Untitled (Anagrams and Objects for R.U. & R.U. (Part I), 2015

Installation view: Tidalectics, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, Austria, 2017

Photo: 2017©joritaust.com
Installation view: Tidalectics, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, Austria, 2017

Photo: 2017©joritaust.com
Installation view: Oceans. A Worldview at the Rhythm of the Waves, Le Fresnoy – Studio national des arts contemporains, Tourcoing, France

Photo: Eric Le Brun, 2018 | Courtesy Le Fresnoy – Studio national des arts contemporains, Tourcoing

Seven unique ink screen prints on hand-beaten Tongan Ngatu
310 x 100 cm (each)
Overall dimensions: 310 x 850 cm

In his travels throughout Oceania to southern Africa, Newell Harry maps human movement along commercial and colonial routes, and collects narratives about the slave trade, diaspora, fusion and division, customs, and idiomatic lineages. He charts creole and pidgin languages, alternative modes of exchange, and notions of value and currency and collects a variety of ephemeral objects. These items, which include personal notebooks, vernacular photographs, found objects, and postcards are often viewed as minor footnotes in exhibitions or in respect of the main oeuvres of artists. Seen as fragmented relics or a “magic encyclopedia,” for Harry these are the primary materials for a “conceptual bricolage” that informs a new kind of nomadic, non-chronological approach to narrative, story-telling, exhibition-making, form, content, and material.

This methodology of tracing and inventing material and linguistic relations is at work in the series “Objects and Anagrams,” in which the artist employs Kula Ring, a traditional system of exchanging ceremonial gifts, and in the adjacent series of anagrammatic Tapa cloth (Tongan Ngatu) banners. Both works serve to establish dialogues between the objects and the geographies to which they relate. The Togan Ngatu is a fabric obtained from the bark of trees that was initially used to make clothing that is still utilized on formal occasions today. The clothes are passed down from one generation to the next and, like the Kula objects, acquire value and meaning due to provenance. Harry prints four-letter terms on these organic banners, juxtaposing words with that do not have a clear connection except in their alliteration and sounds, which in turn originate strange encounters where, for example, GOYA and YOGA inhabit the same space, or YODA, the Star Wars guru, and DOYA, the young Nigerian actor, meet. These contrasts defy a logical order, but at the same time produce intriguing collisions and revealing associations, resulting in a patchwork of references from diverse contexts that span geographies, cultural history, and popular culture. Harry’s use of anagrammatic wordplay serves as a means to evade linear interpretations, further suggesting the complexity of the enmeshed routes by which many of the items were gathered. 


Group show: Remedios
Venue: C3A Centro de Creación Contemporánea de Andalucía, Córdoba
Curator: Daniela Zyman
Exhibition 14 April 2023 -  March 2024

Born in Sydney, Australia, in 1972. Lives and works in Sydney, Australia and Vanuatu, Republic of Vanuatu. 
Interview with Newell Harry on the occassion of the exhibition All The World's Futures - Biennale Arte 2015.