Academic journal article Junctures: The Journal for Thematic Dialogue

The Back Boot Project

Academic journal article Junctures: The Journal for Thematic Dialogue

The Back Boot Project

Article excerpt



The Back Boot Project happened around Dunedin, New Zealand, during 2007 and was first conceived of as "Little Politic", an exhibition which would refer to material-specific, small objects with an emphasis on the intimacy of the small object, the double take, the second glance and the unexpected.

The Back Boot Project utilised a moving exhibition space in the back of a 1986 Toyota Corolla. This space operated as a vehicle for artists to locate their work outside the usual gallery sphere and to take it into public spaces. The Back Boot Project was primarily about space--like the gallery it had its own set of limitations and challenges. Each artist contributed their own individual projects to the BBP and could--because their work was shown in the back boot of the car--implicitly refer to other ideas concerning mobility, non-space or transitional spaces.

A poster show was the final Back Boot manifestation for 2007 and included A1 posters of each Back Boot contribution. These showed remnants of exhibitions and objects that had been exhibited from boot to gallery in pseudo-documentary fashion. The poster show was exhibited at the Blue Oyster Project Space from 13 November 2007. Anna Muirhead was the curator, Su Ballard wrote the text; other artists included Michele Beevors, Victoria Bell, Bekah Carran, Scott Eady, Michael Morley, Emily Pauling, Benjamin and Sydney Smith. Craig McNab provided graphics assistance and Sara Clark designed flyers. Su Ballard's text is included on the following pages and the artists' posters are included thereafter.


Car Boot Libraries

The Ecologic Foundation of New Zealand has recently advised drivers to not "use your car boot for permanent storage. The extra weight exacts its price in extra fuel consumption." (1) Despite the warning, the Australian naturalist Merilyn T Grey keeps a "car-boot library" for use on field trips. (2) Grey is particularly interested in threatened species such as the Squirrel Glider, Brush-tailed Phascogale, Regent Honeyeater, Swift Parrot, Pink-Tailed Worm-Lizard and the Woodland Blind Snake, who all live in South Australia's Box-Ironbark country. With his car boot library Grey is able to travel into the wilderness comfortable in the knowledge that he can identify any inhabitant species he may encounter.

This tension between the weight of storage and the necessity of carriage is even more pronounced in the mobile libraries that still operate weekly circuits in most major towns in New Zealand. The mobile library offers an opportunity for direct physical access to visual, textual and sonic materials. The Palmerston North Mobile Library website records the history and necessary adaptations of its book bus. The increasing weight of books led first to the replacement of the bus's wheel-base in June 1970, followed by the strengthening of its chassis in August 1971. (3) Key to a mobile library is a diversity of materials and resources mapped through the anticipated tastes of the visiting public. The constant repairs document the maintenance of a delicate balance between the weight of information and necessity of transport. The book bus, like the car boot library, is less an information-companion and more a mobilised and networked distribution method.

It is in this context that Anna Muirhead's Back Boot Project can be located. Back Boot is a temporary, peripatetic and contained gallery space that challenges a sense of fixed cultural storage and data access. It is an informational container, yet mobile, and the works within are less didactic than exploratory. Despite their limited and itinerant shelf-life, the series of installations that Muirhead curated forms a new kind of car boot library. This library is paradoxically non-archival, and the collection is not readily available for loan. Temporally and spatially limited, it exists through documentation and memory. …

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