Artists Project: Morgan Jones

This exhibition is now closed

Natural Selection was a project for the Centre Court of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery.

This massive structure, memorably described by Tom Weston as combining 'the Babylonian ziggurat with the Kiwi outhouse', was built over ten weeks on a Canterbury farm. Once complete, it was dismantled for the journey into the city where it was installed in the gallery as part of an ongoing series of artists' projects. Natural Selection consisted of four tiered ramps, fixed at right angles around a central tower. Entrances at the top of each ramp led into a revolving cubicle, described by Jones as 'the eye of the needle', at which point the participant was provided, not with inspiration or salvation, but rather with four options for descent: 'The thing about climbing to the top is - where is there to go? You just come down to the bottom again.' Above each door, Jones had stencilled the word RACE: 'I wanted to put on something that evokes the way animals on farms are processed and the way human beings are processed. There isn't much difference between mistreating animals and mistreating a human being.' Jones's enjoyment of language, a consistent element in his later works, was evident in the annotated drawings that accompanied the installation. They played on anagrams for RACE - CARE and ACRE - both of which played into Jones' larger themes. It was at this point that he began to explore language as structure for the demonstration and delivery of power. Like architecture, it can exclude or include (exit/no exit), direct, instruct, or confuse.

Offered the carrot of choice and free will, participants in Natural Selection found themselves being controlled and manipulated by the sculptor in absentia. The moment the first step was taken, they had become players in a larger game with uncertain rules and consequences. Like a mob of sheep being drafted between the pasture and the abattoir, or refugees in concentration camp, those who participated had entered a situation control-led by an invisible omnipotent other. As Tom Weston observed, 'Children play on the sculpture far more happily than adults do.'


Milburn, Felicity. "Traps and Shelters". Morgan Jones: Journeys and Decisions. Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, 2004. 19-20. Print.