The installed work, Passage, seen from outside the gallery spacePhoto by Cathryn Monro

This version of Passage is a reconfiguration of an installation I made 15 years ago. Consisting of 250,000 beads strung on 3.5 kilometres of tuna line, Passage hung in strands forming a three-dimensional bead curtain with strata, passages, and clearings inside it. Similar to how you see it now at the National Library.

At the time I made Passage I was seeking forms that would provide offers to engage the audience with an awareness of Self. Rather than pointing to an overt content I sought to provide an experience. Instead of viewing an exterior object Passage offered literally an event of passage into and through the work.

Installed in a large warehouse space it was at the threshold between two rooms. From one side it appeared as a curtain, from the other approach it was a large cube. Passage functioned as a transition zone between the two rooms, the central passage forming a corridor from one space to another, the curtain a permeable barrier. The permeability of the work meant it could be entered at any point, on any side, bringing the act of choice to the forefront of its navigation.

To slip through the small gap at the side? To stand back and simply look? To enter? To walk through the central passage? To enter at another point? To divert off the defined passages and makes one’s own passage instead? To walk through, to run through, to stop, play, explore?

Passage stages an offer to become aware of our choices in how we navigate space. It is concerned with space not as an absence of things, defined only by the things around it, but space as another dimension altogether, a site of choice, play, exploration and agency.

Similarly the Self is often defined by its coordinates, it is unseen and so considered absent, unless consciously engaged or experienced.

Close up of some of the hanging beads in PassagePhoto by Cathryn Monro

Hanging Passage at the National Library alters its focus. In this site the work emphasizes questions of accessibility, agency and observation. Located in a glass room within the main gallery the component of external and internal experience is more prevalent. We see it first from outside, contained in the glass room, we may think the space inaccessible or see others inside swimming through the strands of beads, observe their movements and antics. Can we go in? What are the rules of engagement?

In this setting there are more thresholds to navigate. In addition to its physical perimeters are the in/out structures of the institution itself, of the gallery, the room inside the gallery, the language of the work, the invitation to enter, finding the hard-to-find door, crossing into the work, our choice of passage inside it, exploration of the pathways, the hidden rooms, the visual and physical games set inside the work, and the many more for invention.

Several strands of beads in PassagePhoto by Cathryn Monro

I’ve been told that being inside the work is surprisingly immersive. “We expect to feel more on view to those outside, yet once inside the beads and strands our focus is altered, diverted, we are in another space altogether.”

[Passage 2013 can be walked through on the Ground Level of The National Library until November 15th 2013.]

By Cathryn Monro

Cathryn is a Wellington-based visual artist, working in a range of media. See more of her work at

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Pat Monro July 9th at 10:54AM

I would love to engage with this beautiful installation but I will not be in Wellington while it is displayed so I hope to see it somewhere else in the country.