Artist Interrupted: Glen Hayward

Wish You Were Here kicked off with a delivery. Glen Hayward dropped his archive off in a crate. It landed with a thunk on my desk, and in my brain. Putting aside the question of content for a minute, the physical dimensions of this archive immediately had me on edge in a comfortably familiar way. It is a very physical and analogue archive, mainly consisting of paper and photographs slipped into ring binders or plastic sleeves. You have to dig in and around, pull things out and abide by its materiality. The order is loose and free-flow, with a sense that you are being gently guided through a constructed experience but that every decision is yours. 

The crate itself slowly came into focus. It is, not surprisingly, made of wood—but it’s punctum, if such a humble object can have one, is the classic 1980s SPORT drink logo emblazoned on the front and back in burnt orange. It sparked something that forced me back into the crate. I dug out Hayward’s Ph.d dissertation to find a reference to his childhood friend Benjamin Dover whose father was a designer for SodaStream, and whose family’s weekly delivery of a crate of SPORT drinks sparked jealousy and the beginnings of a class consciousness in the young Hayward. It became obvious that the crate was a classic Hayward sculpture carved from wood and hand painted to replicate an object that exists both in the world and in his memory. I should have seen and understood this—I have written many times about how Hayward puts his sculptures back to work in the world. He later told me that the crate was even in an exhibition I curated. Checkmate, Hayward. 

Like the crate it was delivered in, the entire archive started to feel and function like a Hayward artwork. The crate operates as another of the containers that Hayward has employed as a form or a mode throughout his practice. While the archive tells us that his use of the box can be traced back to art school crit sessions decades ago, it has become especially prominent in his large-scale installations of recent years that blow these possibilities out, both physically and conceptually. These are the works at the centre of Wish You Were Here. And this all makes the crated archive a vital part of this project. 

This catalogue performs a kind of ‘unboxing’ of the archive. The first half is a compilation of material selected from the archive: images, texts, documentation, correspondence and research. Taking its lead from Hayward’s recent use of his own bad photographs as a source for his sculpture, it is imagined as a montage or a blur that seeks to be playful and provisional rather than authoritative or even accurate. If there is any ‘truth’ to be found in this montage, it might be located in its tracing of the various ways that Hayward’s work has operated in the gallery context and on the world over time—sometimes seamlessly, sometimes dangerously, sometimes to acclaim or anger, sometimes to be totally missed or ignored. 

The second part of the catalogue moves from the crate to the exhibition as the most recent ‘box’ built for and around Hayward’s work. It consists of installation photographs and short texts for each of the works. These two parts meet at the centre of the catalogue, but also cross-reference one another throughout. They share one ambition—to draw out and reveal the consistency of a core set of ideas that have run through Hayward’s sculpture for over twenty years, and have been pushed, pulled and articulated in a variety of ways and across different modes and contexts to constitute a practice that is anything but ‘wooden’. 

I have written all the texts in the catalogue, but it has been shaped by many others who have entered the crate and/or the exhibition, and come to understand its flows and logics. Curators Moya Lawson and Millie Riddell have worked with the archive and the text. Cheska Brown’s installation photographs of the exhibition and Spencer Levine’s catalogue design have both responded to these possibilities, knowingly or not. I would also like to acknowledge the Chartwell Trust and the City Gallery Wellington Foundation, funders of the catalogue. And to Benjamin Dover, lost to Hayward and to the archive, we wish you were here. 

Published in Glen Hayward: Wish You Were Here, City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi, 2022, 3-5.