Signs that change buildings

Rosanna Albertini about Fiona Connor

They look exactly like the ones stuck near the sidewalk. Yet they are something else. An artist made them anew and brought them into her small apartment: one has long legs, must lean on the wall. Others sit on contentment. Never, they had never seen a house from inside. Words painted on them get quiet, what for? The LIVING MODERN of Brighten Villas lies down on the floor replacing the bed. What? They are supposed to compete! And scream their message, and help make money. “See what happened in a New Zealand artist’s brain?” the naked pole mumbles. “She brought me here with all of you, all dressed up with colors, and I have none. Who am I?”

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Maybe the oceanic distance of the New Zealand islands from all inhabited lands molds people’s thoughts as it does with birds and trees. They also think on their own. Fiona Connor is from Aotearoa New Zealand, and is of British descent.

“And the bird arrived from the other side of the world

 its flight so tiring the sun was scared it would be eaten,

  the bird fell to my feet and I carried it to the sea 

and cut open its stomach full of stones. 

The stones are now my eyes, 

white like my mother’s hair.”

From Tagata Kapakiloi, Restless People, by John Puhiatau Pule

In Los Angeles, Fiona’s eyes, ears still carry the native stones. History’s clock slows down. She records and prints conversations from which the stones erased the talkers’ names. “I replicate already existing objects,” she says, “materials and forms from a not very far past, usually neglected, mostly not worth looking at: benches, steps, real estates signs.”

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FC     To best understand a building, in addition to approaching it from the outside you have to be inside and look out. It is dependent on the environment it sits within.

RA    Same with objects? You try to be inside them?

FC    So interesting to discover the varnish quality, history of materials, the time they were produced, by whom, as well as cultural history, the taste of a different time.

ANDRE GIDE    Infinite receptivity of matter – porosity. The immaterial world – with infinite complications – fights against the matter’s brute memory, inertia postponed, apparent docility, until the matter becomes completely impregnated with it, changed. Passivity stops when the matter is traversed by an idea. (My loyal, true alteration of a real text by Gide)

RA    Trees peeled off  by Giuseppe Penone to touch their marrow have the white charme of new born creatures. Your replicas are not a modified original, they only show the original look, usually quite ruined, they are illusions! Physical ghosts and objective demostrations at once. Aren’t you afraid of being completely absorbed by the objects you are observing?

Walking on the seashore, Fiona stops by a small pile of clothes admirably folded: shorts on the shoes on the shirt in an impermanent, vertical sculpture. She clicks her phone. She is not afraid. What her art brings up is a reversed magnet redirecting her and our attention. If you are patient enough, you can discover how in Claude Lévy-Strauss words:

CLAUDE LEVY-STRAUSS    The same mind which has abandoned itself to the experience becomes the theater of mental operations which, without suppressing the experience, nevertheless transform it into a model to release further mental operations. In the last analysis, the logical coherence of these mental operations is based on the sincerity and honesty of the person who can say, like the explorer bird of the fable, ‘I was there; such and such happened to me; you will believe you were there yourself,’ and who in fact succeeds in communicating that conviction.

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 Photos: Peter Kirby