Otago Polytechnic

Jane Venis provides powerful commentary on a range of important social issues through her art works.

Chindogu is the humorous Japanese art of creating ridiculous multi-purpose objects as a solution to some perceived problem. Jane has crafted beautiful musical instruments with an absurd twist, each with an accompanying 'infomercial'. 

“My work Panjo is a frying pan that is also a banjo, so you can play it and then cook eggs in it,” she says. “I like to use chindogu as a way of looking at sustainability and consumerism - how many more pointless things do we need on this planet?”

Another series of her works, exhibited as Gymnauseum, considered the futility and self-flagellation of gym exercise. One work was a punching bag inlaid with about 400 sharp metal spikes. The exhibition spoke about the pressure people are put under to conform to a particular body type.  

Gymnauseum for example had something to say about the pressure people are put under to conform to that traditional body type,” she explains. “And it doesn’t matter how old you are – you hear ‘60 is the new 40’ and so on. I like to say ‘dead is still the new dead’; everybody needs some time to just relax as well.”

Jane also contributed an art work to an exhibition in California on social justice, re-purposing the punching bag with a new context. "In terms of domestic violence, I am looking at the idea that the perpetrator of domestic violence harms themselves as well as the victim, and has usually been a victim themselves."

“The wonderful thing about artworks is they can be open to all sorts of interpretations,” Venis says. “In terms of domestic violence, I am looking at the idea that the perpetrator harms the victim and also harms themselves – and has usually been a victim themselves. The cycle of violence in families means everyone is being damaged.”

“I attended the opening and I really enjoyed the way the curators and contributing artists came together and talked about their work,” she says. “I got to know everybody else and hear about what they were doing in the field of art for social justice.”

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CREATIVE & PERFORMING ARTS

May 2017