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Issue , 2014

The Justice Issue

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News

  • Uni Council Election: Meet the Candidates

  • Eye on Exec

  • Campus Digest

  • 4,000 sheeple wake up early. Students advance vote on campus.

  • VUWSA Withdraws From NZUSA

  • Uni Council Election: Meet the Candidates

  • Eye on Exec

  • Campus Digest

  • 4,000 sheeple wake up early. Students advance vote on campus.

  • VUWSA Withdraws From NZUSA

  • JustSpeak Have No Doubt

  • Features

  • chiefjustice

    An Interview with the Chief Justice

    Working from her office above the Supreme Court sits Dame Sian Elias, the Chief Justice of New Zealand. Salient sat down with her to talk about New Zealand’s justice system and what needs to be done to improve it.

    by

  • iftheydidit

    (if) THEY DID IT

    If you’re going to put someone in prison for the rest of their life, you want to be sure they’re responsible for the crime of which they’re accused. But how can you ever be sure? And what happens if you get it wrong?

    by

  • barredballots

    Barred Ballots

    We have the eighth-highest imprisonment rate in the OECD, with 8618 people currently servin’ the time for doin’ the crime. Last Saturday, none of these 8000-odd citizens of New Zealand were allowed to vote.

    by

  • alcatraz

    Alcatraz

    Alcatraz isn’t a penitentiary,

    but his dad might be in one.

    by

  • chiefjustice

    An Interview with the Chief Justice

    Working from her office above the Supreme Court sits Dame Sian Elias, the Chief Justice of New Zealand. Salient sat down with her to talk about New Zealand’s justice system and what needs to be done to improve it.

    by

  • iftheydidit

    (if) THEY DID IT

    If you’re going to put someone in prison for the rest of their life, you want to be sure they’re responsible for the crime of which they’re accused. But how can you ever be sure? And what happens if you get it wrong?

    by

  • barredballots

    Barred Ballots

    We have the eighth-highest imprisonment rate in the OECD, with 8618 people currently servin’ the time for doin’ the crime. Last Saturday, none of these 8000-odd citizens of New Zealand were allowed to vote.

    by

  • alcatraz

    Alcatraz

    Alcatraz isn’t a penitentiary,

    but his dad might be in one.

    by

  • From Grad to Bad

    Six months on from his arrest, Tilden reflects on his experiences with justice.

    by

  • Judging the Judges

    Should we be taking responsibility to make sure justice is being served?

    by

  • chiefjustice

    An Interview with the Chief Justice

    Working from her office above the Supreme Court sits Dame Sian Elias, the Chief Justice of New Zealand. Salient sat down with her to talk about New Zealand’s justice system and what needs to be done to improve it.

    by

  • iftheydidit

    (if) THEY DID IT

    If you’re going to put someone in prison for the rest of their life, you want to be sure they’re responsible for the crime of which they’re accused. But how can you ever be sure? And what happens if you get it wrong?

    by

  • barredballots

    Barred Ballots

    We have the eighth-highest imprisonment rate in the OECD, with 8618 people currently servin’ the time for doin’ the crime. Last Saturday, none of these 8000-odd citizens of New Zealand were allowed to vote.

    by

  • alcatraz

    Alcatraz

    Alcatraz isn’t a penitentiary,

    but his dad might be in one.

    by

  • chiefjustice

    An Interview with the Chief Justice

    Working from her office above the Supreme Court sits Dame Sian Elias, the Chief Justice of New Zealand. Salient sat down with her to talk about New Zealand’s justice system and what needs to be done to improve it.

    by

  • iftheydidit

    (if) THEY DID IT

    If you’re going to put someone in prison for the rest of their life, you want to be sure they’re responsible for the crime of which they’re accused. But how can you ever be sure? And what happens if you get it wrong?

    by

  • barredballots

    Barred Ballots

    We have the eighth-highest imprisonment rate in the OECD, with 8618 people currently servin’ the time for doin’ the crime. Last Saturday, none of these 8000-odd citizens of New Zealand were allowed to vote.

    by

  • alcatraz

    Alcatraz

    Alcatraz isn’t a penitentiary,

    but his dad might be in one.

    by

  • From Grad to Bad

    Six months on from his arrest, Tilden reflects on his experiences with justice.

    by

  • Judging the Judges

    Should we be taking responsibility to make sure justice is being served?

    by

  • Opinion

  • Arts and Science

  • An Unauthorised Audio Tour of Te Papa [Review]

    4.5 stars

    Binge Culture are well known among Wellington theatre circles for producing unorthodox yet thoroughly entertaining theatre. Comprised of Rachel Baker, Joel Baxendale, Simon Haren, Fiona McNamara, Claire O’Loughlin and Ralph Upton, they are currently aiming to raise enough money to take some of their work to a New Zealand performance festival in New York next year.

    The work Binge Culture makes often subverts what one would expect when they see theatre. The passive element of simply sitting back and watching a story unfold in front of you vanishes. Their theatre is interactive, challenging, and requires a certain amount of confidence to really enjoy what you’re both watching and, in a lot of cases, interacting with. In Whales, one of their most well-known works, they require the audience members to actually bathe the ‘whales’ to keep them alive.

    This time, Joel and Ralph have created an alternative piece of theatre called An Unauthorised Audio Tour of Te Papa. It requires the participant to do all of the work. They narrate the listener through a 40-minute walking tour of floors four, five and six of the national museum. The great part about this work is Joel and Ralph have subverted what one would expect with an audio tour – to passively stroll around, match up the required listening to the corresponding exhibitions and nod if you find something interesting.

    The listener doesn’t focus their attention on the actual exhibitions, but instead towards the more mundane aspects of the museum. That may not sound like something that would be funny, but it really is. Joel and Ralph’s wonderfully deadpan commentary guided me through the tour. I found myself doing things that I would have never have contemplated if I wasn’t obeying their instructions.

    I found myself laughing out loud as I walked through Te Papa on a Tuesday morning, with the café full of parents and senior citizens, and the lobby full of children. I wasn’t even near any of the works and exhibitions. In fact, I was completely ignoring what they had on display. I must have looked like a fool to anyone who was watching me. However, at that point, I didn’t care. I was enjoying the audio tour too much to care if anyone found me strange for laughing out loud in random spaces. That is what is required with most of Binge Culture’s work. If you’re too afraid of what people will think or doing it wrong, it detracts from the experience.

    As I said before, a large amount of confidence is required to really appreciate Binge Culture’s work. They push the boundaries of theatrical production and audience interaction and throw the audience members out of any perceived comfort zone they place themselves in when watching a show. They require you to participate and experience theatre rather than simply observe it. If you are going to download and take their unauthorised tour of Te Papa, be prepared to run around the exhibitions, stare at the tiles on the observation deck and take more interest in the facilities than the content of the museum. But if you do, An Unauthorised Audio Tour of Te Papa is hilarious and brilliant. Binge once again prove why they are worthy of their many awards and accolades by creating a piece of interactive theatre that requires the participant to do all the work, yet gain the most enjoyment out of it.

    Like all of Binge’s work, don’t be afraid to take part. The experience is far more enjoyable if you do. Don’t forget: if you see something on the ground, pick it up. And watch out for the red shirts.

    To download the Unauthorised Audio Tour of Te Papa, visit Binge Culture’s website. The suggested koha donation is $10. If you want to help get New Zealand theatre all the way to New York, visit http://www.boosted.org.nz/projects/new-performance-new-york and donate.

    by

  • Objects Breaking Apart: an interview with Dr Gerald Smith

    The story goes like this. During exile on Saint Helena, Napoleon lived in a lodge lined with a particular kind of green wallpaper. The dye used in the wallpaper contained arsenic which reacted to the humid conditions of the island and contributed to the illness which eventually killed him.

    The story is false. The amount of arsenic in the wallpaper was comparatively low by contemporary standards. In 2008, researchers analysed samples of Napoleon’s hair from throughout his life and found levels had remained relatively high since childhood. It is more likely that he died of a combination of a peptic ulcer and gastric cancer.

    The story was told to me by Dr Gerald Smith, not in an attempt to convince me of its substance, but to demonstrate the ways in which materials can react in certain atmospheres. Dr Smith directs the master’s programme in Heritage Materials Science at Victoria University, which teaches students to identify fundamental chemical processes in the degradation of cultural artefacts, and the ways in which materials can be stabilised and objects preserved.

    Dr Smith, whose research focus is on the chemical makeup of dyes and pigments, initially got involved with heritage sciences after an invitation from a colleague at the British Museum who was preparing to mount an exhibition of taonga.

    “I started out there looking at the degradation of Māori flax that had been dyed with a traditional black dye,’ he tells me, ‘whenever this dye has been used, it degrades the substrate: in this case, the flax fibres.”

    The degradation, he discovered, was the result of the production of acetic acid in the mud-based dye.

    Some things we know by sight: van Gogh’s reds are faded, van Dyck’s browns are smudged, Rembrandt’s whites are darkened and cracked.

    Understanding the chemical processes behind these degradations can aid conservators in treatment. Van Gogh, for instance, used a red lake dye, derived from the roots of madder plant. The pigment is translucent and, when used in combination with a darker, more opaque pigment, creates a deep, rich tone. Lake pigments are also unstable under light. The longer they’re exposed to light, the higher the likelihood the molecules in the pigment will break apart, resulting in the fading of colour.

    “There’s a famous pigment called van Dyck brown,” Dr Smith explains, “which is obtained by charcoal, but it also contains other substances that prevent the drying oil from drying, so those brown pigments tend to bleed.”

    As for Rembrandt, on the surface of The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, there appeared a number of red-orange protrusions. These protrusions are called lead soaps, and are caused by the reaction between the lead white paint, linseed-oil binder, and sulfur in the atmosphere.

    The ethical considerations of conservation are fraught. The question of cleaning lead soaps, for instance, is incredibly contentious. “When you’ve got protrusions like that occurring, abrasion during cleaning could easily upset [the surface].”

    Another issue that emerges is the authenticity of artworks. Our conversation returns to Rembrandt. In 1968, a group of art historians embarked on a 40-year project to assess the 420 known works attributed to Rembrandt across various public and private collections. The aim was to apply exactly the same methods and scrutiny to each work to assess whether they were the product of the artist himself. The plan was contentious: some public and private institutions were reluctant to present their works for analysis. A removal of attribution could knock tens of millions of dollars off the painting’s value.

    One of the most obvious ways chemical analysis of pigments aids in the authentication of works is in its ability to help date the work. Dr Smith tells me the story of the Vinland map:

    “It’s purported to be a map of a pre-Columbian map of North America, and it was bought for a considerable amount of money… but there have been analyses done on some of the pigment, and it’s claimed they’ve used a substance that is synthetic, and was only available post-1950.”

    Authentication is not always so simple. Using synthetic materials is an obvious trap to fall into, he tells me. For works produced in Rembrandt’s studio, their proximity, in terms of their intimacy with the artist and the distance of 300 years, makes authentication a difficult task. “I’ve heard it said,” Smith says, “that it’s impossible to actually prove something’s authentic: the best you can do is to say sometimes that it’s not.”

    The conservator operates in the realm of uncertainty. The decision to intervene means navigating not just the degradation of the material but a range of economic (Is funding for ongoing restoration available? How will restoration affect the monetary value of a work?), ethical (How to ensure alterations are reversible?) and practical considerations of restoration. Analysis of the chemical makeup of the materials can never amount to the elimination of doubt; it can, however, reduce it.

    by

  • The Red Queen [Book Review]

    THE RED QUEEN
    By Gemma Bowker-Wright
    5/5 stars

    I kept looking out my bedroom window as I finished The Red Queen. I live in Kelburn, where the final story in the book is set. Outside my window, there’s this enormous kowhai tree. A spring gale was throwing the little yellow buds against the glass. It was getting dark, but through the branches of the kowhai tree I could make out all the jagged, narrow streets of Kelburn, the same streets where many characters in The Red Queen happen to live.

    It’s not a familiar feeling. A lot of people tend to shy away from books and stories set at home, around the corner, up the coast, or in the dense New Zealand bush. But it’s also the best feeling. The Red Queen is a beautiful book of short stories. Its close proximity to all the places you know, the places where you grew up and went on long car trips with your mum and dad, is startling at first. “Oh – wait, I walk past there every day,” is not something I can say about James Joyce, or Hemingway, or Woolf. It’s refreshing.

    This is Gemma Bowker-Wright’s first collection of short stories. She lives in Wellington (she’d have to – you can tell she knows it by heart) and did her MA at Victoria. Her stories take us all over New Zealand, usually by car, mapping a constellation of points of memory (for her characters, and for us – multiple stories reminded me of driving around the South Island in the rain with my parents when I was little) from Greymouth to the Sounds, across the Cook Strait Ferry, up the Kapiti Coast, up through volcano country. The native bush, or the New Zealand ecosystem, is always looming. Some characters skim through this landscape on the open road. Some venture deep inside it at night, collecting giant wetas and putting them in boxes. It’s not surprising, then, that Bowker-Wright also has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Science. Threads of intricate scientific detail run through the book. Passages of visual, textual description are precise and palpable as if pricked alive by electric shocks: in one story, the horizon is “cutting hills into half-moons”, and one character thinks the Tongariro Crossing is just like “walking across the moon”.

    Not every story is quite so alive, if that’s not a wanky way of describing it. The opening story, for instance, didn’t gel with me. Neither did a couple of ‘love stories’ (for lack of a better category). The protagonists sometimes lost me in their unwillingness to open up to the reader. But other stories struck me speechless, even ones that were slow to get going: like ‘Cowboy’ with its painfully vivid characters, the texture of the landscape in ‘Rock Formations’ and ‘The Takahe’, the chilling ending of ‘Missing’. (After I read ‘Missing’, I blinked rapidly, then had to go back and read it, put it down, and do some breathing exercises).

    In ‘Endangered’, insidious male violence in a small-town community rushes very suddenly to the story’s surface. It’s like something that’s been buried, suddenly dug up by accident, then shoved back below ground where it wrecks lives from beneath the surface.

    In ‘Back to the Sea’, Bowker-Wright’s prose unravels slightly. Not in a bad way. It unrolls like a wave uncoiling, loosening and expanding to fit the mythical stories told to the child by his great-grandmother. When told to remember them, the boy says he’ll try but it feels impossible, “like holding back a mountain of water with my arms.” Somehow, there are stories in this book where characters can’t say the things they mean and everything is tightly wound, coming to the surface in quick, precise bursts – and then stories that are like “a mountain of water”, expanding and contracting at the same time.

    I don’t know how to pin down this writer’s brilliance. There’s a new brilliant thing cropping up in each story. There’s this final passage of the final story, ‘Katherine’, where the character goes outside at midnight and looks around. The garden seems to come alive. It’s so poetic and so lyrical but so precise, lucid: “The verandah awnings look like petrified lace in the darkness.” Petrified lace – goddamn. Moments like these remind me of something out of a Mansfield story, perhaps one set in Karori. Moments like these make this debut collection truly striking.

    by

  • A Neo-Noir Wunderkind [Film Review]

    Only true film connoisseurs could grasp the beauty of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. A journey into neo-noir, the postmodern contemporaneous form of film noir. ‘Noir’ meaning ‘black’ in français. ‘Black’ meaning ‘dark and dangerous’. ‘Dangerous’ meaning ‘treacherous’. ‘Treacherous’ meaning ‘the repulsively enigmatic Sin City where everyone is enslaved to the temptation of their inner monster’. “Death is life in Sin City: it always wins.” It’s deep. Let me launch into a panegyric.

    Replete with abhorrent nuances, the film sweeps you into twisted reconnaissance. Riddled with complicated symbolism hinting at overarching themes such as revenge, unreciprocated love and power balances, it took even me some ponderous post-film reflection to realise its profoundness. It brilliantly avoided being histrionic and overheated. Dense with graphic detail and dynamic cinematography, Jessica Alba’s confused inner turmoil truly lept out at you from the screen (possibly facilitated by the presence of 3D glasses). The black-and-white visual commitment was positively resplendent.

    Eva Green is an illustriously seductive femme fatale with successful sultry cajolery of besotted vulnerable men using those bewitching emerald eyes. The men were tripping on lust with her every husky word and nudist rendezvous. The unfortunate circumstance of editing meant these scenes were short and sharp. Mickey Rourke, a fantastical embodiment of the city’s twisted brutality. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was born to play his role, a natural at naïve pursuance of power. Bruce Willis was a phenomenal ghost; he had even me fooled, initially. We are also blessed with the surprise appearance of a pop genius that bolsters the film’s representation of bad romances.

    People may say this film fails to live up to its predecessor; however, this is simply farcical. The vile corruption of this violence-ridden city continues to overwhelm, with the audience swept away by the monochrome form of this visual spectacle. “Sin City’s where you go in with your eyes open, or you don’t come out at all.”

    The Italian Film Festival

    The Italian Film Festival comes to Wellington on 9 October, and will run until the end of the month at the Embassy theatre. The programme contains many prolific, critically acclaimed films. Particularly recommended is Honey (Miele) (director Valeria Golino), which collected a variety of prizes at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. It intimately explores the work of Irene, who helps those with terminal illness to ‘pass on’ outside the law, and the challenges posed to her rigid compliance with a personal set of ethics when a client is suffering from depression rather than life-threatening illness. Others to watch out for are A Special Day (Un giorno speciale) and The Unlikely Prince (Il principe abusivo).

    by

  • Interpol – El Pintor [Album Review]

    Restraint drew me to Interpol. Amid the mess of rock uncertainty in the early 2000s, Interpol found their sound, a synthesis between the sparsity of Joy Division and the danceability of Franz Ferdinand. The songwriting and voice of frontman Paul Banks shined through a sparse rhythm section; vocal melodies and clever lyrics cut between trebly guitars and captivating drum beats. There was a gripping subtlety to Interpol which set them apart.

    So how does the 2014 effort compare with Interpol’s creative peak? Their self-titled 2010 release sounded like a hollow reiteration of the band’s sound without the substance of strong lyricism. El Pintor is a definite improvement on Interpol. Sonically, the album is powerful. Rock veteran Alan Moulder mixed El Pintor, but with vocals and guitars drenched in reverb, it sounds like it was mixed by an ambient producer. Many of the songs crescendo into gigantic layered cathedral-guitar ballads. The listener is treated to the grooves of Sam Fogarino, whose drumming cuts through the loose texture and proves himself again an essential asset to Interpol’s sound. Strong points come when the album expands its harmonic palette – the jazzy chords in the intro of ‘Same Town, New Story’ and the key-changes in ‘Tidal Wave’ both do well to break up riffs which would otherwise seem monotonous.

    But once again, Paul Banks disappoints with his lyricism and his failure to match up to the catchy hooks on Turn on the Bright Lights and Antics. He sings “The Ocean, I could go anywhere! I could go anywhere! So free, my place in the sun, I could go anywhere!” in the chorus to ‘Anywhere’. Maybe these lyrics are ‘deceptively simple’, but to me, they sound like the poetry of an inspired 14-year-old. The vocals almost seem an afterthought when the instrumentation sounds so huge and haunting. Did Banks set himself too much work when he decided to cover bass duties after Carlos Dengler quit the band?

    Overall, the album is extremely listenable and contains an energy not present in Interpol’s last few albums, but as the band tries to develop this new reverb-drenched sound, it fails to give us another ‘Evil’. If you haven’t listened to Interpol before, I suggest you return to Antics.

    3/5

    by

  • Aphex Twin – SYRO [Album Review]

    When Aphex Twin’s last album came out, the world had just fallen apart. I’m not going to pretend that I remember October 2001 all that well, but drukQs probably suited the moment somewhat, a mixture of subtle melancholy and pure chaos. SYRO isn’t as ambitious as anything from Richard’s prime, but it’s still an Aphex Twin album through and through – intricate, unique, and almost organic, like a computer growing flesh.

    Most of the album is ‘drummy’ Aphex, beats colliding and intertwining around some very ’90s-sounding synths. You probably couldn’t really **dance** to this, not without holding an exposed wire, nor could you fall into the kind of introspective trance that Selected Ambient Works Volume II brings on – but while it gets pretty messy, it never really gets scary, not as scary as Richard can go.

    I’m struggling to write about it without referring to his other work, which is a shame. While each track is its own, the lack of vocals and general chaotic consistency between tracks means songs don’t really jump out at you. Opener ‘minipops 67 [120.2] (source field mix)’ starts with drums that propel urgency, but swiftly mellows itself out with pitch-shifted nonsense and a very comforting synth or four. No movement really stays around long enough to get comfortable, and no time signature present seems remotely playable, at least until the beautiful last track, ‘aisatsana [102]’, a hauntingly minimal piano piece, played of course by a robot-piano (when playing live, he swings it from the ceiling) rather than Richard himself.

    According to his first interview in many years, robotic instruments feature on quite a large amount of the album, as he really likes the idea of taking computerised sounds out into the real world and back in again. Why sample a snare hit when you can make a robot hit a snare whenever you want?

    SYRO is a worthy addition to the Aphex canon, and a whole lot of fun. With any luck, we’ll have Selected Ambient Works Volume III before the decade is out.

    4/5

    by

  • An Unauthorised Audio Tour of Te Papa [Review]

    4.5 stars

    Binge Culture are well known among Wellington theatre circles for producing unorthodox yet thoroughly entertaining theatre. Comprised of Rachel Baker, Joel Baxendale, Simon Haren, Fiona McNamara, Claire O’Loughlin and Ralph Upton, they are currently aiming to raise enough money to take some of their work to a New Zealand performance festival in New York next year.

    The work Binge Culture makes often subverts what one would expect when they see theatre. The passive element of simply sitting back and watching a story unfold in front of you vanishes. Their theatre is interactive, challenging, and requires a certain amount of confidence to really enjoy what you’re both watching and, in a lot of cases, interacting with. In Whales, one of their most well-known works, they require the audience members to actually bathe the ‘whales’ to keep them alive.

    This time, Joel and Ralph have created an alternative piece of theatre called An Unauthorised Audio Tour of Te Papa. It requires the participant to do all of the work. They narrate the listener through a 40-minute walking tour of floors four, five and six of the national museum. The great part about this work is Joel and Ralph have subverted what one would expect with an audio tour – to passively stroll around, match up the required listening to the corresponding exhibitions and nod if you find something interesting.

    The listener doesn’t focus their attention on the actual exhibitions, but instead towards the more mundane aspects of the museum. That may not sound like something that would be funny, but it really is. Joel and Ralph’s wonderfully deadpan commentary guided me through the tour. I found myself doing things that I would have never have contemplated if I wasn’t obeying their instructions.

    I found myself laughing out loud as I walked through Te Papa on a Tuesday morning, with the café full of parents and senior citizens, and the lobby full of children. I wasn’t even near any of the works and exhibitions. In fact, I was completely ignoring what they had on display. I must have looked like a fool to anyone who was watching me. However, at that point, I didn’t care. I was enjoying the audio tour too much to care if anyone found me strange for laughing out loud in random spaces. That is what is required with most of Binge Culture’s work. If you’re too afraid of what people will think or doing it wrong, it detracts from the experience.

    As I said before, a large amount of confidence is required to really appreciate Binge Culture’s work. They push the boundaries of theatrical production and audience interaction and throw the audience members out of any perceived comfort zone they place themselves in when watching a show. They require you to participate and experience theatre rather than simply observe it. If you are going to download and take their unauthorised tour of Te Papa, be prepared to run around the exhibitions, stare at the tiles on the observation deck and take more interest in the facilities than the content of the museum. But if you do, An Unauthorised Audio Tour of Te Papa is hilarious and brilliant. Binge once again prove why they are worthy of their many awards and accolades by creating a piece of interactive theatre that requires the participant to do all the work, yet gain the most enjoyment out of it.

    Like all of Binge’s work, don’t be afraid to take part. The experience is far more enjoyable if you do. Don’t forget: if you see something on the ground, pick it up. And watch out for the red shirts.

    To download the Unauthorised Audio Tour of Te Papa, visit Binge Culture’s website. The suggested koha donation is $10. If you want to help get New Zealand theatre all the way to New York, visit http://www.boosted.org.nz/projects/new-performance-new-york and donate.

    by

  • Objects Breaking Apart: an interview with Dr Gerald Smith

    The story goes like this. During exile on Saint Helena, Napoleon lived in a lodge lined with a particular kind of green wallpaper. The dye used in the wallpaper contained arsenic which reacted to the humid conditions of the island and contributed to the illness which eventually killed him.

    The story is false. The amount of arsenic in the wallpaper was comparatively low by contemporary standards. In 2008, researchers analysed samples of Napoleon’s hair from throughout his life and found levels had remained relatively high since childhood. It is more likely that he died of a combination of a peptic ulcer and gastric cancer.

    The story was told to me by Dr Gerald Smith, not in an attempt to convince me of its substance, but to demonstrate the ways in which materials can react in certain atmospheres. Dr Smith directs the master’s programme in Heritage Materials Science at Victoria University, which teaches students to identify fundamental chemical processes in the degradation of cultural artefacts, and the ways in which materials can be stabilised and objects preserved.

    Dr Smith, whose research focus is on the chemical makeup of dyes and pigments, initially got involved with heritage sciences after an invitation from a colleague at the British Museum who was preparing to mount an exhibition of taonga.

    “I started out there looking at the degradation of Māori flax that had been dyed with a traditional black dye,’ he tells me, ‘whenever this dye has been used, it degrades the substrate: in this case, the flax fibres.”

    The degradation, he discovered, was the result of the production of acetic acid in the mud-based dye.

    Some things we know by sight: van Gogh’s reds are faded, van Dyck’s browns are smudged, Rembrandt’s whites are darkened and cracked.

    Understanding the chemical processes behind these degradations can aid conservators in treatment. Van Gogh, for instance, used a red lake dye, derived from the roots of madder plant. The pigment is translucent and, when used in combination with a darker, more opaque pigment, creates a deep, rich tone. Lake pigments are also unstable under light. The longer they’re exposed to light, the higher the likelihood the molecules in the pigment will break apart, resulting in the fading of colour.

    “There’s a famous pigment called van Dyck brown,” Dr Smith explains, “which is obtained by charcoal, but it also contains other substances that prevent the drying oil from drying, so those brown pigments tend to bleed.”

    As for Rembrandt, on the surface of The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, there appeared a number of red-orange protrusions. These protrusions are called lead soaps, and are caused by the reaction between the lead white paint, linseed-oil binder, and sulfur in the atmosphere.

    The ethical considerations of conservation are fraught. The question of cleaning lead soaps, for instance, is incredibly contentious. “When you’ve got protrusions like that occurring, abrasion during cleaning could easily upset [the surface].”

    Another issue that emerges is the authenticity of artworks. Our conversation returns to Rembrandt. In 1968, a group of art historians embarked on a 40-year project to assess the 420 known works attributed to Rembrandt across various public and private collections. The aim was to apply exactly the same methods and scrutiny to each work to assess whether they were the product of the artist himself. The plan was contentious: some public and private institutions were reluctant to present their works for analysis. A removal of attribution could knock tens of millions of dollars off the painting’s value.

    One of the most obvious ways chemical analysis of pigments aids in the authentication of works is in its ability to help date the work. Dr Smith tells me the story of the Vinland map:

    “It’s purported to be a map of a pre-Columbian map of North America, and it was bought for a considerable amount of money… but there have been analyses done on some of the pigment, and it’s claimed they’ve used a substance that is synthetic, and was only available post-1950.”

    Authentication is not always so simple. Using synthetic materials is an obvious trap to fall into, he tells me. For works produced in Rembrandt’s studio, their proximity, in terms of their intimacy with the artist and the distance of 300 years, makes authentication a difficult task. “I’ve heard it said,” Smith says, “that it’s impossible to actually prove something’s authentic: the best you can do is to say sometimes that it’s not.”

    The conservator operates in the realm of uncertainty. The decision to intervene means navigating not just the degradation of the material but a range of economic (Is funding for ongoing restoration available? How will restoration affect the monetary value of a work?), ethical (How to ensure alterations are reversible?) and practical considerations of restoration. Analysis of the chemical makeup of the materials can never amount to the elimination of doubt; it can, however, reduce it.

    by

  • The Red Queen [Book Review]

    THE RED QUEEN
    By Gemma Bowker-Wright
    5/5 stars

    I kept looking out my bedroom window as I finished The Red Queen. I live in Kelburn, where the final story in the book is set. Outside my window, there’s this enormous kowhai tree. A spring gale was throwing the little yellow buds against the glass. It was getting dark, but through the branches of the kowhai tree I could make out all the jagged, narrow streets of Kelburn, the same streets where many characters in The Red Queen happen to live.

    It’s not a familiar feeling. A lot of people tend to shy away from books and stories set at home, around the corner, up the coast, or in the dense New Zealand bush. But it’s also the best feeling. The Red Queen is a beautiful book of short stories. Its close proximity to all the places you know, the places where you grew up and went on long car trips with your mum and dad, is startling at first. “Oh – wait, I walk past there every day,” is not something I can say about James Joyce, or Hemingway, or Woolf. It’s refreshing.

    This is Gemma Bowker-Wright’s first collection of short stories. She lives in Wellington (she’d have to – you can tell she knows it by heart) and did her MA at Victoria. Her stories take us all over New Zealand, usually by car, mapping a constellation of points of memory (for her characters, and for us – multiple stories reminded me of driving around the South Island in the rain with my parents when I was little) from Greymouth to the Sounds, across the Cook Strait Ferry, up the Kapiti Coast, up through volcano country. The native bush, or the New Zealand ecosystem, is always looming. Some characters skim through this landscape on the open road. Some venture deep inside it at night, collecting giant wetas and putting them in boxes. It’s not surprising, then, that Bowker-Wright also has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Science. Threads of intricate scientific detail run through the book. Passages of visual, textual description are precise and palpable as if pricked alive by electric shocks: in one story, the horizon is “cutting hills into half-moons”, and one character thinks the Tongariro Crossing is just like “walking across the moon”.

    Not every story is quite so alive, if that’s not a wanky way of describing it. The opening story, for instance, didn’t gel with me. Neither did a couple of ‘love stories’ (for lack of a better category). The protagonists sometimes lost me in their unwillingness to open up to the reader. But other stories struck me speechless, even ones that were slow to get going: like ‘Cowboy’ with its painfully vivid characters, the texture of the landscape in ‘Rock Formations’ and ‘The Takahe’, the chilling ending of ‘Missing’. (After I read ‘Missing’, I blinked rapidly, then had to go back and read it, put it down, and do some breathing exercises).

    In ‘Endangered’, insidious male violence in a small-town community rushes very suddenly to the story’s surface. It’s like something that’s been buried, suddenly dug up by accident, then shoved back below ground where it wrecks lives from beneath the surface.

    In ‘Back to the Sea’, Bowker-Wright’s prose unravels slightly. Not in a bad way. It unrolls like a wave uncoiling, loosening and expanding to fit the mythical stories told to the child by his great-grandmother. When told to remember them, the boy says he’ll try but it feels impossible, “like holding back a mountain of water with my arms.” Somehow, there are stories in this book where characters can’t say the things they mean and everything is tightly wound, coming to the surface in quick, precise bursts – and then stories that are like “a mountain of water”, expanding and contracting at the same time.

    I don’t know how to pin down this writer’s brilliance. There’s a new brilliant thing cropping up in each story. There’s this final passage of the final story, ‘Katherine’, where the character goes outside at midnight and looks around. The garden seems to come alive. It’s so poetic and so lyrical but so precise, lucid: “The verandah awnings look like petrified lace in the darkness.” Petrified lace – goddamn. Moments like these remind me of something out of a Mansfield story, perhaps one set in Karori. Moments like these make this debut collection truly striking.

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  • A Neo-Noir Wunderkind [Film Review]

    Only true film connoisseurs could grasp the beauty of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. A journey into neo-noir, the postmodern contemporaneous form of film noir. ‘Noir’ meaning ‘black’ in français. ‘Black’ meaning ‘dark and dangerous’. ‘Dangerous’ meaning ‘treacherous’. ‘Treacherous’ meaning ‘the repulsively enigmatic Sin City where everyone is enslaved to the temptation of their inner monster’. “Death is life in Sin City: it always wins.” It’s deep. Let me launch into a panegyric.

    Replete with abhorrent nuances, the film sweeps you into twisted reconnaissance. Riddled with complicated symbolism hinting at overarching themes such as revenge, unreciprocated love and power balances, it took even me some ponderous post-film reflection to realise its profoundness. It brilliantly avoided being histrionic and overheated. Dense with graphic detail and dynamic cinematography, Jessica Alba’s confused inner turmoil truly lept out at you from the screen (possibly facilitated by the presence of 3D glasses). The black-and-white visual commitment was positively resplendent.

    Eva Green is an illustriously seductive femme fatale with successful sultry cajolery of besotted vulnerable men using those bewitching emerald eyes. The men were tripping on lust with her every husky word and nudist rendezvous. The unfortunate circumstance of editing meant these scenes were short and sharp. Mickey Rourke, a fantastical embodiment of the city’s twisted brutality. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was born to play his role, a natural at naïve pursuance of power. Bruce Willis was a phenomenal ghost; he had even me fooled, initially. We are also blessed with the surprise appearance of a pop genius that bolsters the film’s representation of bad romances.

    People may say this film fails to live up to its predecessor; however, this is simply farcical. The vile corruption of this violence-ridden city continues to overwhelm, with the audience swept away by the monochrome form of this visual spectacle. “Sin City’s where you go in with your eyes open, or you don’t come out at all.”

    The Italian Film Festival

    The Italian Film Festival comes to Wellington on 9 October, and will run until the end of the month at the Embassy theatre. The programme contains many prolific, critically acclaimed films. Particularly recommended is Honey (Miele) (director Valeria Golino), which collected a variety of prizes at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. It intimately explores the work of Irene, who helps those with terminal illness to ‘pass on’ outside the law, and the challenges posed to her rigid compliance with a personal set of ethics when a client is suffering from depression rather than life-threatening illness. Others to watch out for are A Special Day (Un giorno speciale) and The Unlikely Prince (Il principe abusivo).

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  • Interpol – El Pintor [Album Review]

    Restraint drew me to Interpol. Amid the mess of rock uncertainty in the early 2000s, Interpol found their sound, a synthesis between the sparsity of Joy Division and the danceability of Franz Ferdinand. The songwriting and voice of frontman Paul Banks shined through a sparse rhythm section; vocal melodies and clever lyrics cut between trebly guitars and captivating drum beats. There was a gripping subtlety to Interpol which set them apart.

    So how does the 2014 effort compare with Interpol’s creative peak? Their self-titled 2010 release sounded like a hollow reiteration of the band’s sound without the substance of strong lyricism. El Pintor is a definite improvement on Interpol. Sonically, the album is powerful. Rock veteran Alan Moulder mixed El Pintor, but with vocals and guitars drenched in reverb, it sounds like it was mixed by an ambient producer. Many of the songs crescendo into gigantic layered cathedral-guitar ballads. The listener is treated to the grooves of Sam Fogarino, whose drumming cuts through the loose texture and proves himself again an essential asset to Interpol’s sound. Strong points come when the album expands its harmonic palette – the jazzy chords in the intro of ‘Same Town, New Story’ and the key-changes in ‘Tidal Wave’ both do well to break up riffs which would otherwise seem monotonous.

    But once again, Paul Banks disappoints with his lyricism and his failure to match up to the catchy hooks on Turn on the Bright Lights and Antics. He sings “The Ocean, I could go anywhere! I could go anywhere! So free, my place in the sun, I could go anywhere!” in the chorus to ‘Anywhere’. Maybe these lyrics are ‘deceptively simple’, but to me, they sound like the poetry of an inspired 14-year-old. The vocals almost seem an afterthought when the instrumentation sounds so huge and haunting. Did Banks set himself too much work when he decided to cover bass duties after Carlos Dengler quit the band?

    Overall, the album is extremely listenable and contains an energy not present in Interpol’s last few albums, but as the band tries to develop this new reverb-drenched sound, it fails to give us another ‘Evil’. If you haven’t listened to Interpol before, I suggest you return to Antics.

    3/5

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  • Aphex Twin – SYRO [Album Review]

    When Aphex Twin’s last album came out, the world had just fallen apart. I’m not going to pretend that I remember October 2001 all that well, but drukQs probably suited the moment somewhat, a mixture of subtle melancholy and pure chaos. SYRO isn’t as ambitious as anything from Richard’s prime, but it’s still an Aphex Twin album through and through – intricate, unique, and almost organic, like a computer growing flesh.

    Most of the album is ‘drummy’ Aphex, beats colliding and intertwining around some very ’90s-sounding synths. You probably couldn’t really **dance** to this, not without holding an exposed wire, nor could you fall into the kind of introspective trance that Selected Ambient Works Volume II brings on – but while it gets pretty messy, it never really gets scary, not as scary as Richard can go.

    I’m struggling to write about it without referring to his other work, which is a shame. While each track is its own, the lack of vocals and general chaotic consistency between tracks means songs don’t really jump out at you. Opener ‘minipops 67 [120.2] (source field mix)’ starts with drums that propel urgency, but swiftly mellows itself out with pitch-shifted nonsense and a very comforting synth or four. No movement really stays around long enough to get comfortable, and no time signature present seems remotely playable, at least until the beautiful last track, ‘aisatsana [102]’, a hauntingly minimal piano piece, played of course by a robot-piano (when playing live, he swings it from the ceiling) rather than Richard himself.

    According to his first interview in many years, robotic instruments feature on quite a large amount of the album, as he really likes the idea of taking computerised sounds out into the real world and back in again. Why sample a snare hit when you can make a robot hit a snare whenever you want?

    SYRO is a worthy addition to the Aphex canon, and a whole lot of fun. With any luck, we’ll have Selected Ambient Works Volume III before the decade is out.

    4/5

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  • About the Author ()

    Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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