Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery
Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington
Gate 3, Kelburn Parade
Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington

Peter Roche & Linda Buis, In Relation: Performance Works 1979–1985

13 May – 30 June 2023

This exhibition is the first focused examination of the performance works of artist-couple Peter Roche (1957–2020) & Linda Buis (1954–2015), who worked together between 1979 and 1985. Drawing on the surviving archive of photographs, film and video footage, drawings, texts, artist-publications, and published and unpublished commentary, the exhibition re-examines their challenging durational live performances which physically and psychologically tested both the artists and their audiences.

The exhibition is co-curated by Adam Art Gallery Director Christina Barton and Toronto/Berlin-based curator and writer, Gregory Burke. Barton, documented Roche & Buis’s early work in her MA thesis on the history of post-object art in New Zealand between 1969 and 1979, and continued to take an interest in their work as a curator at Auckland Art Gallery (1987–1992) and at Te Papa (1992–1995). Burke has returned to New Zealand to work on this project, after a eighteen-year absence, recalling his early collaborations with Roche & Buis, when he photographed many of the couple’s performances, and drawing on his extensive knowledge of contemporary art developed through his work as curator at City Gallery Wellington (1987–1995) and as Director of the Govett Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth (1998–2005), The Power Plant in Toronto (2005–2011) and Remai Modern in Saskatoon, Canada (2013–2019).

They are interested in the particular contribution Roche & Buis make to the history of performance art. They consider how their situation-specific performances undertaken in a diversity of spaces—from public galleries during the day to desolate and dangerous outdoor spaces at night—worked to delineate expanded possibilities and contexts for contemporary art while testing what it means to be ‘in relation’ to another, in all its multiple dimensions. They also see the duo’s practice as edging into the new territory of postmodernism by literally splitting the artistic subject in two, and for their recognition of the camera as a structuring element in the execution of their work and the production of its afterlife.

In Relation draws attention to how Roche & Buis focused on ‘interaction’ as a means to explore physical and psychological vulnerability, both in connection to each other and in relationship to the viewer. In doing so the exhibition not only considers the dynamics of gender relations as a driver for art making, but also the oscillating forces at play between performer and audience and live and recorded action.

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