Wednesday, August 5
Sunday, August 2
|1. When I visited my parents a few weeks ago, they passed on a gift from my Boston godmother. Tied up in gorgeous "found" wrapping were two new pairs of socks and a forty(ish) year old set of tarot cards from her mother.|
|2. In Auckland I went to Anna Miles Gallery for the first time and fanned over Lucien Rizos' "street photography" work, especially his spontaneous portraits of people driving cars, which he took from the roadside.|
|3. I was also inspired by the Prestige Lawyers law and consultancy firm who have bases in New Zealand, Taiwan and China. They are playing a super interesting (and totally under the radar) role in connecting China and New Zealand.|
Sunday, July 19
Seeking out the vital bodies in the current Blue Oyster show curated by Georgina Watson is an experience that crosses the disciplines of writing, digital images, sculpture and painting. It is a matter of observing and questioning: is the vitality in the separate bodies of work by the five artists, writers and theorists? Is it in the works’ selection and interactions? Or is it the vital place a show like this takes in the realm of contemporary art in New Zealand?
The vital bodies alluded to in the short poem that stands in for the show’s description seem to be those that exist in moments of tension in nature, just before a drop of water breaks away from a leaf, or before seeds germinate. It is the tension of a beginning — not necessarily of a new life, but of a transition or expansion of a life already in momentum. It is hard to decide, however, if it is this type of vitality that connects each piece or whether the poem is actually an invitation for the gallery goer to step into another realm, another way of thinking.
The first piece I found myself drawn to is the most visually confrontational work in the show. Sam Norton’s two framed screen shots — one of her staring straight on and the other of her hand inserted between the plush cushions of a beige sofa or bed head — are from a film Norton took of herself on her birthday in a hotel room in Samoa. In the first, she looks at the camera in a state of disarray; in the second, her hand inserted into the crevasse between the sofa cushions sexualises the banal sofa.
If Norton’s work alludes to the vagina, this motif has a more explicit, disturbing reappearance as a “giant gaping wound” in Anna Rankin’s text, Get Born Again. Printed and placed on the wall beside Norton’s images, Rankin’s poetry leads to a reinterpretation of the entertaining perplexity and sensuality found in Norton’s work. The power of Rankin’s words taints the exhibition with the deep, resounding pains of being a woman. Holy Child’s emoji-riddled text on the opposite wall also contains a darkness but instead takes a surreal Dunedin as her subject.
With what I interpret as an all-knowing eye and pink lips encircling a mottled green serpent or stream, the vagina takes on a more mystical form in Georgette Brown’s paint and mix-media piece, Painfully Aware at the Moment of Salvation. In the veiny pink and dotted yellow world of Brown’s work, the vagina creature is worshipped by the living and dead as a figure of eternal power and knowledge. Alone, the work may feel overtly ecstatic, but its placement in the show provides another interpretation of femininity that is nicely optimistic.
Initially taking the form of three pages of text on the gallery floor, Wendelien Bakker’s Swimming Pool (like Virginia Overell’s lime- and salt-coated coins “washed” onto the shore of Blue Oyster’s floor) has the potential to remain unnoticed by the gallery goer, who is habituated to looking at things on walls. But Bakker’s work in this show offered the most unexpectedly engaging experience for me, particularly added to by its understatement.
In her text, Bakker describes the process of building a swimming pool just larger than her body in the backyard of her Grey Lynn flat (wonderful photos documenting this can be found online). Her text is evidence of all sorts. It shows the physicality and intricacy of her process but is also evidence of challenging gender roles — interestingly, this is the only work in the show where men have some sort of presence. When buying mortar, Bakker notes, “The man at the counter asked if he could help to put the bag in the car. I tell him I’m walking. It is 25kg. He tells me to have a lot of breaks. I decide not to have any breaks.” In her process, Bakker challenges men who undermine her, peering neighbours and her own body’s endurance to create A Pool of Her Own.
vital bodies traverses a criss-cross of lines that interweave the subtle and explicit, femininity and nature. Georgina Watson has curated an enticing show that requires the gallery goer to engage more deeply, beyond simply being present and browsing, and instead, to seek, inspect, interpret.
Article first published here
Thursday, July 16
Art galleries are my sanctuaries. They are perfect places for quiet reflection and interesting interactions with created pieces or performances. However, I do have my off days. These are the kind of days where the sky seems an extra, disturbing tint of yellow or when it feels like everyone in the city has disappeared elsewhere, abandoning me. On these days, the gallery can turn from an escape into a surreal, frustrating place.
Whether you are having an on or off day — or are simply in a new place — I have devised a few tips for how to go to an art gallery and what to do once inside.
1) Find the art gallery.
Sometimes art galleries are obvious, planted directly in the city centre with big signs out the front. But finding the smaller spaces run by volunteers, or only one or two paid staff, often requires a complex process of locating a vague address online, then realising the gallery’s website was last updated two years ago and its opening times are obscure. Finding galleries then become like hunting down a runaway, highly strung teenager and requires of you the patience of a saint.
2) Enter the gallery.
Galleries may seem simple to enter — walking through automatic sliding doors or using door handles are rather instinctive to us — but be alert. The sudden tension between you (the “gallery goer”), the attendant, another gallery goer and sometimes even an artist lingering in a distant corner has been known to cause an anxiety so fierce that one might suddenly desperately need air, a toilet or a hole to hide in. But, in the smaller spaces, there is no turning back!
Even worse than this tension is when no one seems to be in the gallery whatsoever. This happens regularly, and it still remains an unexpectedly haunting experience. Many questions go through your mind: is the gallery closed? am I trespassing and therefore a criminal? am I being watched? am I the art? is the attendant going to suddenly appear around a corner and are we going to give each other a huge fright then simultaneously apologise and try to forget it all happened?
Also, be prepared for the silence. The world’s quietest room is said to drive a human crazy or make them hallucinate in under thirty minutes. While gallery spaces are not usually built with “no echo” technology, any sound you make in a gallery is, somehow, crude and exaggerated. Of course, you can decide your nose sniffs are your right, but I once followed a person who came down with a serious bout of hiccups through three different rooms of a large gallery in Japan. They bravely walked on while everyone around them quietly went through perplexion, anguish and hysterical contained laughter.
Take several breaths and quietly congratulate yourself for getting this far.
3) Find the art.
Contemporary art no longer consists entirely of big oil paintings in gold gilt frames made by horny old men who have taken hot girls as their subject matter and sources for revitalising their long-buried youth. Now art is...anything, really. And because of eccentric curators and boundary-pushing artists, art is not always easy to find. Sometimes a gallery goer can find themselves staring for ten minutes at the gallery’s closed bathroom door. After what seems like a cyclic inner monologue, desperately reminding yourself that art is about the process and ideas now and vaguely considering what you will eat for dinner tonight, you decide you have spent enough time on the piece and move on. As you move on, you hear a toilet flush and the attendant walks out. Red in the face, you start to walk away from the door, but a small text on the wall catches your eye: Bathroom Door (2015). And then it clicks, absolutely everything in your entire life falls into place! It was art, it’s all art!
4) Leave the art gallery.
After going through this explorative process, don’t forget to leave the art gallery. Hone that inspiration and start your own practice. You are an “artiste” now.
My article first appear on Critic, here.
Tuesday, July 7
|Photos from Fresh and Fruity's The Waiting Room / Severine Costa|
What is Fresh and Fruity? And who are the people behind it?
Fresh and Fruity is a sexy new look. It is a social media spectacle with a physical location run by a collective in Dunedin. The collective consists of Hana Aoake, Mya Middleton, Severine Costa, Alannah Kwant and Kimmi Rindel. We are constantly challenging the relevance of having a hierarchy or ‘directors’ and finding new ways to work as a collective. Although, currently, Mya and Hana are our joint brand strategists and content editors.
How is Fresh and Fruity both original and a sexy new look?
Fresh and Fruity is a reflection of lifestyle imagery. It is a simulacra of capitalist ideals and the problems within the art world. Fresh and Fruity is intended to offer a challenge to the white cube gallery system which is inherently faux progressive and exists between the same power structures which operate within corporate spheres. Fresh and Fruity is an appropriation, a copy and will never be concerned with being ‘original’ because originality does not exist.
How is it different to gallery spaces in Dunedin? Did you start it in response to a gap or frustrations with the typical gallery process/display?
It was formed in mid-2014 by Hana Aoake and Zach Williams in response to issues around branding and lifestyle imagery and the way corporate motives merge onto art spheres. It also happened because of chance or rather the availability of the space within their studio. It has morphed into a bridging space — offering young women the chance to gain skills and experience by having shows and hosting them. Fresh and Fruity aims to create space for people who are both excluded and exploited within the art world and market, especially under a neo-colonial capitalist framework.
What challenges you as a space and a concept?
Finding ways to negate corporate art markets while maintaining a space and practice with zero budget is always a challenge. However, having a heavy online presence is incredibly useful in terms of constructing Fresh and Fruity as a space for contemporary art, a collective and a ‘lifestyle brand’. We are interested in the disappearance of ‘capitalist subjectivity’ through the use of language and imagery in social media.
What part does social media play in your practices and the running of Fresh and Fruity?
Corporatised social media is key to Fresh and Fruity’s practice. Our shows are all heavily documented to alleviate geographical distances between audiences and artist. Fresh and Fruity is also committed to having an expansive audience that operates between a url and irl format. We are interested in social media as a tool for communication. Online engagement makes up around 65 percent of our audience and allows for an experience of an artwork regardless of location and in intimate spaces such as one’s bedroom.
Are there artists and/or galleries that really excite you in New Zealand? Why/why not?
The Blue Oyster Art Project Space really excites us — we may sound biased as they have been a big helping hand in our ongoing existence, but they are consistently facilitating intriguing shows and open to challenging and critiquing the art system. They are also one of a few non-commercial galleries in Dunedin. We are also interested in North Projects in Christchurch, Enjoy in Wellington, Gertrude Contemporary in Melbourne and projects like Hapori in Auckland. We are interested in curatorial practices which operate between, yet challenge and critique, the ways in which art functions.
Are you able to describe current/upcoming projects?
One of our upcoming projects is with artist Sarah Kelleher (Misfit Mod), an electronic musician from Christchurch who will be holding an electronic music workshop for women in late July at Fresh and Fruity. We have a project at YES Collective in Auckland this month called Title title what’s a title and will be part of an event at St PAUL St Gallery, also in Auckland, called Prepersonal, transpersonal and personal, which has been organised by Georgina Watson. In November we are participating in two projects; one is in the participatory section of the Feminisms in Aotearoa show at Enjoy Gallery in Wellington, and the other is the trans/forming feminisms: media, technology, identity conference at the University of Otago.
Friday, June 26
Curiosity is one of the best traits a person can have but sometimes it creates trouble and other times it creates massive detours. Great Barrier Island is incredibly quiet during the winter, which gives Mum the perfect opportunity to take a closer look into gardens, homes...odd (phallic?) alien plants.
Friday, June 19
Fin's room is filled with crates of his collected vinyl, which I often admire simply for their beautiful sleeve artworks. But after a few conversations about his records, I realised how much I valued his appreciation for collecting and the research and passion he puts into his choices. We sat down to talk about vinyl and listen to two songs (below) that Fin has given a lot of deck time.
What made you become interested in DJing?
I often watched videos on YouTube of live DJs but I didn't have a clue what they were doing, so I bought a mini DJ controller in my first year of uni - you can plug an iPod into it and play two songs at once. It was really crappy but I was only learning to DJ. I bought these two turntables half a year later. Once I had those, I started collecting records.
Are there a lot of misconceptions that DJs just play songs one after the other?
Well, that's what it is.
Then why do you need all the gear?
There are more convenient ways of DJing, I have just used my laptop. But even though it is a bit more convenient to just use a laptop, you lose the stuff that makes it interesting. DJing is just playing songs but it is the collecting of music, which makes it special when you actually play. The more time you have spent collecting music and listening to it, the more unique an experience you can make it for people when you play.
Say you have a show coming up next week and you have all this music that you've carefully collected and know really well - you're probably going to make a much better experience for the people listening compared to someone who has spent half an hour looking up songs beforehand. It is all about the collecting - and the whole point of collecting vinyl is that it changes how you think about the music. It takes up a lot more time and space but you remember what you have bought compared to just downloading masses of music. When I started out I used to download gigabytes of music from blogs and other websites - it was possible to get a hundred thousand songs in one sitting - but you're just never going to properly listen through that.
But you must have to work pretty hard to get your records - aren't they expensive?
There is a full range. The limitation makes it better as well. If you only have about $50 to spend and are only able to purchase three records, then you will be spending a lot more time choosing to make sure that when you finally pick something, it will be special.
Do you want to continue DJing in the future?
It's definitely a hobby and I'll definitely keep collecting records regardless of what ends up happening.
Can you describe the two records that you are sharing with me today?
I am playing you "Yala" by Rezzett now, which is a record I bought from Japan. This is probably one of my favourite songs of late. It's sort of a dance record - there's a beat behind it - but its atmosphere and textures aren't like typical electronic music. It sounds like there is an electric guitar playing the whole way through, which is different to a lot of house and techno that sounds really electronic and like it's really only made by digital instruments. Rezzett have a fresh approach in both sounds and song structures, which sets them apart from other house artists.
My Vito Ricci record is a full album. The music on the album was recorded in the early 80s, during a time when electronic music had hardly been explored. He's a composer from New York, this is an album of music he hadn't previously released.
Why is this album literally heavier than the Rezzett one?
There are different weights for vinyls and the thicker they are, the deeper the grooves can be, which means the record can reach louder volumes. So the Rezzett vinyl has one song on one side, which gives that song more room and means it can be louder. But the Ricci vinyl has five songs (you can count the rings) on one side, so it will be a bit quieter.
I like how they have listed all the instruments used in the Ricci record.
Yeah, it's pretty honest. It reminds of Aphex Twin's Syro record, which has a printed list that breaks down every pound earned from selling the album - like a journalist's travel expenses from France to London, or venue hire for LA listening party, or postage costs for UK radio promotion mail out
Fin and I plan to continue discussing his record collection over a series of conversations during the second half of the year. Stay tuned.