Louise Menzies

This artist’s book considers modern, scientistic attitudes to wellbeing through the example of the little known New Zealand-based mid-twentieth-century movement, the School of Radiant Living. Founded by English psychologist Herbert Sutcliffe in the 1930s and active until the early 1980s, the School taught a holistic philosophy of spirituality and physical health. A response to archival material produced by the School, and now held by the J.C. Beaglehole Room at Victoria University Library, Wellington, Pursuit of an Ideal includes a wealth of ephemera in reproduction.

Characteristically, Menzies abstracts from this highly specific reference in order to consider its possible relations to our current situation. The publication imaginatively reconfigures the materials it responds to, collapsing document and invention. In this way, it draws out broader themes; tensions between the individual and the collective, the practical and the ideal, and the persistence of desire in nostalgia and utopian visions.

This publication exists within a larger body of work that includes the installations “Move Your Arms in Circles”, “Letters to Students of the Radiant Life”, and a short film “Peloha” that shows a performance of exercises adapted from the School’s “Physical Culture” manual and that was filmed at the house of the same name (a contraction of “peace, love and harmony”) in Havelock North, the international headquarters of the School. It includes a poster insert and pamphlet featuring a text by Anna Sanderson which was first presented with these earlier iterations of this exploration of Radiant Living’s modernist vision.

Text by Anna Sanderson

Published by Clouds

Louise Menzies - Pursuit of an Ideal
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