Peter Friedl

The Dramatist

1 March–17 April 2014
Opens Friday 28 February, 6 pm
Public programme

 Peter Friedl

Peter Friedl, Playgrounds, 1995-2014. Damascus, Zaki al-Arsouzi Park, 2010.

Artspace is proud to present the first solo exhibition of Peter Friedl in New Zealand. 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 theatre 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 theatre, 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 (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, 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).
Public programme
Peter Friedl 
on reading and writing
Saturday 1 March, 2 pm
Listen to an audio recording of this talk here
Dr Sara Buttsworth
Saturday 29 March, 2 pm:

“Unravelling Yarns and Knitting Monsters – fragments on history, teaching and being undisciplined”

In thinking about stories and story-telling, I often think of the traditional connections to spinning and weaving. On the historical loom we see different patterns emerge from these stories. Contrary to much popular belief, the historical tapestry is never flat or monochromatic. And ‘monsters’ are rarely simply monstrous. Histories are textured, colourful and ever-shifting. Sometimes these stories appear seamless, but this is usually the illusion of a skilful storyteller, or mythmaker. Historians pick at the seams to see what binds stories of the past together thus exposing hidden frictions and frameworks. And in so doing, we add to the fabric making patterns of our own.  


Dr Sara Buttsworth is a senior tutor in history at the University of Auckland. Her particular research interests have been on gender and representation in popular culture. She recently co-edited a collection entitled Monsters in the Mirror: Representations of Nazism in Post-War Popular Culture (2010), and has just begun exploring the connections between fairy-tales and war.