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Artspace New Zealand open Peter Friedl The Dramatist

Artspace New Zealand presents Peter Friedl The Dramatist open 1 March–17 April 2014. Focusing on the artist’s most recent production, the show highlights his aesthetics of critical intimacy, permanent displacement and contextual transfers. By adopting a variety of genres, media and forms of display, Friedl’s works explore the construction of history and concepts and present new models of narration.

The exhibition title stems from the enigmatic sculptural piece The Dramatist (Black Hamlet, Crazy Henry, Giulia, Toussaint), created in 2013. Composed of four masterly handcrafted marionettes, it embodies Friedl’s long-standing engagement with theater and historiography. The four characters in search of an author to recount their exemplary lives are Julia Schucht, the wife of Antonio Gramsci; Toussaint Louverture, the leader of the Haitian Revolution who died a prisoner in France in 1803; John Chavafambira, the “Black Hamlet” from early South African psychoanalysis documented in a novelistic narrative in Johannesburg in the 1930s; and Henry Ford, the automobile magnate from Detroit.

Drawing in its largest sense plays a fundamental role in Friedl’s oeuvre, as a lyrical voice and as the medium of continuous sublation. A substantial selection of the artist’s heterogeneous works on paper from the past two years will be presented for the first time at Artspace. Friedl uses drawing as a way to document and comment on both personal and political histories, always on the lookout for a potential counter imagery.

Playgrounds, started in 1995, is an ongoing project showing documentary-style photos of play areas taken by the artist around the world. The updated version—specifically produced for Auckland—consists of six wall projections of more than 1000 digitized color images arranged alphabetically according to the location names. Playing with the genre of conceptual photography as well as with the representation of childhood, the pictures raise questions about urbanism, education, social experience, architecture and design. For Friedl, the playground with its urban typology of modernism is a tiny global theater, a stage with props that he finds everywhere he goes. It constitutes the arena of the first institutionalized public experiences of young subjects. The series functions as an anthropological study in narration and contingency: a story of the world viewed through its playgrounds.

Peter Friedl (b. 1960, Austria) lives in Berlin. His work has been exhibited worldwide, including at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; and Hamburger Kunsthalle. He has participated in documenta X (1997) and documenta 12 (2007), the 48th Venice Biennale (1999), 3rd Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art (2004), Manifesta 7, Trento (2008), the 7th Gwangju Biennale (2008), the 28th Bienal de São Paulo (2008), La Triennale, Paris (2012), the Taipei Biennial (2012), and the 10th São Paulo Architecture Biennale (2013). Selected solo exhibitions include Work 1964–2006, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Miami Art Central, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Marseille (2006–07); Blow Job, Extra City Kunsthal, Antwerp (2008); Working, Kunsthalle Basel (2008); Peter Friedl, Sala Rekalde, Bilbao (2010), and King Kong, Le Lieu unique, Nantes (2013).

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