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

Peter Roche

Linda Buis

In Relation: Performance Works 1979–1985

Curated by Gregory Burke and Christina Barton

12 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the surviving archive of photographs, film and video footage, drawings, texts, artist-publications, and published and unpublished commentary, the exhibition re-examines their challenging durational live performances which physically and psychologically tested both the artists and their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.

We acknowledge the Chartwell Trust for its generous support of this exhibition and Chris & Charlotte Swasbrook for assisting with Gregory Burke’s guest curatorship. We are especially grateful to Natasha Francois for allowing access to Peter Roche’s archive, and to Bridget Sutherland, Stuart Page, and Jane Sutherland for their support in preparing materials for the exhibition.

Gregory Burke is a New Zealand-born Toronto/Berlin-based curator and writer. Burke has returned to New Zealand to work on this project, after an eighteen-year absence, recalling his early collaborations with Roche & Buis, when he photographed many of the couple’s performances as a friend and fellow Elam School of Fine Arts graduate, 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). Burke has organised over 100 exhibitions and published more than 100 texts, in exhibition catalogues, art journals and online. He has worked with a wide range of prominent contemporary artists including Rosemarie Trockel, Peter Peryer, Jacqueline Fraser, Peter Robinson, et al, Fiona Clark, Pae White, Andrea Bowers, Lawrence Weiner, Ryan Gander, Hito Steyerl, Thomas Hirschhorn, Sharon Lockhart, Michael Snow, Candice Breitz and many others.

Linda Buis​ was born in 1954 in Auckland. Growing up with photographer father, Simon Buis (1927–1980), she was familiar with the Auckland art scene, though never studied fine arts herself. After meeting Peter Roche, she began a dynamic collaboration with the then recent Elam School of Fine Arts graduate that led to the realisation of 25 performance works which mark a unique and distinctive phase in Roche’s working life. Buis continued to collaborate with Roche after they stopped their live performances, co-authoring drawings and kinetic sculptures that were shown in Auckland in 1985 and 1986. When their relationship ended she left the art world. Linda Buis died in 2015 at the age of 61.

Peter Roche was born in 1957 in Auckland. He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Elam School of Fine Arts in 1979. Roche began his career as a performance artist whilst still at art school, and this evolved after he met Linda Buis. Together they undertook 25 performances that represent a sustained experiment in collaborative art making. After their relationship ended, Roche continued to make increasingly ambitious kinetic and sculptures and installations, using neon and fluorescent light as a dynamic component of his practice. Roche’s work was surveyed in exhibitions such as Trophies and Emblems (1990, Artspace, Auckland) and Tribal Fictions (1996, Fisher Gallery, Auckland). He was also included in group shows including the First Asia Pacific Triennial (1993, Brisbane) and the inaugural Korean Biennale of Contemporary Art in Cheju in 1995. His works are in public collections including Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, and major commissioned pieces can be seen at The Farm (Alan Gibb’s sculpture park north of Auckland) and on the exterior of the Vero Building in central Auckland. Roche bought The Ambassador Theatre in Point Chevalier in 1996 as a place to live and as a venue for his work, and for the rest of his life he combined a prolific art practice with running his space as a venue and watering hole for the local music scene. Peter Roche died in July 2020 at the age of 63. He is survived by his partner Natasha Francois, who is now responsible for his estate. A film about the artist directed by Bridget Sutherland is in production, a segment of which will be included in the exhibition.