The 4th Auckland Triennial: Last Ride in a Hot Air Balloon

Zheng Bo
Shigeyuki Kihara
Laresa Kosloff

13 March - 1 May


Located within the unknown future of our would-be global economic recession, the 2010 Auckland Triennial explores the ongoing possibilities for risk and adventure in art. The exhibition uses the thematic territory of adventure as a cue to examine the capacity art has still to be broadly explorative of form, mind, body and vision, and does so alongside the traditional mode of geographic exploration with its hints of colonialism.

Throughout modernity’s global expansion, and in its more recent capitalist democracies, adventure has had a particular association with risk. Despite the collapse of the modern era, risk taking is still regarded as a necessary strategy in pursuit of the gains and rewards born by adventure and exploration. For instance, in the economic practice of ‘venture capitalism’, ‘adventure tourism’ and ‘survivor’ style popular television dramas, risk-taking is, broadly speaking, assumed as a necessary component of achieving personal and financial growth.

The theme of the next Auckland Triennial investigates adventure and risk as productive tools in their own right within the field of art. In so doing, it moves beyond modernity’s taste for expansion and at the moment of global economic contraction, to leave us with adventure and risk as suspended possibility. The subject area of adventure during a vulnerable economic climate has a context specific relationship to Auckland, which is widely regarded as the country’s business hub, and the city which shouldered the brunt of New Zealand’s stock market crash in 1987 and subsequent adventurous economic reforms.

The title Last Ride in a Hot Air Balloon encapsulates a persistent romanticism and attraction to the forms of adventure in art, albeit without clearly defined gains. At the same time as a metaphor for a fire-born bubble it is suggestive of latent crisis. As an indicator of artistic perspective, the balloon also travels at a remote view, maintaining a position of distance, yet distinctly more connected to earth’s activity than the speed or altitude of a jet aircraft can allow.

The hot air balloon itself emerges in the industrial era and sustains a life into the post-industrial world as an object of common imagination, surveillance and travel – marvelled at but seldom experienced. Powered by combustible energy and altered air pressure, the hot air balloon’s composition alone lends this form of air borne travel an element of risk.

Metaphorically, the balloon floats serenely over the path of physical warfare, oblivious to the digital readings of the stock exchange, it is an incongruous image within today’s technologies of life and war. Instead it embodies the voyeuristic perspective and emotional distance once believed to be the artist’s eye, replaced in time by the camera and video lens, recording while negotiating an aesthetic condition.

The title Last Ride in a Hot Air Balloon sets up a provocation for an adventurous condition, that it is in an era of conclusion or culmination, reflecting the popular response to insecure times. Meanwhile, the exhibition itself includes recent work by artists who have specifically utilised adventure, either as a critical device aimed at the responsibilities of the modern and liberal era, or as a reiteration of art’s need to contest the restrains of the real. Accordingly, themes of alternative economies; misplaced geographic exploration; formal exploration within delimited means; and risk as a stimuli for engagement emerge within the selection.

Presented by the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki with Auckland Triennial Partner AUT University in association with exhibition partners Artspace, ST PAUL ST and The George Fraser Gallery.


EyeContact review