'Motorway Schools' at 100m2


100m2 is a raw, white-washed space open to ideas. Certainly it is no neutral space: and much of the work shown there in the last six months has had to struggle simply because the artist concerned has failed to recognise the particular properties of the gallery. Julian Dashper spent a week just sitting in there, working out what he had that might continue to 'work', to make its point, given this space. The work that became the 'show' was finally given form during that week - a discussion of an aspect of the artist's experience as suggested and worked out by the state of that space.

JULIAN DASHPER Motorway Schools: Sequence 1 1980
Polaroid photographs

Walking up to the gallery, you become aware of loud swooping roars coming from it. So you walk in to this sound and work out that it is coming from the loft. Maybe it's aeroplanes- Then you see the show's title quik-stuk to the walls and realise it is the sound of the motorway. There are some small polaroid triptychs stuck around the walls at eyelevel, pulling you in for a closer look; and they are of schools. There are four sets of three polaroids: three of them share the same image (of a group of standard State Schools: Nelson Blocks) and are framed within old, bricked-in windows. The fourth, of another school, sits out on the wall proper, announcing the enclosed unit of repeated visual facts you have to work with.

Ultimately, you come down to one image for a closer look, the scale of polaroids holding you close to the wall. Three polaroids, three glances outlining the mechanics of visual fact, stretching the image between them. By now they've been relaxed of any uniqueness of image, any need to be 'worked out', so they revert to the level of being an ambient trigger, eye-food to keep you busy while the sound track zooms slowly back into mind. O.K.; so you've got the image and sound working together, linked already in your mind by the title at the door. Gradually the sound moves down from the ceiling behind you and into your head, led by the implication that where you stand is where the camera was, maybe where the motorway is. Then, inevitably, if you stay put long enough, the sound moves into the image - in the same way as we reconcile dialogue from a distant speaker with moving lips on a screen in front of us, no questions asked.

JULIAN DASHPER Motorway Schools: Sequence 2 1980
Polaroid photographs

So you've now got this silent roar of the motorway coming out of the raw silence of these schools. Of course if you didn't go to a State School it might not mean too much; and even if you did the image may trigger off countless personal emotions: but the overwhelming effect is of a threatening stillness, based on a strong sense of empathy on the part of Dashper. Standing looking at these images framed within bricked-in windows, you see something of yourself - not just part of your past, but part of your present and future too. Therein lies the threat perhaps. You put your eyes in that school, looking out the window at people going places; you stuck in there. Three views of the same image, the same school. Maybe that's one for each year until you're fifteen - old enough to leave, old enough to learn to drive. The chances are that in a couple of years you'll pass the school and remember those days - you were still going to get somewhere. Walking between the images you get some sense of driving past either the same school every day or one after the other, the length of the country.

Installation of Julian Dashper's Motorway Schools at 100m2

There are those who say (and they said it of this show) that an idea such as the repressive, negative nature of the New Zealand education system is too simple in itself for an 'artist' to bother with. Dashper provided space for an honest communication to take place, setting up a banal issue in such a way as to remind us of its real nature. If you remember the significance the image of your school took on when you drove past it on a day you should have been there, you'll have some idea of the awesome, raw and threatening image of Education Dashper allowed to present itself. Executed with a confident simplicity, the installation used the gallery space more sympathetically than I have seen it used before, allowing its essential nature to amplify the show's over-all effect rather than over-ride it. 100M2 is rapidly turning into one of Auckland's most vital art spaces: being as it is the only one with ready access for younger artists such as Dashper and his many Elam colleagues who have already made use of it. It should be on everyone's weekly visiting list.

Originally published in Art New Zealand 18 Summer 1981