Clone Cities by Auckland-based artist Eddie Clemens is a large-scale multimedia work commissioned by Te Tuhi for the gallery’s foyer. In this work, Clemens explores how identity is continually evolving together with the global mechanisms of pop-culture and tourism. His research led him to travel to the sister cities of his hometown Rotorua which include: Beppu, Kyūshū in Japan; Klamath Falls, Oregon in the US; Lake Macquarie, New South Wales in Australia; and Wuzhong, Suzhou, Jiangsu in China.
Clemens’ resulting work consists of a galvanised steel structure upon which laser lights beam, a smoke machine plumes and TV screens glow. The steel structure replicates Clemens’ childhood memory of a Star Wars themed Santa Parade float made by his brother on top of a car trailer. It featured a large conical shape that, according to Clemens, appeared to resemble both a tepee and a space rocket command module.
Cladding the steel structure are videos that feature a compilation of Clemens’ travel footage edited to jump from one place to another mixing events, local histories and memories into one endless stream of imagery. The geothermal connection of the sister cities is implied by an intermittent eruption of artificial smoke from a machine designed to simulate a geyser. A laser display, inspired by a Native American powwow Clemens participated in, scrolls through an animated archive of pop imagery that tangentially links all five places. All of these elements combined creates a dizzyingly extensive and idiosyncratic map of reality which suggests how culture and our sense of place is never static but constantly growing in eccentric ways.