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Hayden Fowler

Andrew Frost

Hayden Fowler’s work looks at the conflicted and contradictory relationships between the human and natural worlds. His work asks if such a division exists beyond a manifestation of social anxieties and proposes an exploration of these notions.  Early installations such as Monoculture and Platform [both 2001] used various elements including wooden scaffolds, photography, artificial grass and, in the case of Monoculture, a stuffed and mounted bird. Although these installations did not use video technology they nonetheless suggested a filmic sensibility. It was a natural progression then for Fowler to use a bank of TV monitors playing digital DVD images of birds for his installation Recalling Lost Utopia [2002]. Radically reducing his process and concentrating on video only, Fowler’s Biosphere 1A [2004] was an installation of five monitors with images of birds similar to those in Recalling Lost Utopia. 

 Fowler’s next works - White Cock and White Australia [both 2005] - were a significant shift in the artist’s practice. White Cock is a mostly static shot of a rooster. As the shot changes, however, each transition is accompanied by electronic buzzing noises. The artist used a similar technique in White Australia to include a coded audio message to accompany shots of rats entering and exiting a small stage set. Goat Odyssey [2006] is a more ambitious expansion of these techniques using two goats wandering through a colourful theatrical stage set that suggests Orientalism and science fiction. 

Where Goat Odyssey explored fascination and alienation, Hunger [2007] delves into a much bleaker world. A two screen work, Hunger shows a lamb on a black stage set suckling from a teat in a wall. White milk spatters on the black floor. Conjuring the dead worlds of Edweard Muybridge’s stage sets and Joel Peter Witkin’s macabre photographs, Fowler’s video is all the more powerful for its low key narrative and an upsettingly ambiguous relationship between maker, subject and audience. 

For Second Nature [2008] Fowler restated many of his thematic concerns, but on a much larger scale. With a run time of some 40 minutes, Second Nature uses the spaces of white stage sets to construct an ambiguous narrative that explores the interconnectedness of humans and animals. Like his earlier work, the video unfolds through a series of slowly changing tableau while the central thematic idea is explored through the visual metaphors of air conditioning ducts connecting one space to the next. Recalling the work of David Lynch, Second Nature is Fowler’s most explicit experiment in cinematic narrative.

b. 1973
Birth place
Te Awamutu, New Zealand
Period of activity 
from 2000

Lives and works

Selected events