Kate Woods: The Transitive Landscape Captured
Written by Molly Samsell in 2009 for Cut Here exhibition brochure
Kate Woods work has entered the dialogue of Earth Art and photography from a direction that is made possible through the circumstances of time and place in New Zealand, while still having critical relevancy to the international discussion. With an anachronistic landscape art sensibility, Woodsʼ images balance complex dialogues between photography and sculpture while emphasising openness to the viewerʼs interpretation. David Green and Joanna Lowry engage the idea of performative photography; a photograph can “point to the real while reminding us that photography can never represent it”1. Woodsʼ manipulation of the image instigates an open interpretation and leads to a broad range of possible discussions in sculpture, Earth Art and photography as documentation.
Beginning with a background of found New Zealand landscape paintings, Woodsʼ images build a tension between painting, sculpture and documentary photography. Inserted into the landscape is a multi-faceted sculptural object that at once transforms the generic landscape into a specific place, the setting of an art experience. The sculptural work has a carefully detailed interaction with the landscape. Oppenheim, Smithson portrays an outsized sculpture hanging in the air and reflected on the surface of the stream. The sculpture in Steam (Morris) begins to fade into the air, emphasising the kinetic and transitive nature of the form.
The reflective and steam-like qualities as represented in her images provide evidence of the bodily forms direct presence and relationship with the landscape. The photographʼs relationship to the real is confirmed at the same time that it is subverted. These first clues draw the viewer in as they begin to question the space. In relation to grandiose landscape interventions of the 60s and 70s, Woodsʼ images question the permanence of landscape, sculpture, the photograph, and finally our experience of all three. As the steam rises or light is reflected from her sculptural forms, Woods captures a single moment for the viewer to experience a sculpture that only exists in two- dimensional form. The viewer can only ever reach the landscape through the image.
A photographed sculpture is taken out of time and place when documented. The fact that Woodsʼ sculptures solely exist as an image highlight the non-permanence of art, specifically the moment and place of the experience. Just as Earth art cannot be experienced through documentation, the photograph cannot document this non- place and this non-time, but instead acts as a point of reflection for the viewer. Woodsʼ photographs take on performativity as two- dimensionality of the sculpture becomes evident to the viewer. Are we looking at the landscape, the sculpture, or the photograph? Just as Woodsʼ appropriates the painted landscapes and sculptures to construct a new history, the viewer constructs their own interpretation.
Molly Samsell is a photographer and writer. In 2009 she completed her Master of Fine Arts at Massey University.
1 Green, D., & Joanna Lowry. (2003). From presence to the performative: rethinking photographic indexicality. In D. Green (Ed.), “Where is the photograph?” (pp. 60). Brighton: Photoforum.