Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington
Gate 3, Kelburn Parade
Wellington 6140
New Zealand

Darcy Lange

Study of an artist at work

curated by Mercedes Vincente

23 March 13 May 2007

Darcy Lange: Study of an artist at work surveyed the ground-breaking video, film, sculpture and photographic work of New Zealand artist Darcy Lange (1946-2005), focussing on the artist’s seminal documentary studies of people at work.

The exhibition highlighted Lange’s innovative use of video. One of the first video artists to record in real time, using the ‘long take’ technique, Lange’s novel use of video methods places him at the forefront of video art practices at that time, both in New Zealand and internationally. He saw his videos as research studies, rather than finished products, and sought to stimulate active relationships between himself as artist, the subjects of his documentaries, and gallery viewers. As a consequence, his work is a vital contribution to the history of conceptual art practice.

Darcy Lange began to record the everyday life of people working in factories, mines and schools in England in the early 1970s. Returning to New Zealand in 1974, he continued to engage with this theme, documenting workers in the Waitara Freezing Works and on Ruatoria sheep farms, as well as recording significant footage of events surrounding the assertion of Maori land rights during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

As exhibition curator Mercedes Vicente notes, Lange’s empathetic observations of ‘people at work’ can also be contextualised within a rich history of social documentary photography and film, which includes the work of 1930s American photographers Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, or filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, a contemporary of Lange.

Vicente says: ‘Lange had a remarkable early career; he enjoyed the recognition of critics and curators as well as his artist peers. He was very much part of the 1970s international avant-garde and video art scene in London and New York, however he remained a marginal figure in New Zealand.'

This exhibition redressed this imbalance, bringing the work of this important artist to a wider New Zealand audience. Darcy Lange: Study of an artist at work was a unique opportunity in Wellington to view this pioneering artist’s dynamic work.

This was a Govett-Brewster Art Gallery touring exhibition curated by Mercedes Vincente.