Caroline Thomas: Worth

Underneath the paint on the wall of the niche in Gallery Four lies a small square of 24 carat gold leaf. This square was placed on the wall for the exhibition HANDSHAKE 5: in site, on display at Te Uru from 7 December 2019 – 16 February 2020.

The golden square was placed at eye height on a black painted wall with a small box affixed to the wall below. The box contained two continuously scrolling sentences in LED lights which read, ‘This is the amount of gold in an adult human. When Billy Apple’s Cut Away was installed at Te Uru on 6th Sept 2018, this gold was worth 1.17275 NZ cents’.

I created this work in answer to Billy Apple: The Cut Away which was installed in the cut away at the back of Gallery One, Level Four at Te Uru in 2018 as part of Apple’s long-running series of institutional critiques, started in the 1970s and still ongoing. With his project, Apple proposed that Te Uru fill in the cut away to create extra wall space, and this proposal was initially asserted by painting the space red, with a plaque indicating his critique affixed to the wall.

Apple’s project provoked me to consider the concept of worth, both the nature of assertive self-worth and the ever-thorny topic of worth in art. Within us, we carry a small amount of gold (AU) as part of the many minerals and elements that make up our bodies. For Worth, I mounted an approximation of this tiny amount, alongside an LED ticker display, applying calculations of each of our collective material worth and pondering on the archetypal phrase, ‘worth your weight in gold’.

After the close of the exhibition, this tiny amount of gold remains hidden underneath several new layers of paint as a permanent part of the building’s fabric, a palimpsestic reminder of cumulative artistic affect and of the elusive concept of worth.

Image: Caroline Thomas, Worth, 2019. Photo by Sam Hartnett

Originally presented as part of HANDSHAKE 5: in site

07 December - 16 February 2020

Artists' Walk and Talk

Saturday 7 December, 3pm

Critical Writing Workshop

Sunday 8 December, 10am-3pm