''The Banana box, that ever-present packaging material, mandatory when packing up a life, shifting house and moving on, provides the framework for 'Reconfiguring', an installation by Sarah Kippenberger and Chris Schreuder.''

That sentence is from the invitation to a new installation of works by artists/photographers Sarah Kippenberger and Chris Schreuder, opening next week at the Shutter Room in Whangārei.

''By filling the gallery with banana boxes the artists have taken photography off the wall, creating a new wall: a moving, changing, malleable wall, one able to be reconfigured at will.''

It's a frame-up, of course, this reporter thinks with a jot of cynicism. Banana boxes?

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"Yes,'' Schreuder cheerfully agrees. ''It's a poor artist thing. We can't afford frames, these boxes are it!''

And, with a frame on the wall, people can't touch it, can't interact or see it from all dimensions, unlike the installation, Schreuder said.

Photographs - small (in size) images from the personal and creative lives of the artists - peer out of, are framed by, the little holes on 100 banana boxes.

Are some of the holes for hands? Is that a joke: hands of bananas? Do these holes represent faces with eyes and a mouth? Were they to allow the fruit inside the boxes to breathe? (Schreuder said she's intrigued with the notion of respiration, of ''circuitry''.)

The holes are small compared to the boxes' size. The viewer has to get in close to see the images, and then wonders if these are really portals. Can one see through them into the inside? Are there contents in the box?

Preparing the installation called Reconfiguring, Chris Schreuder, left, and Sarah Kippenberger.
Preparing the installation called Reconfiguring, Chris Schreuder, left, and Sarah Kippenberger.

More questions arise about the banana boxes. There is much more to the picture.

The photos are snapshots of Kippenberger's and Schreuder's real life times and places, symbols of a personal and creative progression, with glimpses of externality - documents, for example.

''Some of these images and their placement only work as parts and some as a whole. The images must also work from inside the box. There is an element of seeing from the outside in, the inside out,'' Schreuder said.

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And there is no single purpose to the images or the tenet of ''Reconfiguring''.

''Some of it is just picking up and moving stuff, others are about careful choices, packing emotional treasures. This is kind of our baggage, packed up and ready to take to another place. We're ready to move forward,'' Kippenberger said.

In doing that, the artists had to consider what they were comfortable about discarding or leaving.

''We sat over the boxes and talked the way friends might talk over a cuppa,'' Kippenberger said.

''These boxes contain fragments of our lives. They don't define it, but they hold precious parts of us and many other lives.''

The boxes themselves have had former lives. Some are fresh off the boat, so to speak, others have filled the role of the ubiquitous banana box as domestic aid.

The lids have all been turned inside out to mask the boxes' past: pasts which could refer to more universal themes than a disposable commodity used during house-shifting or baggage sifting — exploitation, international trade, banana republics, the food chain, sustainability?

''So they're now a blank canvas but some of them are on at least their third life,'' Kippenberger said.

''There are words on the boxes, like 'Jason's room', 'kitchen', 'books'. The importer's name, the type of bananas that were in them. We know a lot about different banana companies now,'' Schreuder said.

This latest reincarnation of the boxes — as photo frames, as a moveable gallery in 100 parts, as vessels holding snapshots of time and place, symbols of life — is presented to viewers who can choose to be strangers looking on or can actively engage with the show.

The boxes can be stacked, creating a wall on which the photos are hung. They can be moved to create rooms. They can be lined up or stacked so the personalities, images and words on them change contexts and relationships.

''The intention is to be able to reconfigure it,'' Kippenberger said.

''We're curious about that from a social experiment point of view, too. Are people going to engage with them according to what's on the boxes, for instance if the images have a melancholy theme, or landscape, or water.

''Are they going to make collections or break them up. Are they going to build forts or remove walls?''

Back to the exhibition blurb: ''The groupings are temporary, impermanent, ephemeral; their configuration at any given moment is as fleeting as our time on earth. Change occurs all around us, and we are compelled to un-box and re-examine, to find alternative perspectives, to turn baggage into luggage. Or have we just gone bananas?''


• "Reconfiguring" by Sarah Kippenberger and Chris Schreuder, opening Friday, March 29, 4pm-7pm, at the Shutter Room, Whangārei. Exhibition from March 27 to April 20.