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Issue 19, 2016

Surveillance

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News

  • Fun News

  • Now you can scab free wi-fi at Uncle John’s house

  • Another university crumbling to the ground

  • Women saying no to UC

  • Student homelessness

  • Unsustainable hypocrisy at Te Aro campus

  • Silver Scroll Awards creep closer

  • Scarfie Watch: A Warning to the Wicked

  • VUW makes bank on Karori campus

  • Tension building over contentious extension

  • Assaults in Aro Valley

  • Features

  • AiWeiWei

    The Art of Surveillance

    Art has forever been a process of observing, interpreting, and expressing. The artist may follow a meticulous process, or be subconsciously compelled down the path. Having a strong ability to observe and interpret is what produces art that has lasting effects on societies and movements. As Robert Rauschenberg said, “the artist’s job is to be […]

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  • who owns my data

    Who Owns My Data?  

    These days data collection is everywhere and it is constant. From your Facebook activity to your emails on Gmail, the swipes on your Snapper Card to the bench press reps you record on your fitness app at the gym. In one form or another, all of these technologies are centred on the collection of your […]

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  • PNG

    We See You

      You probably think that it’s too far to even have to care We’ll take a look at where you live what if it happened there? You have to know the urge to make a change lies within And we can be the reason that they see the flag rise again — Drake in “Wavin’ […]

    by

  • AiWeiWei

    The Art of Surveillance

    Art has forever been a process of observing, interpreting, and expressing. The artist may follow a meticulous process, or be subconsciously compelled down the path. Having a strong ability to observe and interpret is what produces art that has lasting effects on societies and movements. As Robert Rauschenberg said, “the artist’s job is to be […]

    by

  • who owns my data

    Who Owns My Data?  

    These days data collection is everywhere and it is constant. From your Facebook activity to your emails on Gmail, the swipes on your Snapper Card to the bench press reps you record on your fitness app at the gym. In one form or another, all of these technologies are centred on the collection of your […]

    by

  • PNG

    We See You

      You probably think that it’s too far to even have to care We’ll take a look at where you live what if it happened there? You have to know the urge to make a change lies within And we can be the reason that they see the flag rise again — Drake in “Wavin’ […]

    by

  • Arts and Science

  • There’s something about Corita

     

    A few facts to begin:

    • I cry in trailers for movies. If I haven’t watched TV in a while, adverts for insurance, milk, and phone plans get me. One time, hungover, a giant back-of-the-bus advertisement for an old peoples home reduced me to tears. I am soft.
    • I spent a (short) time as a born again Christian.
    • My own art work and research interests are invested in a) found text, b) empathy and sincerity, c) feelings.

    It’s not surprising I fell in love with Corita.

    Sister Corita—a Catholic nun, artist, and teacher—is my kinda gal. Her bold colourful screenprints glean their source material from scripture, advertising, music, and pop culture. Quotes from E. E. Cummings, Martin Luther King, and Simon and Garfunkel mingle with those from Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. She sold her work to the people, at markets, stalls, and fundraisers. She shared her craft with people through murals, happenings, and teaching. She was earnest, sincere, clever, political, witty, and quietly radical. She challenged her own faith in a time where the Catholic Church was going through tumultuous change, in the end leaving her ostracised from her community. Her work radiates hope, love, and concern for the world around us. She is unapologetic and completely sincere. I don’t know the last time I felt so… cheerful in a gallery.

    The exhibition is supplemented by a selection of works chosen by City Gallery’s Chief Curator Robert Leonard. The works in these three galleries read like a disclaimer. Don’t get too comfortable in Corita’s cheerful world. This is still a serious art gallery.

    “[Corita] Kent doesn’t fit into the suspicious, conflicted, cynical, agnostic (aka ‘critical’) attitude we associate with contemporary art,” Leonard stresses in his essay. But don’t worry, this is where the curators army of contemporary (male) artists come into their own. Parekowhai’s punny four formica Micha’s, and Michael Stevenson’s willfully naive depiction of small town religious Jesus Saved my Life, and the California Jesus depicted in Boy with the Surfboard Cross are all presented wrapped up in a evangelical soundtrack. In the larger room, placed as an altar piece of sorts is the obligatory McCahon—‘New Zealand’s answer to Corita’. It seems dour and depressing.

    I expected the crew of contemporary artists—their irony, ‘complexities’ etc. But what throws me with these rooms is the three other pieces on display. The non-art or “recent Christian videos featuring kinetic typography.”

    Each room is host to a video work by, respectively, One King Productions, Jake Grochowalski, and beat poet David Bowden. This decision to include these three video pieces in the show has left me torn. On the one hand they represent well the contemporary version of Corita’s commitment to making God ‘cool’ and ‘relevant’. Corita used the language of pop, these guys the language of movie trailers and viral videos. However the difference is intent. Corita was aware of the way in which her work was operating, and being experienced within a ‘contemporary art’ context. These works are presented in a context where they are, almost, being mocked. The videos are sincere, but being used by the curator insincerely. I am just not convinced the producers of these works were under full disclosure of the context in which they were included in the show. And I think that is unfair.

    I left the show mildly bothered, but then again have been back four times. The lack of sincerity on Leonard’s side was irritating but expected, the inclusion of the ‘non-art’ videos morally dubious but ultimately interesting, and the whole thing, although segregated, worked.

    Go see it, it’s good. Take your Catholic aunt, your mum, a child. Feel happy. Hum a Simon and Garfunkel song. Live, Laugh, Love. Buy a postcard. Enjoy it.

    And if you hate that kind of shit or end up getting overwhelmed by joy, go stare at the McCahon.

     

    What’s on this week:

    Circuit Symposium 2016: Phantom Topologies

    Saturday, 10 September

    City Gallery Wellington.

    $40 waged / $20 unwaged

     

     

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  • Fresh Meat

    ★★★★★ (AGAIN) (I KNOW)

    I remember when Skins came out. I remember being 14, on MSN Messenger in a group chat talking to my friends as we watched the first episode. “Oh my god, they’re just like us!” we said as we saw a group of alternative young people. “Oh… a little less like us” we said as they crashed a car into a river and did a lot of hard drugs. Skins was not a relatable show at all, but it wanted to be and ultimately alienating its audience. Fresh Meat is relatable to the point of pain, where you will see all the dumb shit you ever did after high school but live with the knowledge that when you did it it wasn’t funny. The show is written and created by masters of painful relatability Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain of Peep Show and could perhaps be viewed as its more wholesome younger cousin (though no-one eats a dead dog), but it is just as hysterical, bleak, and British.

    The premise sees a group of first year university students miss out on dorms and ending up all living in the same shared house, none of them knowing each other or what they are doing. Everyone is very anxious and stressed out, all while just trying to get to the kitchen to make a fucking cup of tea without having to bump into each other until you’ve all got drunk at your first party and broken the ice a bit. But you’ve got a boyfriend who you cheated on the night before moving in and it turns out it was one of your new housemates that you banged already… and that other one is kind of cute… is that smell weed? And who ate the last of your bread? There’s Josie, a little neurotic and a little bit more of an alcoholic. Kingsley, desperate to be cool and also have sex some time. JP, “utter knobhead” / ”posh twat” who draws dicks on everything. Writer Vod, constantly rolling a spliff. Melissa aka Oregon, who tries too hard and is hiding the fact she has a pony at home. And Howard, Scottish geology student lurking in the shadows, loves a good knitted jumper.

    There’s not a lot to it beyond that, but it’s lovely as heck to watch four seasons of such funny and well-written characters bond with each other as you bond with them. My favourite shows are always the ones with the best character development, because it kind of feels like those characters are your friends and you are simply a person looking through the camera and hanging out with everyone, like an emotional Oculus Rift. The show’s final season just finished airing earlier in the year and I finally got around to watching it this weekend and the last episode hit me pretty hard—I didn’t know any of these people when they all moved into that house and now I don’t want them to leave, even though they eat too loud and never do the dishes. The series almost didn’t get a fourth season, and so I’m happy with the conclusion I got, plus Jack Whitehall’s on Graham Norton a lot so I’ll see him soon, like when you hit up your old flatmates for the weed connects. If you have never seen it, Fresh Meat is a short sweet show with a lot of warmth and cringe and banter. I’m nearly 25 and I’ve never actually been to university, but between flatting, watching four seasons of Fresh Meat, and writing for Salient it almost feels like I have. Cheers.

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  • Well? by Women Aren’t Wolves

    Upon arriving at BATS Theatre a couple of weeks ago, for the performance of Well?, I immediately felt comfortable upon entering The Heyday Dome. The set design, sheets and mesh hanging across the majority of the back wall, welcomed you into the space. The space was almost empty except for a white bath in the centre of the stage. What was most special about the space was the lighting by Tony Black; it felt dream-like, with a great beam of light hitting the bath and a purple tone across the stage. I felt very tranquil, considering knowing the show’s content was going to be deep.

    Well? is a performance shedding light on a rather personal and overlooked topic: mental illness. Director and writer Zoe Joblin combined thirty interviews about the experience of living with mental illness, which Courtney Rose Brown, Annabella Gamboni, and Aimee Smith then performed. These stories were interwoven into three separate narratives, occasionally interacting together.

    As the audience lights dimmed and the show was about to begin, the three women came running in one by one, with a spotlight on each of them as they looked out at the audience. Using their real names as their character names, Aimee began to speak about mental illness, followed by the other two. I was surprised by the style of their entrance; I expected the entrance to follow the warm and inviting experience created by the set. I had expected the audience to slowly be exposed to understanding what wellness and unwellness is and feels like. It seemed we were being thrown right into the deep end.

    Nevertheless, throughout the performance each character gets to share their stories. These are told through movement, words, and sounds, and their only occasional interactions reveal the support they have for each other. The support they showed was beautiful to watch. There were moments of playfulness as well as panic attacks and talks of suicide both together and individually, but it was clear that they were always listening to each other in some way, showing their support for one another.

    There is a climactic scene where Courtney Rose Brown kneels right in front of the audience, rearranging jars, while Aimee talks and Annabella moves around—all individual, yet totally together. The sound of the jars grows, and Brown’s breathing gets heavier, as the other character’s voices and movements increase too. I was sat right in front of Brown, making this scene even more powerful. All I wanted to do was get up and give them all a hug.

    The play shows the audience that wellness and unwellness will always be present, and that we all experience and deal with our thoughts and feelings in different ways, and that this is all okay. Another scene that stood out, one that has stuck with me, was when they spoke about what they do when they are anxious or down. These were things that the 30 people interviewed would have mentioned; from listening to podcasts to entering a space, putting your hands on your hips, and saying, “I’m a powerful woman”—things that myself, and many others, would have made note of for the future. Anyone could have watched Well? and enjoyed it and walked away with something. It was a beautiful show and did indeed shed light on this often disregarded topic. I am sure the play will be back, and when it is, get along to see it because it is well (pun intended) worth the watch!
    WHAT’S ON THIS WEEK?

    Hold Me

    BATS Theatre, The Propeller Stage

    Sep 6-10, 6:30pm

    The Next Best Thing

    BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome

    Sep 1-10, 7:00pm

    Late Night Knife Fight

    BATS Theatre, The Studio

    Sep 10, 9:00pm

    A new monthly improv show where three teams face off in a battle for glory, honour, and the audience’s favour.

    No Post on Sunday

    Circa Theatre

    Aug 27 – Sep 10, 7:30pm

     

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  • No Man’s Sky

    ★★★

    Developer: Hello Games

    Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

    Platform: PS4 (reviewed), PC

     

    In my last piece of 2015, No Man’s Sky was one of the numerous games I was hyped for this year, probably more than anything else. All through the gaming community, the hype for this game was beyond anything I have seen for many years, thanks to a marketing campaign that was all about intrigue and mystery. Vague promises were made of a vast procedurally generated universe to explore, with no two planets (all 18 quintillion of them) exactly alike, and all home to unique flora and fauna. It all looked amazing; to quote myself from 2015, No Man’s Sky would be “an accomplishment if it is even half as good as the hype suggests.”

    Well, is it? And what the hell do you even do?

    No Man’s Sky is an open world survival game with crafting. Yes, like a million cheap knockoffs before it, it’s basically Minecraft in a new setting. If the very idea of “open world survival game with crafting” puts you off, then you’re probably going to hate this game, and I honestly wouldn’t blame you. It has been done to death, and it is an often poor experience.

    Thankfully, this game is more than just a new take on clichéd mechanics, if only just. Rather than plonking you in a random map and telling you to go for it with nowhere else to go, there is a real attempt to make an entire universe out of the experience. You’ll start off on a barren planet at the very edge of the galaxy, with a broken spaceship and a trusty multi-tool. There’s numerous resources to collect, and once you’ve met the requirements to fix your ship, you’re free to explore the galaxy. You have an ultimate goal—to make it to the centre of the universe—but thankfully you don’t have to do that; it’s probably more fun to just fuck around, and there’s a bit of lore that kept me interested.

    The game isn’t exactly a graphical marvel, but its visual aesthetic helped immerse me in the experience almost immediately. With the whole universe filled with pastel colours and soft lighting, it was certainly an experience that was easy on the eyes. This provides a real contrast with more recent releases that, while equally filled with colour, often distract from the rest of the experience by shoving it in your face. The subtlety, combined with an eerie ambient soundtrack, made for a relaxing play session as I bounced around, collecting iron, and looking for signs of life.

    Sadly, as tends to happen with games of its type, mining and crafting can get quite tedious at times, especially if you’re looking for essentials. While there is some combat, the little drones serving as enemies early on aren’t exactly satisfying to bring down, and the rewards may not always be worth it. By far the most fun part of my experience has been flying around in my spaceship, thanks to the accessibility of the controls compared to full-on space simulations. Take my advice: get spaceborne as soon as you can, because you’ll be amazed at just how massive the game’s universe actually is. With a decent trading system, you’ll be able to upgrade your ship and see even more of it.

    I’m pretty sure now that No Man’s Sky could never live up to the hype or fulfil all of its promises, but I still got a fair bit out of the experience. I certainly want to go deeper and reach the centre, but the farthest reaches of space won’t suit everyone.

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  • Eddie the Eagle 

    ★★★★

    Director: Dexter Fletcher

     

    Loosely based on the true story of Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards—the first competitor to represent the UK in Olympic ski jumping and who was famous for persevering as an underdog and being a “heroic failure”—Eddie the Eagle may sound vaguely familiar to many. That’s because it has been in the works since 2007, and went through several iterations before making it onscreen. Directed by Dexter Fletcher, with actor Taron Egerton cast as the main role of Eddie, the film works to capture the essence of this ‘real life’ cast. Hugh Jackman as Bronson Peary, Eddie’s coach, is an entirely fictional character. 

    The film has good acting all round. Egerton is marvellous as Eddie, with an odd walk, defiant chin up (to keep the large glasses from falling off his nose), and a woebegone cast to his mouth. Jackman’s crotchety drunk plays foil to Eddie’s characteristic tenacious naivety, and the relationship between the two unfolds in a charming albeit predictable way. Furthermore, Jo Hartley is delightful in her role as Eddie’s mother, and her sweet, cheeky way of continually bypassing Eddie’s father in support of Eddie is one of the highlights of the film for me.    

    The score enhances viewers’ emotions throughout the film and successfully helps to build tension, while the original 1988 Olympic footage is skilfully interleaved and serves to enrich the scene that it’s in. Terrifying to watch (for me, anyhow), the ski jumping is mesmerising and even Eddie’s comparatively paltry distances seem incredible. The snow-white landscapes in the background only add to the surrealism of people flinging themselves off slopes and falling, utterly straight-backed, through the air… for fun. 

    Eddie the Eagle maintains a cheesy poignancy, which is in tune with the film’s dramedy genre and it successfully walks the line of being ridiculously believable without crossing to the preposterous.

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  • The BFG

    ★★

    Director: Steven Spielberg

     

    It’s a mystery whether Steven Spielberg’s BFG will impress young audiences in the same way that his cinematic offerings to previous generations did. We can assess the commonalities that The BFG has with E.T., Hook, and Jurassic Parkthey’re all surreally good-looking surrealism—but The BFG is boring, and the rest aren’t. 

    If you’re Roald Dahl illiterate, BFG abbreviates Big Friendly Giant. It’s a story about an orphan girl (Sophie) who is kidnapped by a friendly giant (BFG) who is in constant hostility with unfriendly giants, more ‘giant’ than he. The story was read to every class by every primary school teacher ever and, the more I think about it, the more I believe that no one is Roald Dahl illiterate and this paragraph is likely to be cut out by a Salient editor due to its complete irrelevance. 

    I reiterate that the film is a bore, but only for the sequence. You’ve probably seen the trailer and noticed how good the visual effects are, providing the backbone of the film. Within Spielberg’s exceptionally creative and original interpretation of a Dahl universe, the animation presents us with real giants, real environments, and a real sense of danger. The voice acting complements the visual strengths, with Mark Rylace’s peculiar English accent carrying the BFG’s dialogue.

    To justify why The BFG is boring: the sequences just take too long. Either you absorb all the visual spectacle long before the cut, or a joke is so frustratingly augmented and diluted that you wonder if the youngest of viewers will learn to cringe before they walk. Films based on the Dahl stories have always turned into classics. The global fandom would seem to make that an inevitability. If The BFG does make it on the list of classics, it will have to be content on being at the bottom.

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  • Suicide Squad

    ★★★★

    Director: David Ayer

     

    It’s no secret that DC’s cinematic universe hasn’t gotten off to the roaring start that Warner Bros would have hoped for, with their first two big­-budget superhero films, Man of Steel and Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, receiving middling critical and commercial success. Now, critical reviews have come flooding in for Suicide Squad and they are, to put it kindly, not great. This will without a doubt disappoint many DC fans, myself very much included, who were hoping for some critical redemption. The truth is, despite the critical curb-stomp, the film, while not perfect, is still, perhaps arguably, good entertainment.

    Following on from the events of Dawn of Justice, all around government badass Amanda Waller gets approval from the US military to create a covert mission force comprised of the “worst of the worst.” Making up Waller’s covert team is the assassin who never misses—Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) the Joker’s (Jared Leto) former lover who puts psycho in psychotherapist, Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) the squad’s resident hot­head, and old school mutated cannibal Waylon Jones / Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye­Agbaje). Master soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) leads this ragtag group of misfits to defeat the ancient witch, the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne)—who doubles as an archeologist when not being possessed by a mystically deranged witch.

    The characters and cast of Suicide Squad excel. While some characters get more time and focus than others, it becomes clear that director David Ayer clearly understands and cares about all of them. To the surprise of no one, Harley Quinn turns out to be the film’s stand out character. Margot Robbie manages to capture the combination of bubbly excitement and volatile psychosis, all wrapped up in a violent cheerleader look.

    One of the biggest selling points of the film was Jared Leto’s new take on the crown prince of crime. Leto definitely makes the role his own, giving us a take on the Joker that has something the others never did—sexuality. It becomes clear that Joker actually loves Harley (as much as Joker could love anything), showing us a different side to the crown prince and princess relationship. There is never a dull moment when these two are on screen together. The main problem with Joker is that he is barely in the film long enough to leave a truly lasting impression, made even more disappointing by the news that much of his footage was cut.

    Will Smith as Deadshot is the most well defined character in the film, in part due to his love for his daughter and because of Will Smith’s charm in the role. The rest of the squad doesn’t get as much time as I would have liked, but in an ensemble cast that is to be expected.

    The biggest let down is Cara Delevingne as Enchantress; a big misfire for the film. Delevingne does the best with what she is given—unfortunately what she is given is an uninspired, forgettable villain, with a generic plan. This ultimately leaves Delevingne spending the film as either a boring love interest to Kinnaman’s Rick Flag or as a witch with vague powers and a magic ­bikini.

    Ultimately Suicide Squad isn’t likely to win over a new audience, but with all its true-to-form characters, director David Ayer clearly loves DC lore as much as any fanboy.

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  • The Girls

    ★★½

    Author: Emma Cline

    Publisher: Chatto & Windus

     

    What is as good as eating an entire packet of biscuits, one after the other? Reading about cults. It is so much fun. The Girls is a novel with a cult-survivor at its centre. How tasty and delicious will this cult themed offering be?

    Middle-aged protagonist Evie Boyd lives modestly from job to job, not happy but not unhappy. The degenerate tail end of a Hollywood dynasty, Evie can count her friends on one hand, but she isn’t lonely—just a bit sad a lot of the time. Evie is staying for free at a friend’s isolated beach house when the friend’s no-hoper son lumbers in unannounced in the middle of the night with his teen girlfriend in tow. Evie is triggered back in time to 1969 when, as a young teenager in thrall to a beautiful hippy cult member, she came very close to taking part in a murderous home invasion.

    A premise with all the potential for an excellent cult-centred novel, but sadly, the lack of idea and character development is frustrating, despite the talent with language Cline demonstrates. The story shifts back and forth in time between Evie in the present as a dissatisfied adult, in the past as a dissatisfied fourteen year old, and finally as a naïve teen hanging around a cult ranch. Evie is an annoying and pitiful character, both as a kid and as an adult. Her experiences through life do nothing to suck the personality failures out of her.

    So, what is the point of The Girls? In its favour: it is slightly exciting, the writing is consistent, and though it drags a little early on, the pacing is solid for the most part. This is definitely not the worst fiction I have ever read, but that sweet cult voyeurism you are craving will not be found here. The Girls is excellent reading perhaps for those who like the notion of transgression but don’t want it to be too wild, and readers for whom fact might be too uncomfortable. For anybody else, The Girls offers a solid but lacklustre few hours reading.

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  • Can You Tolerate This?

    ★★★★★

    Author: Ashleigh Young

    Publisher: Victoria University Press

     

    When reading a personal essay I look for that glimmer of recognition, that secret sign, that the writer knows me in some inexplicable way. Often what I’m looking for, without really knowing it, is a perfectly formed sentence or phrase which captures wholly what I’m feeling, or have felt before. Wellington writer Ashleigh Young’s debut essay collection, Can You Tolerate This?, is filled with such glimmers and moments of companionship.

    This is a collection several years in the making and it roams widely: from the story of a postman in rural southeastern France building his legacy, to young Japanese people who withdraw to their bedrooms and hide themselves away from the world, to Young’s own childhood in Te Kuiti, and on to her adolescence and adult years in Wellington. A dedicated runner, she writes of the thrill of running in the early morning dark around the southern coast of Wellington, and her time spent working at the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace with a host of dedicated Mansfield-ites.

    Young’s family feature prominently throughout the book, in particular her brother JP. “Big Red” follows JP from the music scene in Hamilton where he fronted the band Clampers, to jobs such as mushroom picking and a stint as a shuttle driver braving the icy roads in Colorado, and back to Wellington. Throughout, Young observes herself as the younger sister enthralled by her brilliant brother, and also wonders about the problem of trying to make his stories her own. The essay takes its title from the moniker given to the ugly red bomber-style jacket that JP wore incessantly during his Hamilton days, causing great embarrassment to his family and friends. An illustration of Big Red features on the cover of the book, perhaps as an apology to the spurned jacket itself.

    The most personal essay of the collection is “Bikram’s Knee”, in which Young writes about dealing with an eating disorder, and her obsession with Bikram Yoga. It’s the kind of essay that resonates, even if the topic in question isn’t one the reader can directly relate to. It’s brave to write about something so personal, but also, it feels imperative—it’s one of the ways in which we can help others to feel less isolated, and Young is excellent company.

    Can You Tolerate This? is a heartfelt, wise, and important book. For a collection of essays to immerse yourself in, look no further.

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  • From Her With Love

     

    She/Her was more than just a gig, it was an intimate exploration of marginalisation; a transient look into the world of those who aren’t under-represented, simply under-appreciated and overlooked. Each performance was a lesson in humility; they were raw, egoless, emotional and stood for more than just that moment. This was the first time in a long time that I felt struck to the core, and I hope it made leaps in changing dominant attitudes towards women in music, and most importantly the perception of the ways women can achieve success in the music industry.

    The gig was conceived by THEO and FMK, who said, “She/Her was kicked into motion one night [when] all the artists we were listening to at the time were fucking amazing women… we became wedded to the idea of having an all female lineup.” This event undisputedly promoted women in music, and particularly recognised those who are making huge leaps in an industry which doesn’t cater as well to them as it does to men.

    Yanyé played her first Wellington show, and opened with incredible beats, and an unbelievably soulful voice that left me feeling weightless but anchored. She played songs off of her upcoming EP Simple Pleasures which has been delayed due to a whisky related incident, but after hearing Yanyé live, I’m more than happy to wait. Her stage presence is mesmerising and draws you in with slow purposeful sways and gesticulations that compliment the music. Her set up was very casual, with her singing and Mali as DJ, but this arrangement strengthened the performance. She was the only person on the stage to look at, and no one could look away. Having played regularly with rap/hip-hop artists from Auckland including RaizaBiza, Melodownz, and Tom Scott (Average Rap Band / Home Brew), Yanyé was well versed in entertaining a crowd. Similar to a listening party, she stopped after each song to resounding applause, thanked the audience, and then explained a bit about her next song. My only critique was that I wish she’d have let some of the songs speak for themselves and left no gaps between some of them.

    The second performer was Arcee Rapper, a Manchester born and Dunedin based hiptronic artist. She had just returned from gigs in Germany and Switzerland opening for American rap acts at various shows. In an interview before the gig began she said, “being a female rapper they don’t take you as seriously I guess.” This is just the beginning of a world that many musicians and people may never understand but it is so vital that is illustrated and amended. Arcee Rapper has cultivated her hiptronic style, but on the night she performed her piano rap act, illustrating that her musical ability extends beyond provocative lyricism. This was an emotional and powerful performance which left the crowd in unanimous applause after every single song of her set. On a currently (I believe) nameless song, she stressed the inherent one-sidedness of sexuality in rap, singing, “it’s no secret that sex sells / We got girls degrading themselves / and rap is where this shit excels / so I’m out here walking on eggshells.” What I took away from her performance is the unexplored world of lyrical material in rap when it comes to the experiences and problems faced by women on a daily basis. Arcee pointed out that one of her songs is about a friend who wanted to get plastic surgery, and she likes the challenge of targeting those issues and being part of a new era in rap; she said, “my mum doesn’t wear makeup [or] low cut tops, and take whatever you want from that but I see it as a blessing because I never grew up with a mum that had expectations of how I looked. It was never a conversation we had. [I was taught to] practice, work hard, and be nice to people.” Her music speaks to more than just gender though, as she also focuses on issues around the rap industry’s obsession with image. In her latest song “alg” she highlights the unhealthy obsession that many rap artists have with creating a brand and not necessarily about appearing as a real person who smiles, wears pyjamas that aren’t Versace when they sleep, and are just generally an ordinary human being. Arcee’s raps are very real and presented in a palatable format, particularly in this piano rap form.

    Mahalia Simpson was the final performer of the night, and was reminiscent of artists such as Lauryn Hill and India Arie, both of whom she cites as inspiration. Fresh from the X-Factor Australia, where she finished fifth, I was concerned that she would still be stuck in the cookie cutter mould that most contestants appear to leave in, but Mahalia’s performance was nothing but genuine, humbling, and spell-binding. Her elegant control over her voice, as well as smooth guitar lines brought her ability as a musician and a performer to the forefront. She played songs I was unfamiliar with, but they all still felt like home. Mahalia has a certain aura around her personality and presence both onstage and off that just makes you feel like you’ve known her for years and the audience responded well to this, especially towards the end of her set when she told the crowd that the other songs she had were sad and she wanted to play happy songs, so she just strung some chords together and asked the audience for topics to sing about. The gig finished with the best possible conclusion, as Arcee and Yanyé returned to the stage and had an impromptu jam together—Mahalia played guitar, Arcee rapped, and Yanyé sung. It was amazing to watch the three of them interact, and the performance spoke volumes about the quality of New Zealand music and women in music.

    This gig was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. The cumulative effect of beautiful, powerful music, and taking a stand against an area in music that urgently needs amending, left this gig a lingering success in my mind, and certainly in the minds of many. I look forward to seeing each of these performers in future, as well as other creative concepts THEO and FMK may think up.

     

    by

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    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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    Editor's Pick

    Ten things I wish my friends knew about being Māori

    : 1). I wish my friends knew that when they ask me what “percentage” of Māori I am—half, quarter, or eighth—they make me feel like a human pie chart. I don’t know how people can ask this so nonchalantly, but they do. So I want to let you know: this is a very threatening