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In Spite of Ourselves: Approaching Documentary

Past Exhibition
08 Sep – 02 Dec 2012
Free

"A really expanded perspective on what documentary is and can be." —Vera Mey, Co-Curator
Installation shot by John Lake

Installation shot by John Lake

Installation shot by John Lake

Installation shot by John Lake

Installation shot by John Lake

Installation shot by John Lake

From Rebecca Ann Hobbs' video of VOGUE dance crew 'waacking' in Mangere Mall to Qatari-American artist Sophia Al-Maria's home movie of women preparing for a wedding and John Lake's stunning photographs of the last Wellington local body election, In Spite of Ourselves: Approaching Documentary presents new ways of looking at, and thinking about, documentary photography, video and sound.

In Spite of Ourselves takes Lower Hutt artist Ans Westra's photographs Washday at the Pa as its starting point but features over 105 works by 17 New Zealand and overseas artists. Other artists in the exhibition are: Mark Adams, Louisa Afoa, David Cook, Darcy Lange, Jae Hoon Lee, Janet Lilo, Sarah Murphy, Walid Raad, Ann Shelton, Sheigeru Takato, Haruhiko Sameshima, Luke Willis Thompson and Vandy Rattana.

One of the works in this exhibition is by American-born Qatari-based Sophia Al-Maria. Her  three minute home movie, For Your Eyes Only, gives us insight into another culture, so often portrayed to the West only as a stereotype. It features a lively group of women getting dressed-up for a relative's wedding. Much like any group of women in any part of the world, hair and make-up is a focus and the women are seen chatting, laughing and playing with their children. Because the work has been filmed in female-only quarters, the artist has requested that only women and their young children view the video, a request that The Dowse will respect by providing a private viewing space behind its reception area. In public these women would usually be seen wearing a loose over-garment called abaya and head scarves, not burka. Their faces would not be covered.

As usual, The Dowse remains free of charge and all visitors have access to our galleries and other public spaces.

Sophia describes the work as portraying "universal issues familiar to all women, but with different clothes in a different city... The further this piece goes from its home, the more important its message becomes," she says.

Curator Vera Mey says, "Sophia is trying to contradict a foreign view of Gulf Arab women, that they're veiled and distant, disempowered, wealthy etc."

"Art experiences aren’t necessarily visual, so although I have not seen the work, I have learned a great deal from hearing about it from female friends, so I know male audiences will have an experience too if they allow themselves," says Director Cam McCracken.

"Think of it like the women’s changing room at a gym. It would be inappropriate for a man to go in and watch you get dressed. This work depicts women preparing for a wedding in the Arabian Gulf rather than a workout. The personal rooms depicted are an exclusively female zone and it, like this work - should be treated as privileged and private: for women’s eyes only," —Sophia Al-Maria

Read Director Cam 
McCracken's blog post 
on the exhibition.

Read Director Cam
McCracken's blog post
on the exhibition.