Bringing together a suite of new and recent works, by Tāmaki Makaurau-based artist Judy Darragh, Competitive Plastics explores making with your hands, and sculptural making, as critical enquiry. It considers how these processes shape our brains and our bodies. What routes for connection and articulation do they afford us in the 21st century? What draws us back to the tactile, the textured, the patterned; the way things sit, droop, bundle, or wrap?

The exhibition, curated by Heather Galbraith, responds to concepts of ‘plasticity’ and ‘the fold’ explored by French philosopher Catherine Malabou. Lived-experience is changing in a highly industrialised world where work and play blur in ways problematic for wellbeing. How might crafted works offer catharsis and call our attention to urgent issues through unexpected, impolite, and humorous means, and can they address forms of toxicity in our current world?  

All materials in Competitive Plastics have been found in op shops, discount stores, industrial supply outfits, and brought into conflagration with one and other. Most were originally designed with usability in mind. Monobloc chairs sit alongside mannequin limbs, high heeled shoes and funnels, some are used, others are freshly minted. They are reconsidered, repurposed, upended, stuffed, skewered, wrapped, and layered, with awareness of their material baggage and complicities. The works question our default value systems. 

The exhibition also explores engagements with making processes in shared social contexts. Riffing off Ron Te Kawa’s project, artists Ani O’Neill and Layla Rudneva-Mackay will work with Judy Darragh on a series of collaborative workshops at Objectspace.

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Judy Darragh ONZM (b. 1957 Ōtautahi) is renowned for sculptural assemblages, collage, video, photography, and poster art. During 1980s, Darragh’s trademark, eclectic iconoclasm modeled a critical position in response to rampant materialism and free-market reforms. In 2004 Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand mounted the survey and catalogue Judy Darragh: So... you made it? Darragh lives in Tāmaki Makaurau and was central to the development of ARTSPACE Aotearoa, artist-run spaces in Auckland Teststrip, and Cuckoo. She has been an educator, and mentored many artists. Co-editor of Femisphere a publication supporting women’s art practices, Darragh continues to exhibit throughout Aotearoa and works are held in major public collections.  

Heather Galbraith (b. 1970, Tāmaki Makaurau) is a curator, writer and educator. Initially an artist, Galbraith undertook an MA in Curating at Goldsmiths’ College. Exhibitions Organiser at Camden Arts Centre, London for seven years, she had held senior roles at ST Paul St., AUT University, City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and Whiti o Rehua School of Art, Massey University, where she is now Professor. Galbraith has a long association with New Zealand at the Venice Biennale, and was Managing Curator SCAPE Public Art, Ōtautahi (2016- 2018). At Westlake Girls High School, Galbraith had an inspirational sixth-form art teacher, Judy Darragh.

Competitive Plastics is part of Objectspace’s programme partnership with Ōtautahi public gallery CoCA Toi Moroki Centre of Contemporary Art which sees the organisations work together to develop and present exhibitions throughout 2021.

Judy Darragh, Choir (detail), 2021. Photo: Samuel Hartnett

Judy Darragh, Capital (detail), 2021. Photo: Samuel Hartnett

Judy Darragh, Lunge (detail), 2021. Photo: Samuel Hartnett