Ruth Buchanan

Researcher Fine Art

01.01.08 – 31.12.09

He drew diagrams for her so she could understand that the world was circular with poles at either end. Despite these carefully drawn diagrams this geographical fact was something she found hard to reconcile with what she described as ‘real life’.

The first thing she always noticed about a place was the trees and if not the trees themselves then the way the wind moved through the trees. Regardless of whether it was the trees or the wind or the hills this ‘circular fact’ remained elusive to her. What, however, could be clearly observed was how the things on the outside outlined the things on the inside and it was this clearly sensible outline or edging that highlighted the incongruous nature of the circular fact.

There seemed many outlines, many edges, but the binding, the way these things were brought together seemed ruefully mistreated.In these diagrams with neatly hatched black lines arrows emerged pointing in this or that direction, indicating the flow from one pole to the other. But the first thing she always noticed was the trees and the way they moved, and the way things on the inside seeped outside distorting things.

The possibility to deform space seemed to her far more graspable than this circular object with poles at either end. For example, when one describes a space at a distance one may use a language that would be entirely unsuitable if one were actually there. So then to achieve this distortion one simply needs only to speak in an inappropriate language and the place, space or thing is rendered entirely unrecognisable.


In my work I move through artistic legacy and ask how various spaces of history, both conceptual and physical, characterise artistic agency in the present. My previous work looked at the barely perceivable impact of New Zealand painter Flora Scales on the development of a local Modernism in New Zealand, consequently this project came to be very much about how one develops a personalised agency. My current project shifts from this almost unknown character to investigating the very public figures of authors Agatha Christie (GB), Janet Frame (NZ) and Virginia Woolf (GB). In making this shift of scale or presence I seek to re-consider modes of address, or more precisely, I ask: ‘How does one speak as an artist when participating in an economy of voice, and subsequently, what space is it that this voice makes?’

I approach these fascinations by constructing ‘meetings with meaning’, whereby an encounter between the concrete and the abstract acts as the impulse for developing various gestures. These meetings can imply working intensely with an original manuscript, archival collection or specific location. These gestures take the form of sculpture, video, text, 35 mm slides, photographs, audio, readings or installations, which carefully choreograph these individual elements into one space that steps in and out from, magnifies and reduces, intensifies and diffuses the voice of the individual and the collective, the voice of the factual and the fictional, the voice of the historical and the contemporary.


Te Ati Awa/Taranaki, NZ.


MFA. Piet Zwart Instituut, Rotterdam, NL.


BFA. Elam School of Fine Art, Auckland, NZ.


Dolores residency. Lothringer 13, Munich, DE.


Summer residency. Enjoy Public Art Gallery, Wellington, NZ.



Creative New Zealand new work grant. NZ.

AMP achievers scholarship. NZ.


NUFFIC scholarship. Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, The Hague, NL.

Creative New Zealand Professional and Creative Development grant.

Maori Education Trust scholarship.

Parininihi Ki Waitotara Trust scholarship.


New Zealand Federation of University Women scholarship.



Finalist Waikato Art Awards. Museum of Contemporary Art and History, Hamilton, NZ.


The collapse of several pillars. (contributing editor). Rotterdam, NL: Piet Zwart Instituut.

Ruth Buchanan (Ed.). Normal desires. Auckland, NZ: Rm 103.

Book/catalogue contributions

Working on talking.  In: Sarah Hopkinson (Ed.). Gambia Castle yearbook 2007. Auckland, NZ: Gambia Castle Press.

Poems about nature documentaries. In: Kate Newby (Ed.). Holding onto it only makes you sick. Auckland, NZ: Gambia Castle Press.

Better to be laconic than epic. In: Dan Arps & Kate Newby (Eds). Discreet and popular. Auckland, NZ: Gambia Castle Press.

Ostensibility. In: Özlem Altin (Ed.). The fall occurs inside. Arnhem, NL: Museum voor Moderne Kunst (MMKA).


Less mirror than he was used to. Other ways of body. In: Paula Booker (Ed.). Benjamin Buchanan. There’s a ghost in my house. Wellington, NZ: Enjoy Public Art Gallery.

Speaking out loud. In: Kursiv Jahrbuch 2007. Wie dich selbst. Linz, AT: Kursiv.

Anthrax. In: The collapse of several pillars. Rotterdam, NL: Piet Zwart Instituut.


Chronic optimism. In: Özlem Altin & Hit Machine (Eds). Integratie suite.


Cats and trash cans. In: Staple finale issue.


Drawing 2. In: Uovo (special issue:The drawing collector’s box).


Modern. In: Good company, 1.


Pillars of ice at night. In: Foxymoron, 3.

The land of the problematic equation. In: Foxymoron, 1.


Emile Hollman. Wees je eigen toeschouwer. In: Zuiderlucht, 2(10), p. 13.




Watch the object watching. In: Opening week 2008. (7 – 11 January). Maastricht, NL: Jan van Eyck Academie.


Open in total darkness. (26 September). Munich, DE: Lothringer 13.


Solo exhibitions


Lying freely. With Eveline van den Berg. (12 – 22 June). Sheffield, GB: Bloc.


Open in total darkness. (21 – 30 September). Munich, DE: Lothringer 13.


The movement movement. (10 December). With Özlem Altin. Rotterdam, NL: DSPS.

It was almost brilliant. (18 February). In: Audiotoop 3. Nijmegen, NL: Extrapool.


The importance of invisibility. New York, US: Issue Project Room.


It’s a modern kind of a place. Auckland, NZ: Rm 103.

The land that time forgot. With Sophie McMillan. Auckland, NZ: The Gully Lounge.


House and garden. With Georgie Hill. Auckland, NZ: George Fraser Gallery.

Myth and lifestyle. With Sophie McMillan. Auckland, NZ: George Fraser Gallery.


Decoration and crime. (16 November 2000 – 23 April 2001). With Georgie Hill. Wellington, NZ: Enjoy Public Art Gallery.


Group exhibitions


4th Y2K Melbourne biennale of art and design. Melbourne, AU: TCB.

Chanting Baldessari. (7 October 2008 – 25 January 2009). Maastricht, NL: Bonnefantenmuseum.

Le societas! (22 May – 15 June). Amsterdam, NL: De Veemvloer.


Knowing nothing of agility. (12 July – 26 August). Rotterdam, NL: Tent.

Normal desires. (18 – 27 January). Auckland, NZ: Rm 103. (Exh. Cat.).


Throughout the last century there have been many developments. (11 – 27 June). Amsterdam, NL: De Veemvloer.

My loose thread. Berlin, DE: Galerie Ben Kaufmann.


The future can’t say no. New York, US: Heatherette.

Paradise club. Auckland, NZ: St. Kevin's Arcade.


Graduation show. Auckland, NZ: Elam School of Fine Art.

The whale. Auckland, NZ: Union Fishing.


Banned practice. Auckland, NZ: Newcall Towers.

The fame game: Pre-memorabilia. Auckland, NZ: Rm 103.




For the openness to remain.... In: Aurora festival of moving images. Norwich, GB.

Peace to the cottages. In: Özlem Altin. Geometrisch portret. Arnhem, NL: Museum voor Moderne Kunst (MMKA).

Older lovers etc. (11 – 24 February). Auckland, NZ: City Gallery Wellington.


A different kind of love. (26 April). In: Die dritten Personen. Vienna, AT: Swingr.




Frau ohne Stimme. Series of one-to-one readings. Maastricht, NL: Jan van Eyck Academie.

Lying freely. Reading séance. (20 June). With Eveline van den Berg & Jan Verwoert. Sheffield, GB: Bloc.

Less mirror than he was used to. (29 May). In: Gemini conspiracy. Rotterdam, NL: Piet Zwart Instituut.

Lying on rocks, sitting in windows, standing on chairs. (24 May). In: Kunsttour 2008. Euregional bus tour.

Ostensibility. (8 March). Arnhem, NL: Museum voor Moderne Kunst (MMKA).


Working on talking. With Kate Newby & Frances Stark. Auckland, NZ: Gambia Castle.

Things swing together in rhythm.  With Daniel du Bern. Wellington, NZ: Gang Green.