(b. Zilina, Slovakia, 1966; lives and works
in Bratislava, Slovakia)
COMMISSIONED BY Litmus Research Initiative
Roman Ondak, Camouflaged Building, Wellington, 27 March 2009. Commissioned by Litmus Research Initiative, Massey University for One Day Sculpture. Photos: Stephen Rowe
(click to enlarge)
Friday 27 March 2009, from 7am
Old Government Building, 15 Lambton Quay, Wellington
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On Lambton Quay in Wellington, opposite the new Parliament Buildings, stands the largest wooden building in the southern hemisphere and the second largest in the world.
The Old Government Building was constructed on reclaimed land, specifically recovered from the sea for the purpose, and designed by architect William Clayton in the Italian Renaissance style. Completed in 1876 at a cost of £39,000, it was built from kauri, one of New Zealand's premier native timbers. The building underwent major restoration when in 1990 it ceased to be used by the civil service and was officially reopened in 1996. During the restoration, over 500 cubic metres of recycled kauri timber was sourced for the craftsmen who painstakingly recreated the building's original grandeur.
Slovakian artist Roman Ondák creates subtle interventions in the public sphere which draw attention to the social and political contexts of specific sites and which effect a very subtle change in the everyday goings on of an urban environment. In 2002, Ondák staged Occupied Balcony, which consisted of a Persian rug hung over the balcony of the town hall in Graz, Austria. The gesture of casually airing a rug in a setting designed as a showcase for political power seemed both funny and unnerving. In Failed Fall (2008) for the Winter Gardens in Sheffield, UK, Ondák covered the floor of the indoor gardens with autumn leaves collected from trees around the city in the previous season. Seen in the spring, the intention of this work was to effect an interruption as passers-by made their way through the gardens from the shopping centre to the city square.
Roman Ondák's Camouflaged Building consists of ten piles of sawdust which have been installed around the Old Government Buildings at 15 Lambton Quay. Abutting the facade of the wooden structure, the modest piles may suggest a state of transition, whereby the artist gently and temporarily unsettles the building's protected status under a Category One Protection Order by the Department of Conservation. Ondák astutely and wittily elevates the piles of mundane building maeterial to the status of public sculpture, effecting a shift in the status quo through the most modest of means.
Roman Ondak Camouflaged Building is commissioned by Litmus Research Initiative, Massey University. Realised with generous funding support from the Wellington City Council Public Art Fund, Massey University Foundation and Massey University College of Creative Arts. Also supported by the Department of Conservation and Victoria University of Wellington Law School.
Roman Ondak, Good Feelings in Good Times, Frieze Art Fair, London, 2003
displacing the meanings of everyday events, Slovakian artist Roman
Ondak stages familiar scenarios in which unexpected actions occur.
Taking the form of installations, performances and interventions, his
works often affect a double-take, provoking viewers to question their
understanding and perception of social codes. For Good Feelings in Good
Times (Freize Art Fair, London, 2003) Ondak inverted connotations of
the queue through the repeated performance of a line of people
suspended in action, moving no closer to entry or resolution, for
days on end. For the Ludwig Museum, Colonge (2002), Ondak broadcast the
message 'As a sign of solidarity with recent world events, for the next
minute do not interrupt the activity you are doing at this moment'
throughout the exhibition space. A conundrum and contradiction, his
instruction charged viewers to 'perform' a moment of non-activity. In
2001, through the simple act of parking several Slovakian Skoda cars
behind the Secession in Vienna for the period of two months (Wiener Secession, Vienna, 2001) the artist engaged
audiences in debate on a range of topics including the appropriate use
of civic space; class representation and symbolism of 'the other'.
has participated in significant international exhibitions including the
critically acclaimed group project Utopia Station, curated by Molly
Nesbit, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Rikrit Tiravanija for the 50th Venice
Biennial (2003), Populism, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2005), Transit:
Auditorium, Stage, Backstage, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt (2006)
and the 27th Sao Paulo Biennial (2006). Ondak has completed solo
exhibitions at venues including Moderna Galerija, Zagrab (2002),
Kolnischer Kunsterverein, Cologne (2004), Tate Modern, London (2006)
and BAK, Amsterdam (2007).
Ondak was born in 1966 in Zilina, Slovakia. He lives and works in Bratislava.