Our relationship to objects of command, and our approach to touching them, is constantly evolving: the low-relief of buttons is disappearing entirely with the arrival of the touch-screen.
I wanted to explore this sculptural evolution by proposing organic metaphors and juxtapositions using the concept of ‘the remote control’ as a starting point: to question how we organise the perception of our world through touch and indeed by whom and what we are ourselves controlled.
Though Marian Fountain has resided in Europe for over twenty years, her presence in the New Zealand art scene, exhibiting here every four to five years since 1989, has been an important factor in the development in her artistic practice. Fountain’s pacific origins inform much of her sculpture. Throughout her career, she has excavated imagery from a range of cultures. Maori iconography has featured prominently in her work, and the classical traditions of sculpture, which stretches back to antiquity, is always present in her process. Encountering the concept of a remote control from an archeological standpoint, the remote possesses the characteristics of a talisman. When held and touched, it has the ability to control other things; it is a vehicle for change and an object of power.
In his article in Art New Zealand, Mark Stocker compares Fountain’s latest series of sculpture to rakau whakapapa, staves that serve as a mnemonic aid to Maori elders reciting long genealogical histories. Like the rakau, sculpture is linked explicitly to the sense of touch, and the tactile nature of the medium adds to the experience of the work. We also experience a remote control largely through touch. Often we are not looking at the remote when we use it, instead we run our sensitive fingertips across buttons as we look ahead, heightening the experience of the remote as a three dimensional object. Its bumps and buttons, all with a specific purpose, we read like a Maori elder reads the notches of the rakau. The metamorphic quality of the sculptures bridges time, informing us at once of our present and our distant ancestral past, emphasizing that the present is but a notch in time.