Borrowed Time: Max Bellamy & the William Hodges residency

Max Bellamy - AvailMax Bellamy - Still from Avail (2011)

Presented at the Southland Museum over summer 2012, Max Bellamy’s installation Borrowed Time offers up five contrasting chapters of ecological peril.

Spanning abstraction, landscape and short film narrative, it's an ambitious palette of styles and approaches. Avail is pure molten abstraction, Maroon; Blue follows a lone figure waking on an unfamiliar island in the middle of the ocean, Achilles Violin follows power lines tracing their way through the sky, Carte Blanche keeps a beady eye on a model plane threatening to tear apart at speed, Meme displays an endless loop of cars visiting a fast food drive-through.
 
It’s not hard to spot the interweaving lines of consumption and strain that drive Borrowed Time. Ultimately though, there is too much on one plate here. 
 
Next to the raging abstraction of Avail and the undulating rhythms of Achilles Violin, Maroon; Blue is an awkward fit. While it inserts a human presence into the installation, the short film form feels out of place next to a series of looped vignettes. A better application of narrative is Carte Blanche. With a few deftly assembled shots of engineering under stress it successfully intimates the tension that Bellamy is striving for across the entire work. Perhaps with a little more size and scale Carte Blanche might have been a better axis for the installation than five identically sized screens.
 
Borrowed Time is the conclusion to Bellamy's four month residency as the Southland Art Foundation's William Hodges fellow. Based in Invercargill, the residency is one of the South Island's most generous. (What could be a more apt title for an artists residency than Borrowed Time?) In return Bellamy has created a body of work responding to local landmarks as diverse as Monkey Island and the all night McDonalds. While this is undoubtably a great pay-off for the host institution, one wonders if such awards imply too much pressure on the artist to create work that specifically references the local? 
 

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