‘Bas Jan Ader was a master of gravity. But when he fell, all he would say was that ‘it was because gravity made itself master over him’.’
– Tacita Dean
Modern Physics features a selection of international and local artists who investigate heightened perceptions of gravity. Presenting seven projects that explore intersections between sculpture and performance, the exhibition focuses on states of equilibrium which are both performed within sculptures and represented within video-documented actions.
In physics the term equilibrium describes a body or object in a state of unaccelerated motion, a condition in which all of the acting influences on an object are cancelled out by each other resulting in a stable system. Yet the meaning of equilibrium within Phenomenology also provides an alternative vantage point to consider gravity-based experimentation within performance-based video. Here equilibrium defines a point where physical skills develop beyond reason based learning and intuition takes over. Modern Physics takes interest in this intuitive phase of mastering a physical skill, in riding a bike or driving a car, which as Hubert Dreyfus argues reveals a level of proficiency that 'seems to develop if, and only if, experience is assimilated in an atheoretical way and intuitive behavior replaces reasoned responses.'
The exhibition includes Australia's representative for the 2009 Venice Biennale Shaun Gladwell, performance artists Bas Jan Ader, Hanna Schwarz and Philip Dadson, and sculptural works by John Ward-Knox and Eddie Clemens. The exhibition also presents for the first time an epic collaboration between Auckland artist Alex Monteith and the acrobatic pilot group the Royal New Zealand Air Force Red Checkers. Mounting cameras to each plane, Monteith captures their jointly choreographed aerobatic routine complete with five-plane double loops, barrel rolls and the Red Checkers trademark spaghetti-break maneuver. Monteith's massive five-channel video installation enlarges the discrepancies between the response times of each pilot, making the invisible forces acting on each aircraft highly perceptible.