With a practice that spans the handmade, new media, curation, installation, social projects and urban design, Stella Brennan’s work deals above all with navigating the space and time between human subjects. Brennan prises open history, its losses and possibilities, interrogating colonialism, industrialisation and computerisation. Chief Curator at Wellington’s City Gallery, Robert Leonard, has stated “Brennan…explores the history and currency of modernity, the dream of human perfectibility and emancipation premised on rationality, technology, progress. She researches modernity’s grand schemes and utopian ideologies, and their fate in the brave new world of the present.”
Brennan has exhibited across Australia, Asia, North America, Europe and New Zealand and has been awarded Residencies including at Apex Arts in New York City, and Artspace in Sydney. After graduating MFA from the University of Auckland in 1999, Brennan co-founded Aotearoa Digital Arts and co-edited the Aotearoa Digital Arts Reader, the first comprehensive text on digital arts practice in New Zealand.
Brennan maintains a practice as a writer, as essayist for artists including Ann Veronica Janssens and Patricia Piccinini, as well as critic for magazines including Art Asia Pacific, the New Zealand Listener and Art New Zealand. She has also been an advisory editor for Eyeline Magazine, Australia.
Brennan has been difficult for some commentators to quantify. While her concerns remain consistent, her avenues of expression are diverse. Relishing material and technical challenges, over the last two decades her installations have included video projections, soundscapes, sculptural constructions, light works as well as found objects. In her Walters Prize-nominated work Wet Social Sculpture, a fully functioning spa pool was installed in an art gallery and the audience invited in. Memory Hole, her solo exhibition at Trish Clark Gallery in 2015, delved into the materiality and affect of outmoded technologies, presenting for rumination the glossy surfaces and effects of our flawed interface with technology, alongside a ‘New Zealand-mythic’ landscape comprising a small tent surrounded by pine bark mulch and, in typical Brennan fashion, housing an ironic video work of an auger endlessly grinding its way into the earth.
Brennan curated the exhibitions Nostalgia for the Future (Artspace, Auckland, 1999), Dirty Pixels (Artspace, Adam Art Gallery, Dunedin Public Art Gallery and Waikato Museum of Art and History, 2002-3), and co-curated Cloudland: Digital Art from Aotearoa New Zealand (The Substation, Singapore, 2008).
Brennan lives and works in Auckland.