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Born in 1976, Auckland, New Zealand

“The Dematerialization of the Art Object” (Lucy R. Lippard), a text of great aesthetic importance to conceptual art of the 1960s and 70s, occurs in the works of Dane Mitchell in a new way. Born in 1974 and still based in Auckland, New Zealand, for Dane Mitchell, it is less about a consequential rejection of the commodity character of a work – as it was for many first-generation conceptual artists – but more about a broader research into the nature of art in general.

Dane Mitchell’s work “Conjuring Form” for Art Statements at the Art Basel 2008 remains unforgotten – where he employed the help of a ‘witch’ to study the spiritual powers of the exhibition space. What may at first appear like yet another evocation of an antiquated folk mysticism, proves to be more of a profound analysis of the modern “white cube” (Brian O’Doherty). Here Mitchell effectively poses questions not only about the irrationality of the here displayed artefacts but also about the societal conditioning and construction of aesthetics and their (still) ritualistic functions. The fact that the contradiction of rationality and belief is a social construction is something we know from Michel Foucault. The fact that in art this construction is configured in a particular way – through the assumption that particularly an artwork needs the inexplicable in order to reveal its ‘sublimeness’ (Immanuel Kant), is something Dane Mitchell brings to a foreground with his work.

So, for example, the artist makes contact with Rita Angus, a famous New Zealand painter, through a ‘psychic’ in order to interview her. Or he measures the temperature changes in the gallery during the exhibition with the help of sensitive thermometers in order to prove the presence of ‘ghosts’. Modern technology and science are in a strained dialog with a more ‘irrational’ idea of the supposed ‘paranormal’ – and is this not an emancipatory opportunity for art?



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