Tuesday, January 30, 2007

McCahon's I AM

The use of the statement I AM is readily recognisable in the New Zealand context as an homage to Colin McCahon, particularly the seven paintings that contain this declarative affirmation in various forms. New Zealand art historians have made much of McCahon's agnostic/existential reworking of the powerful injunction proferred by Jesus of Nazareth, who told his disciples: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6). Less has been made of the super ego injunction McCahon's "I AM" had on his art disciples and acolytes. My detournement of I AM to i am another to myself is an attempt to shift the philosophical coordinates of the phrase away from theology and existential philosophy to more contemporary debates around identity politics, alterity, power and language.

I am indebted to Charlotte Huddleston curator at Te Papa Museum in Wellington, who when I informed her of this work, consulted with William McAloon, Te Papa's resident McCahon expert. Charlotte subsequently corresponded with me about seven MCCahon paintings that feature I AM in one form or another including I am scared She informed me that one is missing and only known through photographs taken in the studio. The first cubisti I AM was painted in 1954 . The phrase also appeared in Victory over Death 2 from 1970 and Gate III which is at the Adam Art Gallery (in the Victoria University collection).

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

More thoughts on alterity

A few more thoughts as we spend time in the gallery. A number of viewers have responded to the money trail idea by placing loonies in replacement for buttons that they have taken from the shelf. This is very gratifying and links the I Am another to myself with capital and desire!

Monday, January 22, 2007


I AM buttons and the website URL were placed on a shelf for exchange with $1 loonies at the annual MFA Group exhibition at NSCAD University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was a fine exhibition opening with many visitors enjoying the event and savouring the art, snacks, wine and beer. The successful beer slogan "I Am Canadian" was visible in the bar adjacent to the Anna Leonowens Gallery. How does "I Am.....Canadian" participate in the reprodution of a multi-cultural Canadian identity?

Friday, January 19, 2007

More thoughts on alterity

Perhaps a few dictionary definitions courtesy of the web will provide some entry to the discussion.


\Al*ter"i*ty\, n. [F. alt['e]rit['e].] The state or quality of being other; a being otherwise. [R.]

For outness is but the feeling of otherness (alterity) rendered intuitive, or alterity visually represented. --Coleridge.

1. The state of being out or beyond; separateness.

2. The state or quality of being distanguishable from the perceiving mind, by being in space, and possessing marerial quality; externality; objectivity. "The outness of the objects of sense." (Sir W. Hamiltom)

Source: Websters Dictionary

(01 Mar 1998)

I am another to myself.com

Welcome to this blog site established by Bruce Barber to accompany the Artspace exhibition Moment Making February 3rd - March 3rd curated by Laura Preston. The installation in the gallery will consist of a large painted IAM with vinyl addition of letters another to myself.com. IAM buttons will be distributed to members of the public walking past the gallery at 300 Karangahape Road, Auckland on Saturday February 17th and at other times during the week.

The button action, gallery installation and website including this blog provides an opportunity to explore and discuss alterity, negotiating some of the philosophical coordinates established by Fanon, Bhahba, Levinas, Ricoeur, Derrida, Agamben, Butler, hooks, and Badiou among others. The primary questions for members of the public to explore will concern self-hood, ethnicity and the identity of the other. Can we say that "otherness/alterity" is a social fact of life and/or a cultural construct? That we are all marked as others - to each other - and this becomes ipso facto our identity? Cannot one also be an 'other' -- a stranger -- to oneself, as many writers from Rimbaud to Kristeva have asserted? What does this suggest with respect to our political struggles and aspirations? Derrida posits: “no difference without alterity, no alterity without singularity; no singularity without here now” (Jacques Derrida, 1994). Does this suggest a philosophical conundrum at the point of the singular?