The objects are installed and classified taking a 'behind the scenes' and 'off-site storage' approach to collection display. The towers reach the roof of the gallery, have ladders and shelves attached and include the insertion of curious glass elements not usually found in museum displays, alongside the utilitarian and ordinary.
The exhibition, off site, allows the viewer to construct stories that relate to their own lives and experiences but also witness the ways viewing can be manipulated and controlled. Following is Carole Shepheard's artist's statement about the exhibition:
The basis of any collection is a mix of cultural practice, personal narrative and materiality. This accumulation of glass and glass objects from the Museum of Cultural Anxiety is in essence a storehouse, a glimpse behind the scenes where objects lie dormant and still. Interventions into classification systems, spatial presence and the relationship of disparate objects are considered in both a structured and coincidental way. The objects collected are from the past - that is, the period up to midnight yesterday - and it is this temporal identification that pushes the work into the realm of fiction. The hybrid object can occupy a meticulously staged environment with less suspicion, more duplicity and ultimately more complexity than can the 'authentic' artefact. off site allows the viewer to participate in the illusion and to construct stories that relate to their own lives and experiences but also witness the ways viewing can be manipulated and controlled.
“The object thus begins to dematerialise, to reference the event and the narrative, to move away from the material to the experiential. Another way to say it is that the material becomes the means by which the immaterial of the past is recovered.”
The incised surface of a crystal vase; the mass manufacture of a family sugar bowl; the texture of Lalique; the gifted violet embedded into a paper weight and the chipped wine goblet that spoke of laughter and domestic ritual. Objects can be discussed for their materiality; for their manufacture and production; for aesthetic qualities and for conveying some sort of presence or sign. off site is about the collection and construction of memories through an ever-changing narrative. The owners may be absent but the objects and their stories are not.
If forgetting is an inevitable outcome of aging, memory is an imaginative human construction that allows us to retrieve moments, events and experiences by piercing the mind with curious fictions, completed stories and satisfying recollections.
 Rebecca Solnit. ''The Color of Shadows, the Weight of Breath, the Sound of Dust" in J.John Priola, Once Removed. 1998, Arena Editions.
'A Gathering of Memories', World Sculpture News, Volume 8 Number 3, 2002, pp. 40-45
'Clarity of memories', New Zealand Herald, 05-08-2002
off site Exhibition brochure, 2002
off site Exhibition card, 2002