Lighting the way this month

Contemporary art space The Physics Room launches its new exhibition from June 10 through to July 25. The ‘Light enough to read by’ exhibition emerged from discussions around the return of The Physics Room’s library into the gallery and to public access. Metropol looks at how the exhibition came about.


Microwave mailbox from the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, shared during research correspondence, 2021. PHOTO Lucy Skaer


For the last three years, since the shift to its current site in the Registry Additions Building, much of the library has sat in boxes.

The specific needs of this shift — sufficient and natural light, space for reading, listening, and resting — offered a script for gallery staff to work within the development of the new exhibition.

Underpinning the project was the idea of the exhibition itself as a form of publication, and ‘text’ as something social, material, and lived, subject to conditions of light and weather.

Works by Fiona Connor, Lucy Skaer, Rachel Shearer and Cathy Livermore open out from these ideas, transforming the gallery.

A metal hare runs, runs, low to the ground, across the wood floor; daylight comes in again and the workshop doorway is open; the gallery breathes like a lung with the names of Waitaha’s winds.

Each of these works rely on dynamic relationships: with grammar and syntax, ko nga hau me nga wai (winds and waters), architecture and light, positive and negative, chase and flight, oxygen and lungs, reader and listener, fabricator and artist, correspondent and recipient, sequence and rest.

While each relates to narrative, none of the works rely on writing itself. A current of questions runs through the exhibition instead.

If written words are not the dominant vehicle for information, what other material languages, voices, histories, and relationships can be held in the gallery space?

How might the site generate alternative forms of ‘reading’, not contingent on words on a page, rather on conditions including light, relationships, oral and material narratives?

The works might be received as a series of speculative responses to these questions.

Light enough to read by is curated by Abby Cunnane, Michelle Wang and Hamish Peterson, and was made possible through the support of the Jan Warburton Trust.


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