Life   Death   Regeneration
Experiential Art

Several factors coincided leading me to this theme and form of art.  “The Medium is the Message” (Marshall McLuhan)  led me to create 5 life size sculptures – each representing an aspect of our lives, but also representing 5 ‘tribes’ in society.  (These included:  The Media tribe:  Art tribe:  Car Users tribe:  Junk food/drugs tribe:  The Female tribe.  Working alongside Ken Colbung and with close connections as a child with the Maori, the need for cultural awareness became an imperative.  Thus each tribe incorporated traditions, including sound, so a sound recording was created.  I could see a parallel between people visiting the Art Gallery and / or Funeral Parlour behaviour which was addressed.   I was also working on Painting with Light instead of paint.

Thus, a year-long project of cultural awareness and also the possibility of programming the brain commenced.   (Programming was demonstrated by people reporting their experiences after the event).  Each sculpture had a ‘portrait’ painted;  each underwent a funeral / art gallery experience;  each was transported to a site for different cultural burial practices, accompanied by appropriate sound; and on return, only the portraits and spirits remained.  (spirits created as light sculptures).  As part of the regeneration process, each formed a cocoon.

Reports were recorded on how the various sculptures reminded different participants of their responsibilities in life.  ie:  it is possible to programme the brain and now the research in this area could continue.

If art is to be relevant it must not only reflect the past and present, but anticipate the future.   Society undergoes repetitive cycles, but the cultural frame of reference changes, as our capacity to think evolves.   I believe that, since art reflects the many (often frightening), expressions of social change, it should take a form that facilitates awareness and hope.

My work is concerned with the process of transformation.  It incorporates historical references to stability and values, uses contemporary media which reflect social issues and kinetic, technological elements imply transience and continuity.  Experiential interaction creates emotional arousal which, in turn, extends awareness.  The work itself undergoes a transformation in media, reinforcing the notion that life and art are processes while divisions are merely mental, organisational constructs.

Structural forms relate to ‘concrete’ thought and the material world.  Painting not only explores the luxurious qualities of paint, but also, the luxury of our desire to hold permanent, own, and halt time or the process of life. Performance aspects of the work confront issues of our transience at an experiential level. The desire to avoid death is met with ‘symbolic’ ritual, used to generate meaning and eternity.  Processes of decay and/or transformation of energy become ‘abstractions’ and I find light, with its universal, timeless and aesthetic qualities the most expressive medium to use.

The concept underlying this work is metamorphosis – though the final, emergent form is undefined (for we do not know the future).  It will, however, contain a nucleus, which in time will produce yet another structural identity, with new meanings and values ……….for the process is continuous.

Helene Merriman  1988