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Ronnie van Hout takes on cult status

Ronnie van Hout
7 July – 11 November 2012 | FREE | The Dowse Art Museum


7 July – 11 November 2012 | FREE | The Dowse Art Museum

Melbourne-based New Zealand artist Ronnie van Hout is known for inserting himself into his artworks, creating endless versions of himself in his exhibitions. In I've Seen Things, opening 7 July, van Hout places himself into the larger historical narrative of the Canterbury religious cult, The Full Gospel Mission, also known as 'The God Squad'. The cult, led by Douglas Metcalf, was founded in the 1970s and not disbanded until 2002.

Based at Camp David near Waipara, the members of The Full Gospel Mission believed Metcalf to be Jesus Christ. They shunned contact with non-believers to follow the teachings and rulings of their leader. In 1977 and 1987 the camp was raided by police who had learned that arms were being stockpiled there. Metcalf's death in 1989, and subsequent revelations of his adultery with women followers, finally led to the collapse of the sect.

I've Seen Things documents the members' story, one already filtered through rumour, scandal and intrigue, as a tale of epic downfall. The title is taken from a scene in the sci-fi film Blade Runner and hints at secrets and insider knowledge. Van Hout was drawn to the scene because of its references to seeing and remembering, implying, "the need for the listener to have empathy".

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain... ". Roy Batt's dying words in Blade Runner.

Van Hout places Blade Runner into his larger plot, one that mines real and fictional stories, with himself inserted into the heart of the tale. Set in a futuristic Los Angeles in 2019, Blade Runner examines memory and identity, asking, what does it take to be human?

I've Seen Things brings together two bodies of work never before seen in New Zealand; Compound, exhibited at Uplands Gallery Melbourne, 2010, and Brood at Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. The two exhibitions present similar, but different accounts of the cult's story, extending the exploration of a fictionalised narrative of real events.

Christchurch-born Ronnie van Hout has worked with a wide variety of media including sculpture, video, painting, photography, embroidery and sound recordings. His haunting video projection, The Creation of The World, was recently seen projected in window opposite the Christchurch Art Gallery. Also at the Christchurch Art Gallery, his 2009 exhibition Who Goes There encompassed 'peepholes, failed robots, doll-sized portraits of the artist and something strange and new from Antarctica'. A loss, again (2008-2010) at Te Papa examined loss and memory with the locked tool shed of van Hout's father. His new video works King I and King II are also based around The Full Gospel Mission.

Contact details: 
Media enquiries and images: Rachel Healy, Communications Manager, T 0274 610271 04 560 1477, E

Written by

The Dowse Art Museum

30 May 2012