Flotsam by Bill Culbert Photo: Govett- Brewster Art Gallery
Colonising the GBAG’s largest gallery is the work Flotsam - which consists of a considered but haphazard arrangement of approximately 80 fluorescent lights and a large assortment of used plastic bottles. The result is a blinding vista of diagonal lines of light inter-dispersed with nuggets of pure primary and secondary colours. After your eyes adjust, the bottles become the focus of the work. Journeying around the vast length of the work you may identify a detergent, milk or oil bottle – on the most part however, the bottles are anonymous to their previous life having had their labels removed. With their commercial robes removed the alluring advertising campaigns that once convinced us to purchase vanish to reveal the naked plastic skins. A stark reminder of the very permanent existence of such plastic - that is freely disposed of today only to take hundreds to thousand of years to degrade. The title Flotsam - a maritime term for shipwreck debris – suggests that the buoyant refuse we are present is evident of a catastrophe – in this case the sinking of our planet under irreversible damage.
The third work entitled Flat Lighthouse is a hodgepodge collection of shabby wooden door and window frames configured in an irregular rectangular grid on the floor. Laid on top of the composition is a scattering of fluorescent lights and desk lamps. Built probably out of rimu and caked in lead paint the doors and windows lay discarded like the numerous domestic lives they once witnessed and concealed. This is enhanced by the fluorescent tubes which appear as frozen shards of light – evoking the memory of how these doors and windows were once useful for controlling the aperture of light within domestic interiors.
As if using the fluorescent tube as a modern day magical rod of glowing mercury vapour Culbert breaks the spell of everyday life. To reveal how the objects that clutter our world hold telling information about our contemporary lives. Groundworks runs till the 18th of May.