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Tessa Laird, 11th June, 2005

The Future Looms

The Listener, Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand


I enjoy venturing to Pakuranga’s Te Tuhi the Mark – there are always several interesting shows and the café is excellent. Recently, Deborah Crowe gave the largest room at Te Tuhi an extreme make-over – the space is unrecognisable as you navigate door and window frames, false walls and panes of glass wrapped with coloured nylon.


Crowe plays with the notion of a room-sized loom, in which stripy fabrics emerge from giant wooden structures. A lot has been made lately of the Jacquard loom being the predecessor to early punch-card computers. These looms were smashed to bits when furious Luddites were forced out of their jobs – now the term Luddite describes technophobes of any stripe. Crowe has managed to deconstruct the loom without recourse to violence – and handmade and digital (linguistically related anyway) co-exist.


The nylon stripes have been videoed and cast coloured shadows over glass panes, reminiscent of Len Lye’s dancing verticals in A Colour Box. After wandering around the altered room, I felt as if I was in a fairground funhouse where floors and walls are designed to discombobulate. A very different film came to mind – Orson Welles’s The Lady from Shanghai – for although Crowe’s colourful sets are hardly noir, there’s a similar sense of dislocation within a confined field – complete with wrong turns, trompe l’oeil and mis-en-abyme mirrors.

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