showstopper is a solo show with Uma Tuffnell, featuring a commissioned body of work titled above and beyond, 2022. It is the first exhibition for Chez Derriere, curated by Felixe Laing.
In showstopper Tuffnell and Laing pause and consider how policy and arts funding models affect an individual's artistic practice. In the eyes of funding bodies art projects which have unknown or non measurable outcomes become risky to fund. This can create a culture of needing to be ‘serious’, to convince others of your ability to deliver. When you need to be serious and outcome driven, there is little room for playful approaches and research without known outcomes. It is difficult to develop an artistic practice without taking risks, or engaging in playful research or making.
Tuffnell has a practice of making large, site specific sculptural installations which are often kinetic. These works seek to test materials, uncover and work with physical limitations. They are ambitious, performative, attention seeking, proposal and award winning art works. They play into the hands of art school rubrics, funding KPI’s and capture audiences attention.
showstopper, offers Tuffnell the opportunity to stop or slow down the show, the performance; to be self-aware of her ambitions. What does she want to achieve? What values and assumptions sit behind this idea of ‘success’ or a proven winning formula? What would it mean to actively step away from a loud, performative gesture and choose to put forward something more subtle, quiet and slow? Instead of acting with an intended outcome in mind; ‘I will make this happen.’ She shifts to questioning, ‘Can I make this happen?’
In a natural development, Tuffnell drifts further from the singular ‘showstopping’ gesture, instead presenting two interactions of the same concept, above I and above II. above I achieves the proposed outcome - presenting an effortless, gentle performance, while above II enjoys an unexpected outcome. Where the design was intended to hide the mechanics of suspending the water - the stretched plastic transforms the water into an unexpected metallic mass.
In her video beyond, the artist sets up at her local beach on a three legged camping chair armed with an umbrella to brace herself against the wind. It is one of many ideas Tuffnell tested which when asked, ‘What will happen?’, something compelling did happen. The unexpected outcome is the most interesting; it is a visual display of that same practice of resistance and letting go.
In showstopper, seriousness and playfulness are not in opposition to one another. Tuffnell is centering the act of play as a valuable and serious pursuit.
About the artist
Uma Tuffnell (Ngāti Rangi) is an artist currently based in Northland working on her Masters of Art History at the University of Canterbury.
Tuffnells practice is predominantly installation and moving image focused. Her previous works have tended to be large and kinetic, blending an inquiry into the physical limits and qualities of a physical object with broader questions around the role and reception of the arts in Aotearoa. Examining the implications of precarity and a mindset of justified value based exchange on the production and display of culture.
Previous exhibitions include high flyer, Hot Lunch Group Publication (2022), Jonald Dudd, Hot Lunch (2020), Group Show, Tacit Gallery (2018), and A Good Duck, Window (2017), which went on to win the Molly Morpeth Youth Art Award (2018). She holds a BFA (hons) from Elam School of Fine Arts, UoA (2016), a BA in Art History and Physical Geography, UoA (2017), and a BA (hons) in Art History from the University of Canterbury (2019).