Sean Kerr’s work exists in an interstice between sculpture, performance, conceptual art and installation, investigating the often-proscriptive boundaries and conventions that regulate fine arts discourse and gallery practice. In particular, Kerr has an axe to grind with the modernist canon, and especially with how the ongoing art historical focus on figures like Colin McCahon and Ralph Hotere draws attention away from other strands of artistic discourse in New Zealand. As influences, Kerr prefers to cite international figures such as Bruce Nauman and Vito Acconci, but also New Zealand performance artists such as Bruce Barber, Peter Roche and Phil Dadson, and postmodernists like Billy Apple.
Kerr’s determination to place physical works in the gallery space is a backhanded jab at the institutions, expectations and identities that surround the idea of sculpture and sculptors. He often builds monumental works that are self-defeating and futile in their grandiosity, such as Digitus Impudicus (2009), a giant pink inflatable finger that deflates when people come near it.
Kerr is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts. In 2010, a major retrospective of his work, Bruce danced if Victoria sang, and Victoria sang; so Bruce danced was shown at Artspace in Auckland and at the University of Auckland’s Gus Fisher Gallery. It was accompanied by a catalogue/artist’s book, Sean Kerr: Bruce is in the garden; so someone is in the garden.