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Curator Ché Zara Blomfield on why we need art to connects us

Kiwi-born gallerist and author Ché Zara Blomfield was instrumental in setting up a collaborative art space in London called The Composing Rooms (2010 – 2020).

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Kiwi-born gallerist and author Ché Zara Blomfield was instrumental in setting up a collaborative art space in London called The Composing Rooms (2010 – 2020).

Ché Zara Blomfield is a New Zealand-born and raised gallerist, writer and entrepreneur working in London, Berlin and Tāmaki Makaurau. Her book by her, The Composing Rooms is out now.

OPINION: I believe boundaries are a human construct designed to oppress. I’m privileged to have had creative and open-minded parents who didn’t instil boundaries in me, and ultimately this meant I didn’t take a traditional path, and instead of finishing university I moved to London before the global financial crisis.

Between 2008 and 2009, almost everyone I knew lost their jobs. There were many vacant storefronts in the city, similar to Tāmaki Makaurau now.

I heard of a scheme in Bloomsbury to utilize empty shops for creative projects, so I met with the local council and pitched my gallery to them. This was 2010. The council were supportive of my venture, and so The Composing Rooms gallery was born.

The artists I was interested in were exploring the time we were living in; they’re now known as post-internet artists. Globally, we were in a phase of the internet changing how we lived so dramatically, and these young artists were exploring how interconnected we were becoming.

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For example, Anne de Vries’ work Katanga Bub was about the copper and cobalt mines in Congo, which employ slaves to fuel corruption and oppression, but ultimately provide key materials for our cellular devices, which are advertised to us as a form of connection and empowerment.

It was an art that embraced and criticized the aesthetics of globalisation, drawing lines between things that seemed nonsense. There are several artists from New Zealand who have been working in this space, one of the most well-known being Simon Denny.

'Thirsty Garten' exhibition, 2016, as part of The Composing Rooms curated by Blomfield.

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‘Thirsty Garten’ exhibition, 2016, as part of The Composing Rooms curated by Blomfield.

Over the years, especially during my time in Berlin from 2013-2017, there were conversations about the “digital divide” – the differentiation between online and offline. I always knew they were confident. The center page of my book, quoting Greek painter Miltos Manetas, reads: “Internet becomes nothing more than another layer of nature.”

This connection between technology, culture, and ecology has become an ongoing theme for me to explore. Themes that seem increasingly relevant as we face climate change while technologies become increasingly present in our lives. We are in need of reconnecting to each other as humans in our local environments.

Ultimately, we must come to terms with the fact our actions have repercussions that travel. The butterfly effect, a drop in the ocean, call it what you will, but the consequences will continue until we take responsibility for our consumerism and behaviour. This is relevant, not only in terms of how we treat people close to us, but also if we choose to accept modern slavery and exploitation in the objects we consume.

'Windoes' 2015 installation in The Composing Rooms, curated by Blomfield.

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‘Windoes’ 2015 installation in The Composing Rooms, curated by Blomfield.

But how is this story connected to what you are reading right now? Ultimately, it’s because of the aforementioned book. Having been 10 years since I started the gallery in London, in 2020 I started putting together documentation to mark a decade.

It was recently published with support from Creative New Zealand, and I’m proud that within this book there are contributions from many artists from around the world who I’ve worked with, all who explore themes of connection, exploitation and subversion.

I am driven to make the world a better place. Sustainability has to be a goal for everyone. But before we can get to that, we all need to understand our connection to each other. I think that’s best done by creating a community, and reaching out exponentially from there. We can’t solve this humanitarian crisis from our laptops working at home.

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