Kate van der Drift
by Centre of Contemporary Art
Canaday Gallery, 28th April–20th May 2010
Kate vander Drift received her BFA from the Dunedin School of Fine Arts in 2009. Politics is central to her art-making, which van der Drift characterizes as 'posing questions and aiming to challenge our complacency in centralised power structures, colonialism and globalised capitalism.' In particular, the artist refers to the 'New Zealand State "terror" raids of 2007' as a galvanizing influence. For her current COCA show, van der Drift presents a series of video works addressing the theme of silenced dissent.
In a photographic still from her video installation Domestic Terror, van der Drift depicts a dinner party situated in a sterile, emotionally neutral, white-cube space typical of that employed by contemporary institutions. The participants at the dinner have been served up identical dishes of garishly coloured junk food: cupcakes, jelly, burger rings and lollies. Sitting uncomfortably, as if present under duress, the people at the table seem inspired neither by the unappetising fare provided nor each other. van der Drift thus subverts a social ritual, where people would normally revel in free and open expression by re-situating it in a cheerless, impersonal, institutional space. The blank walls and white table cloth allude to the self-effacing invisibility of those systems of constraint and conditioning that order our lives, whilst the identical servings of junk food emphasize to what extent standardized power structures keep people doped, distracted and complaisant on a diet of easy gratification. As van der Drift suggests 'The video narrative reminds the viewer of the power of one's own individual action and expression in altering reality. It visualises empowering a person who is in an oppressive situation and giving inspiration by acknowledging that single actions make up larger movements and can connect communities of like minded people.'
One is reminded, in van der Drift's work, of George Orwell's 1984 where pornography was served up to the masses to keep them under the heels of the ruling bureaucracy. More recently, Jean Baudrillard, in The Ecstasy of Communication, has characterized the information age as pornographic insofar as networks of communication have utterly colonised the intimate and authentic interactions between people, in their once-private spaces, transforming individuals into mere expressions of the system. What van der Drift's Domestic Terror exposes, therefore, is the degree to which, in the age of Late Capitalism, contemporary power structures have taken our 'real lives' and substituted for them a way of being that is merely a manufactured commodity.