The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery presents Terry Urbahnís installation The Sacred Hart from 8 December Ė 2 March 2008. For Urbahnís latest work he returns to his hometown of New Plymouth and to the dilapidated White Hart Hotel, a legendary local landmark with a vibrant past. Its glory days now long gone, the last accessible part of the White Hart Hotel is the Public Bar, a drinking den that was added in 1970. This venue attracted a diverse crowd, cultivating raucous revelry, a wild music scene and an unruly reputation.
Urbahnís video installation reunites a handful of White Hart protagonists for one night of remembrance and celebration. The video pans a laden table, tracing characters and plots as the guests revisit old lives, rituals, memories and what a community stood for.
Himself once a White Hart regular, Urbahn wanted to capture the recent history of the place before the ďPublic BarĒ and its committed patrons move on. †Their collective interpretations of life in the bar relate not only local stories but also reflect how socialising has changed in recent times.
Urbahnís work is not a conventional documentary and by piecing together fragments of conversation and sound he intends that the installation mimics the experience of being in the bar, a guest at the table.
Govett-Brewster Director Rhana Devenport says Urbahnís long-term project reflects the iconic status that this establishment has in the New Plymouth community.
ďThe White Hart has a unique place in the personal histories of generations of people in New Plymouth. This sophisticated and complex work shows the rich interplay of the many colourful, sometimes notorious, characters and events which played a part in an alternative, suppressed history of the city.Ē
This major project features an opulent and large-scale video projection and the iconic white stag statue which has presided over New Plymouthís main street from the roof of the White Hart Hotel for over 100 years. In its raw state, its back covered in lichen, the stag is now elevated to a revolving plinth in the gallery space.
In his characteristically political and playful style, Urbahn choreographs an idiosyncratic account of local history that both reflects and undermines our perceptions of provincial city lives and regional communities. He reveals the peculiarities of place, the shaping of culture and collective memory.
Terry Urbahn is one of Aotearoa / New Zealandís leading artists exhibiting prolifically throughout the country and internationally in both solo and group exhibitions and on numerous occasions at the Govett-Brewster. His artwork is held in many private and public collections including the Govett-Brewster, Auckland Art Gallery, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Christchurch Art Gallery and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.
The Sacred Hart is accompanied by a programme of free public events including talks by the artist and Robert Leonard, Director of the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane. There is also a rare behind the scenes tour of the White Hart Hotel offered by one of Urbahnís video protagonists, Brian Wafer of IMA Hit Records.
In the presentation of this exhibition Terry Urbahn and the Govett-Brewster acknowledge the support of The Screen Innovation Production Fund, The Gibson Group, Jeremy Thomson and Harvey Dunlop from Taradise Property Management, Aalto Colour and Radio Network Taranaki.