Beginning in the Archive: Giovanni Intra 1989 -1996

31 January - 28 February 2009

Curated by Kate Brettkelly-Chalmers


Beginning in the archive presents a seductive possibility.  It holds the promise of finding material traces of memory and myth, of uncovering forgotten meanings and determining new interpretations.  Beginning in the archive suggests a conceptual folly. The archive is always beginning; it is always starting again each time it is witnessed by new eyes. The beginning is not a singular moment and the archive is not a singular form.  There are many archives that form many beginnings.  Beginning in the archive is a mythological pursuit.  It is to be seduced by story, narrative and anecdote, to be convinced that fragmentary articles form greater and more significant meaning in a collective whole.  Beginning in the archive is to believe that a collection of fragmentary material can speak of that which is no longer present.  Beginning in the archive presents a certain impossibility, but a seductive impossibility, nonetheless.

The origins of this exhibition of Giovanni Intra’s archival material at Artspace begin not with an archive, but with a box of the late artist’s catalogues and publications.  Intra died in New York in 2002 and in late 2005, his mother Barbara Intra sent Artspace a small collection of publications packed into a cardboard box.  The quiet appearance of this box at the gallery belied the more complex and interesting problem that it presented: what does a non-collecting, contemporary art institution do with a box of catalogues belonging to an artist who has recently died? Or, more specifically, what does Artspace do with a box of catalogues once belonging to Giovanni Intra, an artist whose reputation as a charming, erudite, shrewd and ambitious young art practitioner still lingers, however near or far, within contemporary New Zealand art discourses?

From his involvement in the influential Auckland artist initiative Teststrip, to his work as a writer and curator, Giovanni Intra (1968-2002) remains a fascinating figure not only for his clever and challenging art practice, but for the agility and ambition in which he moved across these different modes of artistic activity.  In addition to Artspace’s box of publications, a collection of ephemeral material relating to Intra’s multiple artistic practices is housed at the E. H. McCormick Research Library at the Auckland Art Gallery.  Taking the form of an “archive”, this collection unites a diverse range of remnant material including photographs, contact sheets, test-strips, drawings, videos, slides and photographic documentation, notes, research pieces, newspaper clippings, postcards, original writing, correspondence and clothing.  Intra left this material with his mother when leaving New Zealand for California in 1996, and the collection enjoys a somewhat haphazard arrangement, remaining largely uncatalogued or recorded .  Its captivating appeal lies in its zeitgeist quality; the potential for this archival collection to somehow capture the nexus of 1990s activity and argument that fed into Intra’s multiple practices and those of his peers.

[Excerpt from the exhibition text]

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The Lumiere Reader review (PDF) 

The New Zealand Herald review (PDF)