Ruth Watson: Geophagy

CoCA presents Geophagy, the first major Ōtautahi Christchurch exhibition by Canterbury born Auckland-based artist Ruth Watson.  

First exhibited at the Gus Fisher Gallery in Auckland, this critically acclaimed exhibition is reworked and up-scaled to respond to CoCA’s galleries. Featuring a sprawling sculptural installation, poetic video works and photography, Geophagy is an exploration of overpopulation and environmental issues in the dystopian present.  

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Geophagy, the practice of consuming dirt and clay, can be read as a metaphor for our overpopulation, consumption, and destruction of the Earth. Used by some indigenous peoples in cooking to absorb toxins from indigestible plants, geophagy can also be read as a more positive reference to our relationship to the Earth, and to indigenous knowledge; a conscious and purposeful consumption.

Auckland-based, Canterbury-born Ruth Watson’s multifaceted exhibition is acutely about the present moment, speaking to global politics and environmental issues. Through a sprawling installation, video, audio and printed works, Watson takes a critical look at the world today and seems to suggest that it’s not clear what we should do, collectively or individually. With so many issues and paths of action vying for our attention, the immeasurable size of the problems we face, and the systemic causes out of our control, taking action can feel overwhelming. Describing the world as being in a state of “dystopian present”, Watson reflects on the complexity of our relationship to the environment, and the incongruity of living in a place that we are destroying, without any clear means to unify and prevent that destruction.

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Ko Geophagy, he tikanga mō te kai i te paru me te uku, he kupu whakarite ēnei mō te apiapi, te

mahi whakapau rawa me te whakamōtī i a Papatūānuku. I ētahi iwi taketake o te ao ka mahi tunu kai e tikanga tēnei hei whakanoa i ngā tāoke mai I ngā otaota, ā, ko Geophagy he tikanga whai pānga ki a Papatūānuku, ki te mātauranga iwi taketake me te āta kai me te āta whakapau otaota. 

Kei Tamaki-makau-rau a Ruth Watson, engari i whānau mai ia ki Waitaha; he matarau

te whakaaturanga nei mō te wā onāianei, me ngā take tōrangapū o te ao me te taiao.

Nā te whakahorahora o te whakaaturanga, mā ngā ataata, ngā oro me ngā mahi tā, ka arohaehae a Watson i te ao me te taupatupatu me aha tātou, he mahi iwi tokomaha, he mahi tangata takitahi rānei. He maha ngā take me ngā tono kei mua i te aroaro, he take nui me te whakararuraru i a tātou, ka haukerekere hoki. He ao kore mana, whakamataku tāngata hoki, ka whakaarohia a Watson mō te ao nei me te pānga o te tāngata ki te taiao, ngā mahi kīkino a te tangata hoki ki tōna ao, kāore he whakaaro kotahi hei arai i taua whakamōtītanga.

The Artist

  • Ruth Watson
    Ruth Watson
    Auckland

    Ruth Watson is one of Aotearoa New Zealand's most respected artists. Her works have been exhibited extensively throughout New Zealand and internationally at museums and galleries such as the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Frankfurter Kunstverein; the Sydney Biennale; Gallery of Modern Art Brisbane; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb; Asia Society Gallery, New York; and the Kunst-Werke, Berlin.

Ruth Watson
Auckland

Ruth Watson is one of Aotearoa New Zealand's most respected artists. Her works have been exhibited extensively throughout New Zealand and internationally at museums and galleries such as the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Frankfurter Kunstverein; the Sydney Biennale; Gallery of Modern Art Brisbane; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb; Asia Society Gallery, New York; and the Kunst-Werke, Berlin.

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Unmapping the world, 2017, Ruth Watson
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Single channel, looped HD video with sound projector, screen and loungers. Duration: 8:51.

Geophagy, 2017, Ruth Watson
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Installation with recycled pallets, second hand clothing, monitors with six single channel, HD looped videos. Installation dimensions variable. 

Transient Global Amnesia, 2017, Ruth Watson
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Series of 9 photographic prints, framed, 420 x 280mm.

The surface of things, 2015, Ruth Watson
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Three single channel HD looped videos with sound. This artwork was made while Watson was at the Headlands Centre for the Arts outside San Francisco, California, in 2015. She was there as the 2014 Fulbright-Wallace Arts Trust Award Winner (other artists who have been there with that support include Richard Maloy, Phil Dadson, Steve Carr and more). Headlands is housed in a former military barracks, the old Fort Barry, now within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. That park also contains Nike Missile Site SF-88, open for display by volunteers, retired former Nike personnel.