on the edge of something great Gibbs Farm

And the Morgen club arrived, before the Mustang club, to Gibbs Farm – that’s right, no apostrophe – no punctuation – I’m overdoing it.

The brochure we were handed at the gate on entry before 10 am – the designated time – after which, warning-wise – the gates shut – reads:

“When Alan Gibbs bought the land now laconically known as Gibbs Farm, in 1991, he already had three decades of significant art collecting behind him.”

What an extraordinary statement! That the name is laconic and the collecting significant is the least of it. But I’m overdoing it.

The patches are from the multitude of vehicles sliding on the wet spongy grass. More and more came.

The biggest lawn I’ve seen outside Versailles. Much bigger than that. Mown. But with beasts too. First we saw sheep. Bernar Venet’s work sits on the hill. A collection of god’s dirty fingernail parings.

I love the Serra. Richard. Called Te Tuhirangi Contour no previous representative exposure prepared me for the feeling induced by bodily being near to 56 Corten steel plates 252m x 6m x 50mm. The angle of the wall is 11 degrees from the vertical, and the artist’s words have it that it “collects the volume of the land.” The mythology has it that when the work arrived, having been stacked in the hold of the ship, the plates had flattened, leaving no contour. The story continues that Serra had to replace it in its entirety.

The feeling is rather than collection – however significant – a great calm. A similar calm to entering into an expansive interior, a Gothic cathedral. Edging one’s way along the work, the wall, I touched every Corten steel plate. Warm with a calm vitality. A human volume collected, not the volume of the land?

Richard Thompson’s Untitled (Red Square / Black Square) had to wait for the busloads of kids to arrive to be brought to life. The work dates from 1994. The black to red surface transition is the best thing about it and its decisive severity.


An enlargement of the Chinese miniature landscape, the brochure has Zhan Wang’s Floating Island of the Immortals serve as a landscape to look for an idealistic [sic] world of immortals. I think even immortals would slip from its shiny chrome-icecream surfaces.

Neil Dawson’s Horizons someone called the Tintin and yes this for its purely graphic imposition on the landscape, an immortal’s fallen napkin, after finishing a meal of chromium ice cream, fits. But proximity gives away the device: painted pipe and painted mesh. Materials made clever. Which I suppose is Tintinesque too.

Introducing Dismemberment, Site 1, Anish Kapoor’s telluric diaphragm, and more a joining grommet or passage than a dismemberment, so I wonder what he meant. Dismemberment connects the Kaipara with the valley in which Gibbs is laconically and significantly situated. It nestles between mown mounds and suggests a sexual prosthetic for the earth.

The sound of earthworks was constant at the Farm, echoing over the hill from the Kaipara, where a digger was at work removing mangrove, opening up swathes of waterfields. The Kaipara as waterfeature to go with the land – collected by Serra – as lawn?


The best view of Graham Bennett’s Sea / Sky Kaipara, a series of prismatic rejects from the giant glasshouse project of the the immortals, elicited the same response from all the passers-by I happened by passing: It looks temporary. Look! It’s not even tethered down properly. It seems impermanent. Are they still finding the right spot for it? (Note how forward slashes prevail in these titles.)

Anish Kapoor. Dismembering site 1. 2009.

The ellipse. A calculated surprise?

Materials, again. Mild steel tube and tensioned fabric, according to the brochure. (Mild?) (tensioned?) Running East to West, 25m x 8m at one end, 8m x 25m at the other, connected over 85m.

I want to.

Daniel Burren’s fence. Green and white. A colour mistake you wonder he didn’t wonder about fixing before it got out of hand.

Approaching Bernar Venet’s 88.5 degrees ARCx8 – tense.

Folded earthworks – lumps out of their molds. Maya Lin’s A Fold in the Field, 2013.

We realised what I was reacting to when I said I couldn’t get comfortable with this work, Bernar Venet’s. It is an uncomfortable curve. And unlike some of the others I felt nothing with or for not a poor use of colour or materials, including the use of paint, which in sculpture I am happy that time had the Greeks halt. An uncomfortable arc that god’s fingernail parings follow. No calmness here. And fingernails indeed, since there are eight of them.

The people seemed to love this work. Most wanting to have the obligatory novelty shot taken. Stand there, as if you’re holding the curve up! Or: Lie down on the oxidised steel boxing! Now smile!

I suppose a half-smile is a similarly uncomfortable curve. A sarcastic smile. Almost a sneer.

No, but these are grasping fingers. Fingers which know they have dropped Neil Dawson’s skeletal handkerchief.

The aluminium and stainless steel pipework you see in the background, these constitute Kenneth Snelson’s Easy K. A disappointing title for a sculpture that I started to like as soon as I noticed that it cranes out over the water, suspended at only a couple of points. It cantilevers.

The Mermaid, who, like Anish Kapoor’s Dismemberment, Site 1 says, No fun. No climbing. No ride. Keeping itself to its own transition. This cube bridge done by Marijke de Goey inviting transgression followed the line of the hills behind in isomorphism or parallelism.

Approaching Sol LeWitt’s Pyramid (Keystone NZ) I was thinking about breezeblock. Maybe prisons. Maybe cheap housing. Maybe perm-mat housing. And basements smelling of wet concrete. Without a breeze. Blocked in. The cavities in the blocks empty as morgues. Air-morgues.

What breathes here is the play of light on the blocks. There was a pink lady watching me to see if like the kids preceding us I would dare to climb up Sol LeWitt. Pink high-viz jacket. But it’s not a pyramid of course. It’s a trapezoidal wedge.

Another colour mistake, Leon van den Eijkel’s Red Cloud Confrontation in Landscape recalls the Jewish monument in Berlin. But memorialises poor aesthetic decisions, frames a nice pond, nothing much else.

Others I know did not respond to Peter Nicholls’s Rakaia, an early work for the laconic Farm, dated 1996/7, but despite its literalism, I liked it. I like the way the red has shed on the ground around the raised painted dead wood, disliking at the same time the means of elevating the braiding red-painted woodcourses.

I saw this in a well-built shed. Citroens etcetera.

The kinetic panels of Two Rectangles, Vertical Gyratory Up (V), 1987, but surely bought and installed much later, by George Rickey, stand in the middle here, before the unattributed fountain, looking still as solar receptors.

Questions about the significance of the collection remain. It’s big. The works are big. Anish Kapoor’s and Richard Serra’s and Bernar Venet’s stand out. It is assumed that this is a difficult task on the big canvas of this landscape.

But the dramas are everywhere. The caretaker ladies telling me to Jog on! as I straggled nearing the deadline for clearing the property.

The privacies all over asked for. The absence of entries and crossings despite the works inviting both entries and crossings.

Perhaps this is why Serra’s barricade wins: it doesn’t so much collect the volume of the land as bar both entry and crossing. It snakes and makes private and isolate exactly nothing more than is on the other side.

I see I haven’t mentioned or recorded in image Jeff Thomson’s corro giraffe, Len Lye’s Wind Wand – looking like an aetiolated 80s lamp from a rape-free zone – or Andy Goldsworthy’s Arches. The last we looked down on from the hills, hearing the digger returning to mud and water the littorals of the Kaipara.