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Issue 4, 2017

Issue 04

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News

  • Hit and Run

  • Shakti Refuge Refused Funding

  • Apple Tax Cuts

  • Karori Campus Battleground

  • Vic gets healthy

  • Vic Values

  • Laundry Update

  • The CIA are the real scabs

  • TPP Forges Ahead

  • Tertiary Report Misses the Mark

  • Features

  • onbeauty

    On Beauty

    – SPONSORED – Mama was the first thing I ever thought was beautiful. Her hair is smooth and black and her milky skin is always somehow glossy. In my childish wonder, her high, round cheekbones and remote expression seemed to give her a regal tranquillity, the aloof aura of a prinsesa. But she is provincial, […]

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  • dexter

    When will Pasifika Success just be… success?

    – SPONSORED – My name is Dexter Stanley-Tauvao. I am proud to be Samoan. I have Tongan, German, Dutch, and Chinese heritage. However, I grew up mostly observing and taking part in Samoan culture and customs (although I am a fluent German speaker). My parents split when I was very young, and I grew up […]

    by

  • wheninrome

    When In Rome

    – SPONSORED – 1 My mother used to say I never fell in love with the things that mattered. When I was fourteen, I brought home a little cat from the street, named him Julius Caesar. His fur was matted with dirt and blood and last night’s rain. When I searched for a collar under […]

    by

  • onbeauty

    On Beauty

    – SPONSORED – Mama was the first thing I ever thought was beautiful. Her hair is smooth and black and her milky skin is always somehow glossy. In my childish wonder, her high, round cheekbones and remote expression seemed to give her a regal tranquillity, the aloof aura of a prinsesa. But she is provincial, […]

    by

  • dexter

    When will Pasifika Success just be… success?

    – SPONSORED – My name is Dexter Stanley-Tauvao. I am proud to be Samoan. I have Tongan, German, Dutch, and Chinese heritage. However, I grew up mostly observing and taking part in Samoan culture and customs (although I am a fluent German speaker). My parents split when I was very young, and I grew up […]

    by

  • wheninrome

    When In Rome

    – SPONSORED – 1 My mother used to say I never fell in love with the things that mattered. When I was fourteen, I brought home a little cat from the street, named him Julius Caesar. His fur was matted with dirt and blood and last night’s rain. When I searched for a collar under […]

    by

  • Arts and Science

  • Summertime Sadness: An Ode to a Short-Lasting Summer

    As the Wellington’s annual premature cold kicks in, the hashtag tbt increases sevenfold and we all begin to get moody at the thought of the imminent mould sure to resurface in the coming months. I was fortunate enough to grab at least a week of sunshine and happiness in the early New Year, while exploring Northland with a few friends.

    The goal? Make it to the top.

    IMG_6889

    Evening swims. Ruakaka, Whangarei.

     

    As much as it’s hard to admit, “it’s who you know, not what you know” becomes more relevant and true as you get older. In terms of travel, who you know is more important than having Google Maps. On this roadie, we most certainly would have had a different, but just as incredible, trip without aid. However this time around we were fortunate enough to be able to take for granted some wonderful friends who acted as our tour guides and hosts. As students, free stuff is never turned down.

    IMG_6891

    Private Paradise. Whale Bay, Tutakaka Coast.

     

    After exploring the lower east-side of Northland, visiting historical sites like Parihaka, and spending a few nights in Ruakaka and Whangarei, Laura and I cruised it up towards Tutakaka and Matapouri and beach-hopped our day away. Unfortunately, we had underestimated the natural beauty of this coastline and found far too many hidden gems to be able to fully appreciate this part of Northland in one day. Certain locations have been pinpointed, however, and we will be back to cliff-jump and trek our way through the ragged land.

    Mermaid Pools, Matapouri.

    Our next stop was the Bay of Islands. Lucy, our host/tour-guide for the greatest leg of our adventure, had grown up with Northland as her backyard. She was a treasure trove of knowledge in terms of places to go further north. Our next few days were spent exploring lost-in-time Russell (which is by no means still the “hell-hole of NZ”), getting our history fix by visiting the Waitangi Treaty grounds, and eating at all the local joints in Paihia (Tito’s has great live music, cheap drinks, and the best veggie burgers).

    IMG_6892

    Homemade pizza: made by us, eaten by us. Paihia, Bay of Islands.

    Our tight schedule meant that the west coast of Northland and good old Tāne Mahuta was going to have to be scouted out in depth on another adventure, but we did manage a quick dash and dance on 90 Mile Beach. The winds there rivalled Welly’s ones: they picked you up and threw you with no mercy. They drilled adrenaline and freedom through you. It’s a place that simultaneously makes you feel insignificant and alive.

    Salient (1)

    Salient (4)

    The Wild West. Ninety Mile Beach, West Coast.

    Our plans to be a typical tourist and sand surf down the giant dunes was thwarted by rain but it didn’t deter from the wonder of them. Northland feels like another country, and here in the Te Paki sand dunes it’s like a mirage founded upon your imagination. Standing in the midst of these golden barren hills, it’s hard to imagine any civilisation close by let alone a large water source, yet directly to the east is lush bushland.

    Salient (3)

    Forever and onwards. Te Paki Sand Dunes.

    The weather cleared up as we headed off towards our most important destination: Cape Reinga. It’s the most anticipated and highest point of the trip, and it doesn’t disappoint. Words cannot describe this wild wonder. It’s a meeting place of two seas, the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, and you can see exactly where they clash and bang heads and merge. Te Reinga means “the leaping place of spirits (souls)” and is where spirits descend to the underworld from the roots of a lonely pōhutukawa.

    Having never been further north than Auckland, this roadie was, as I mentioned above, like exploring a new country. Northland is wild and unruly and quaint and pristine all at once. It’s simultaneously frantic and calming. It has this subtle hum of moving steadily on without rush. It sits firmly, but modestly, upon the pedestal of one of the greatest places I have ever seen — and it’s right here in our own backyard.

    Salient (2)

    The Precipice. Cape Reinga.

    Note: all photos were taken on a 35mm Canon 500 camera.

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  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Season One

    You should watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. No really, you should, and don’t let that slightly bizarre title put you off — this is the gem you’ve been waiting to binge watch. Even better, it’s on Netflix right now.

    Rebecca Bunch (played by Rachel Bloom, of slight YouTube notoriety, who also created and writes the show) is a New York lawyer who is working her way up in her field. However, when she bumps into the hot dude she dated at musical theatre camp ten years ago, she, literally, sees a ray of light. He’s from West Covina, California, and mentions how chill it is there, a direct contrast to the world she has found herself in. When she ups and moves there, she finds brand new pals and a new career. To be clear, she did not move there for Josh, Josh just happens to live there.

    Seriously, this show is just so good. It is a comedy musical, but take it from someone who is not the greatest fan of musicals, this one knocks it out of the park. In the first episode Rebecca is hoisted above an outdoor mall on a giant pretzel, and complains about the blood that arse waxing entails, all in hilarious song. Stay tuned for, to quote a critic, “what white people think Indian music sounds like,” and a Nicki Minaj-inspired rap about “giving good parent.”

    But more than the endless funnies, this show tackles some real issues about real things that other shows would go in the complete opposite direction of, let alone shy away from. When Rebecca gets to West Covina, she promptly dumps the meds she has been “surviving” on down the drain, refuses to talk to her mother, and swears she’s fine. To nobody’s real surprise, this might not be the case, and a significant part of the show becomes a close examination of how her mental health affects her and those around her.

    As well, within the main cast alone, the romantic lead is an “Asian Bro”, a woman over 40 is a well-developed character with substance, and another male character comes out as bi as the season progresses (in glorious song and dance). Of course, a single TV show can’t tick all of the representation boxes, but this one comes pretty damn close. Interviews with the show creators tell of how they deliberately built the world of the show to be as representative of inland southern California as possible, and the social diversity is directly apparent within the series.

    You’d be crazy to miss it, if you’ll excuse the pun.

    @LauraLives

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  • GIG GUIDE

    Tuesday: Flux launch with Girlboss and Zero Cool — if you want to catch the opening of Wellington’s newest collectively operated community art space, supplemented with some angsty indie goodness and local works to feast your peepers on, then get on down to Wellington Museum between 6.00 and 9.00pm.

    Wednesday: Eyegum Wednesdays with Shards and New Age Leper — wash away those mid-week blues and desperately flail to some stoner rock/emo tunes over at San Fran from 9.00pm.

    Friday: Margins and Inky Waves End of Summer Tour — if you like your doof with a little more doof, then boy does Margins have the party for you! With huge local house and techno names like ya girl k2k, Norma, Leo G Clark, and the unbelievably beautifully named DJ Kush Boogie, this one should have you reeling right into next week. Even better, it’s only 10 smackers on the door at our favourite metal den, Valhalla. 9.00pm start.

    Saturday: French For Rabbits — French for Rabbits have been doing a lot of things lately. If you want to see them do some more things, then San Fran at 8.30pm is the place to be.

    Saturday: Melting Faces, Mr Amish, Zero Cool — if dream pop is not your bag, then come along to Caroline to have your Amish face coolly melted off with some psychedelic indie sonic love, 9:30pm.

    NOT ’TIL APRIL 21, BUT GET YA DAMN TICKETS: Sad by Sad South Festival — a fresh new fest for all you sad little creatures to get your yearly fix of melancholy. Poetry from Wellington’s secret empress Hera Lindsay Bird, aptly named Freya Daly Sadgrove, + many more sad people ready to share their feelings. There is also music! Grayson Gilmour, Soda Boyz, Girlboss, and Long Distance Runner are all part of a much longer list of people who intend to touch instruments in just the right places to make you feel things. It’s all going down on April 21–23 in Newtown, and tickets are only $35 from Under the Radar, so get your greasy, tear-stained mitts on them, stat.

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  • Interview with H2O Just Add Banter

    This week I interviewed Ella Steele and Alex Feinson, the hosts of “the most unnecessary podcast ever created,” H2O Just Add Banter.

     

    Tell me a bit more about the premise of your podcast.

    Ella: We watch episodes of the mid-2000’s hit Australian fantasy drama H2O: Just Add Water and we talk about it.

    Alex: And we get off topic — constantly. [The idea] came about when we were in our English tutorial last year and we got distracted, and became obsessed with trying to remember the show.

    Ella: I think we were sort of joking, like “we should totally do a podcast,” and then we were like “actually we really should.” And then we told everyone, so we had to do it.

     

    Why a podcast? What drew you to the medium of podcasting, as opposed to writing a blog or something similar?

    Alex: I’m into podcasts big time; I have heaps of podcasts I listen to. I guess I thought it was a good medium, I’ve wanted to make one for a couple of years because I’ve been a fan of them, and I thought it would be a good format. I’m not a camera person, so a voice recording was good. It’s a medium that suits me personally.

    Ella: Also I could never be bothered writing a blog post every week, so this is definitely easier.

     

    In terms of making the podcast itself, are there any challenges that you’ve experienced with putting it together?

    Alex: We are poor and we don’t want to pay to make a podcast. We don’t have sponsorship, so we didn’t want to pay for a hosting site. We did want to get it on to iTunes, but also be available for people who don’t have Apple products. We were on Soundcloud for a while but we had uploading restrictions using it for free. After searching and searching we found one site that connects to iTunes and also to Tumblr.

     

    What hosting site do you use?

    Alex: It is this weird site called Shout Engine — it’s a beta… I’m very scared one day it won’t exist anymore.

     

    What podcasts are you listening to right now?

    Alex: I’m a true crime fan, so I’m listening to My Favourite Murder, it’s so good. Ella and I also love No Such Thing as a Fish as well. I also like New Zealand podcasts like Boners of the Heart and The Male Gayz on the Little Empire network.

    Ella: Guilty Feminist, and The Infinite Monkey Cage because it’s got Brian Cox and science, Made of Human with Sofie Hagen, and also Elis James and John Robins on Radio X is fun.

     

    Finally, if you could choose one of the characters’ special mermaid powers (being able to heat, freeze, or manipulate water), which one would you choose?

    Alex: I would probably have the boiling one so I can keep my coffee warm.

    Ella: My instinct is to go with the ice powers, because I don’t like things too hot, and also the Arctic is melting so I can refreeze that.

     

    H2O Just Add Banter is available on iTunes or h2ojustaddbanter.tumblr.com. If you host a podcast, get in touch! editor@salient.org.nz.

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  • Yellow Face

    David Henry Hwang is an acclaimed US playwright who lives in New York and who wrote the play Yellow Face. Confusingly, he is also the lead character.

    Semi-autobiographical, Yellow Face covers the middling period of Hwang’s (Alex Rabina) career when, fresh from the success of his play M. Butterfly, he criticises the 1991 Broadway rendition of Miss Saigon for casting Jonathan Pryce (a white actor — incidentally, now, the High Sparrow in Game of Thrones…) as the half Vietnamese, half French, hustler Tran Van Dinh. Hwang’s critique of yellow face in Miss Saigon becomes the focal point for his new play, Face Value. The irony of Yellow Face comes as Hwang, in his search for the perfect Asian male actor — of which none seem to exist, perhaps due to the tendency of the theatre industry to typecast them into minor roles — accidentally hires actor Marcus G. Dahlman (James Cain), who is white.

    To draw back slightly, the version of the play I watched was performed at Whitireia. It consisted of an all New Zealand cast, seven in total. The stage was assembled from white sheets of wood and was centred in a dark space, reminiscent of a school hall. A yellow rectangle, crooked, and broken by the left backstage entrance, offered the only colour on the minimalist set. The broken rectangle was a point of passage for the actors who passed through it and onto the stage, often, in the process, stepping into a new guise.

    For this was a play where few identities were stable. The actors, aside from leads Rabina as Hwang and Cain as Dahlman, morphed through an array of supporting roles. To capture the bustling energy of the Miss Saigon controversy and the heavily publicised world of Broadway, the other five actors, in deft displays of voice acting, would slip seamlessly into the roles of theatre critics, talk show hosts, commentators, senators, news reporters, etc. They also played a range of supporting characters that buffered the main narrative of Hwang and Dahlman. A particular standout was Benjamin Teh, who played Hwang’s father Henry, a banker targeted by racist Republicans for allegedly influencing US politics, and the Taiwanese-American nuclear scientist, Wen Ho Lee, who was racially profiled by the US Department of Justice and wrongfully held in solitary confinement for nine months on the charge of having stolen nuclear secrets on behalf of the Chinese government.

    And it was with Teh’s performance as Henry and Wen Ho Lee, two characters for which ethnicity is an axis of oppression, that the play encountered the troubling nature of identity — of the inability of shedding one’s face. For all it joked with the poststructuralist upending of rigid categorisations — white guy (James Cain) playing a white guy (Marcus G. Dahlman) playing an Asian guy (Marcus G.) — the play never lets you forget that the categories of race exist and define existence. The actual border between being white and being asian, as Dahlman’s amorphous identity and heritage (Hwang attempts to pass him off as Eurasian by pointing to the fact his Father is a Siberian Jew) suggests, isn’t locatable but clearly it exists.

    The yellow square on the back of the set stands out clearly from the white background. Yet it is also broken, and in the movement of the play the rigid border between yellow and white is crossed by the actors — for the benefit of the audience, for this is theatre, and in theatre things can be thrown into the light of artifice and illuminated.

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  • Pixels — Toons EP

    The debut EP from Auckland group Pixels is a sweet and heartfelt mash of dreamy indie pop and bleeping cartoon-esque sounds. It opens with their 95bFM Top Ten minted early release single “Sleep Talk” — a soft but not overly saccharine love song combining the vocals of Cindy Tan and the man at the project’s helm, Lukas Hanson, to make what could almost be described as a more happy-go-lucky, arcade game-loving, version of The XX. It sets an innocent, boppy, and delightfully simple tone that runs right through the EP.

    None of the remaining four tracks even hit the three minute mark, and they seem to progress through from the combination of glitchy cartoon tones and keys, and sun-drenched indie pop guitar chords and riffs, of “Toons”, to the darker, more organ and bass-like sounds of “Low Batteries”. The latter  is Pixels at their most Kraftwerk-like, and mostly consists of the repeated phrase “I’m running, low batteries.”

    Both the project’s name, Pixels, and the EP title Toons, are fitting. There are 8-bit reminiscent keys, bleeps, and other sounds running right through it, which conjured carefree Sunday mornings spent obsessively playing Super Mario with my little brother. There definitely appears to be an obsession here with these earlier forms of technological entertainment and ideas of futurism, as is clear on the track “Bots”, which imagines a future of aluminium-haired robots roaming the streets.

    This EP is a wonderfully joyous and earnest romp through the nostalgic sounds of the games and cartoons of our youth, mixed seamlessly with today’s indie musical sensibilities. If you’re in need of a soundtrack to your sweet but short-lived romance with a well-intentioned android you met down at the arcade, then look no further than Toons.

    Toons can be streamed and downloaded online at pixelsbandcamp.bandcamp.com.

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  • A Tale of Love — Linda Lê (translated by Sian Robyns)

    I am drawn to love stories easily, like a moth to a porch light — I’m a romantic at heart. But I soon grow sick of them, because as well as being a romantic, I’m a pragmatist and a Kiwi. So first I think, aww… and then I think, yes, well, all right then, no need to go on about it.

    A Tale of Love is a passionate, tumultuous narrative of transformative love. There is Ylane, a young woman wrestling with depression, and there is Ivan, running from his abusive father and unable to stop, and there is, in a likeable twist, the author herself, speaking as the obvious creator of both these lives. The author is haunted by the bird of ill omen, a personification of her drive to write conflicting with her own insecurities. But she persists, and is engulfed by her lovers in their mad world.

    Ylane and Ivan first meet in a psychiatric hospital, where she is struggling with a depressive relapse, and he has just attempted suicide as a result of an extended manic episode. Their first shared glance is immediately felt as a new beginning, as fate, as if this was what their lives had been building to.

    As a romantic, I was caught up in it all. But, skeptically, I still wondered if this was possible, if love really was, or should be, this insane. The mental torment afflicting the two main characters was almost unbearable, so honest and frightening and black in the way that it was, that I felt I was drowning a little bit in this too.

    I must add, Lê’s novel was translated from French into English by Victoria University’s own Sian Robyns, which is very cool, and she did a fantastic job recreating the feel of the French grammatical rhythm. Quite lovely.

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  • R/G/B: A Week In Colour

    Artists use colour to express a variety of emotions. In Van Gogh’s Starry Night, damp blues and greens in the night sky represent the artist’s depression and isolation, while warm yellows and oranges in the light emitted from houses and the stars show as beacons of hope.

    Before colourised film existed, directors such as Méliès, and even inventor Thomas Edison, hand-painted individual frames with dye to get the effect they desired by including colour. Nowadays with film artistry being so accessible, the way colour is used has changed even further, with particular palates being as memorable, if not more so, than the films they feature in.

    Even artists themselves are associated with particular palates and styles, such as Wes Anderson’s pastel motif, Baz Luhrmann’s theatrically surreal “painted” look, and the bright neon palate of Nicolas Winding Refn.

    In his two most recent films, Refn uses excellent examples of colour to enhance plot and character association. These features prove even more impressive considering the director is colourblind: “I wanted to show having any kind of handicap can be a blessing, and anything that’s normal is so fucking uninteresting.”

    Due to Refn’s inability to see mid-range colour, shots are either near black or completely bathed in a luminous neon glow. In Only God Forgives (2013), sickening yellows and oranges to passionately sensual reds are used to imitate both the look of the Bangkok nightlife where the film is set and the growing sexual tension between Ryan Gosling’s character and his Mother.

    Comparatively, in The Neon Demon (2016), colours are used specifically to represent individual characters and traits that they grow to possess. Red threatens danger but also represents the lustful nature of the film’s main characters; blues signify innocence but also narcissism and the enticement of beauty.

    — Mathew Watkins

     

    Das Leben Der Anderen (2006)

    Director — Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

    Stories are crafted by the choice of colour, its frequency in a film, and the scenes it is featured in — careful considerations a filmmaker will decide to enhance the narrative of the film. Apart from the colour symbolism that springs to mind — dressing Gladiators Marcus Aurelius in purple to indicate royalty and opulence, for example — colour can also be used to visually depict time skips or separate various storylines from one another, as well as create balance or discordance in a scene.

    Colours are intrinsically associative, evoking specific emotional responses which can be manipulated by changing the hue, value, and saturation of a film. By dressing a character in the same colour, audiences will think of them whenever that colour is on screen, generating the potential for thematic-subject interrelations. Furthermore, a character’s changing characteristics can be visualised as a set of colour transitions.

    Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s feature film debut is the 2006 Oscar award-winning Das Leben der Anderen, or in English, The Lives of Others. Set in the state of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) during the Cold War, Das Leben der Anderen follows the transformation of Stasi officer Hauptmann Wiesler’s (played by Ulrich Muhe) loyalties and ideology as he conducts surveillance on an artistic East Berlin couple, and becomes increasingly absorbed into their lives. Five years in the making, Das Leben der Anderen’s every second has been carefully filmed in a way that heightens the anxiety and lack of privacy that Von Donnersmarck believed was “the essence of the GDR.”

    Colour is used in two main ways: to convey the feeling of living in the GDR, and also as a symbol for Wiesler’s morality. Von Donnersmarck opts to film entirely in a palette of beige, grey, and small amounts of sickly-coloured green and yellow — a totalitarian oppression on the eyes devoid of any brightness. Employing a desaturated palette, dim lighting, and dark shadows, the film is a constricting and monochromatic visualisation of the rigid control of the Stasi regime in the GDR from the 1950s until its dissolution.

    An example of the film’s “anti-aesthetic,” the opening scene unfolds into an interrogation in Stasi HQ. The empty hall, with its grey walls, barred doors, and grey concrete floors, is enhanced by the exorbitant use of artificial light which highlights the prisoner’s face in nauseating yellow and casts the rest of the room into shadow, creating a visual aura of Wiesler’s menacing power. Prisoner 227’s beige clothing only serves to demonstrate more clearly how the interrogation is physically draining away his life as he incriminates himself. Colour is used here both to set the institutional and ominous tone of the scene and to symbolise the characters’ power dynamics.

    Wiesler’s attire — a confining grey jacket that demonstrates his dreary life and his initial desire to adhere to the Stasi ideology — becomes a metonym for the character. Grey has traditionally had negative connotations, and this is true for Das Leben Der Anderen, but grey is also associated with the spectrum between good and evil, stimulating ambivalent emotions within viewers as they are positioned in sympathy with him so as to enhance his emotional metamorphosis.

    Das Leben Der Anderen is a cohesive film that is deeply troubling to watch, and very successfully evokes a feeling of discomfort, especially given contemporary standards of privacy in our digital world. The film’s colour restrictions, maintained throughout, successfully induce audiences to regard its visual spartanism as synonymous with the creative and physical oppression of the GDR.

    — Livnè Ore

     

    The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (2014)

    Director — Ned Benson

    Originally two films subtitled Her and Him, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (Them) tells the story of a separated couple gradually coming back into each other’s lives and attempting to put past traumas to bed.

    It’s not uncommon in pieces like this for characters to be given set colour schemes — it is an easy task when the narratives of romantic comedies and romantic dramas often only feature two key characters — but this film uses its colour to the utmost.

    At the most basic level, the scenes featuring Conor (James McAvoy) are graded a dark blue, and scenes featuring Eleanor are graded orange. It’s a simple technique; orange and blue oppose each other on the colour wheel, so the pattern is basically appealing (for more evidence watch any Michael Bay film).

    But the resulting effect is that, despite the fact that the two characters are living in the same city, you get the feeling you are watching two totally different narratives. This is probably amplified by fact that Eleanor primarily operates during the day, while Conor takes long walks at night, but it gradually becomes clear that Eleanor’s orange matches her proactivity in the way she is attempting to move on with her life, while Conor’s blue denotes far more sadness and longing.

    This comes to fruition further along when the two meet, and the colours used come to represent the view of the characters. If we see Eleanor but the film still appears blue, we know it is either Conor who is dominating the scene, or it is Conor’s viewpoint of Eleanor we are seeing. Similarly, many of the memories shown throughout the film are strongly orange, indicating not objective moments but Eleanor’s re-collection.

    In the end, in one brief scene of reconnection, Conor and Eleanor’s colours combine in a messy portrait of rain and car headlights; almost as messy as their respective attempts to find catharsis in each other.

    — Finn Holland

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  • Fā Paia

    well, [in thick black ink, siapo]

    you broke me open.

    so i seek you

    out again

    to heal

     

    (lou tupuga — what would they say now)

     

    try ssssever all links with the past

    but it keeps coming back to bite you,

    weil lo’u kuna.. (i can hear you snicker at the cliché)

    ‘ia nofo i lalo (stay close to the ground)

    where are we going? (some supermarket excursion)

    when are we going to see all this as-yet-unshown footage? ;)

     

    sound punches holes in silence, in watching

    low-frequency. tilted crosses with fingers, fa’afetu

    carving up space. eyes like aiku.

    tasi lua tolu-

     

    (now echoes of something else)

     

    wake, tasting

    moans in the mouth

    (nah, but nah: would you fuck one tho?)

    Live. Your. Life. (whose life?)

    begrawe.

    deep

    down

    low.

    [break] when cis-het-able indigenous people say,

    “we are still here”

    we think,

    youdontknowyoudontknowyoudontknowyoudontknowyoudont

    knowyoudontknowyoudontknow you.

    aua — fa’alogo mai

    ‘you’ exist because of ‘us’

    aua le va

    if you don’t know us

    how can you know yourselves?

     

    {breathe} gender is in body (or not)

    gender is in voice (or not)

    gender is in clothes (or not)

    gender is in moving (or not)

    and how (got love for that)

    female intersec[t]s male

    says: “I Am Fa’atama, Fa’afafine, Fa’aafa”

    (and expecting no mention? uce…)

     

    (we are the ffffirstbbbbirth)

    (hear us roar) (hear — ) (now watch us bloom).

    give, receive, carry — Life (now hold that-)

    the divas, the queens, the kings, the studs

    ‘auivi o tala tu’umumusu

    (and is this it? ‘ia sola, leave the church hanging.)

     

    later, later, later

    watch night dissolve into cigarettes outside

    and the familiar become strange

    draw stares in from outside and other

     

    we walk the streets

    see their heads bow, eyes hit the pavement

    make way for the niu akua

    now watch us as we go

     

    — Luka 林-Cowley

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  • Nier: Automata

    Developer: PlatinumGames

    Publisher: Square Enix

    Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC

     

    Taro Yoko is a name you may not recognise, but should know. He’s basically Hideo Kojima if he was even crazier. Throughout his career, Yoko’s games have confounded expectations, blended genres and forced players to really think about why they enjoy video games.

    Nier: Automata is no exception. An indirect sequel to the cult classic action role-playing game Nier taking place thousands of years after the original, you play as 2B — a female YoRHa android — tasked with clearing machine lifeforms from the earth’s surface to pave the way for humanity’s return from exile. Along with 9S — a rather too cheerful male android — 2B ends up discovering some troubling secrets about the machines, who seem to have started expressing emotions.

    And that’s just the beginning, because this game gets really weird.

    For the sake of spoilers, I won’t delve too deeply into the story, but trust me when I say there is more to it than meets the eye. Multiple playthroughs are not just recommended, but necessary, to get every aspect of the story, there being enough twists to make M. Night Shyamalan jealous. One of the key ideas Yoko has explored in the past is what drives us to kill; every revelation in Nier: Automata in this regard is a gut punch to the player, asking them if they really enjoy committing these somewhat terrible acts. I’m a sucker for post-modern elements such as these, which have made my time in the game world that much more enjoyable.

    Having said that, the combat is fantastic, and I would expect no less from the masters of the spectacle fighter at PlatinumGames. It is incredibly satisfying to hack away at a horde of enemies, and it looks just as good if you can get a combo or two going. However, this being a Taro Yoko game there’s more to it; the Pod system introduces shooting mechanics to the formula, making for much more varied combat experiences. The weapons are quite varied and have unique stories behind them, a nice little extra like that seen in the original Nier and the Drakengard series to enrich the game world.

    At times the perspective will shift to an overhead view, turning the game into an arcade-style shoot ‘em up, or to a side scrolling view for platforming segments. The transitions are seamless, and while it can make the controls feel a little weird, these segments are a much welcome addition to some already excellent gameplay. With the game being an RPG there are character customisation options galore, although it can often feel a little cumbersome to get the character build you want.

    Graphically, the game’s environments complement the often melancholy nature of the story, being desolate and bleak but still somehow beautiful. While the aim appears to be for the game to run at 60 frames per second, on my standard PS4 it often dips below that; you would benefit from running the game on a PS4 Pro or a decent PC rig to get better consistency. There’s some great music in there too, and I certainly would not mind buying this game’s soundtrack.

    All the necessary elements have aligned to make Nier: Automata a rather special game. There’s enough variety in the gameplay that you’ll find something to like, and the story may well make you misty-eyed. We recently seem to have been blessed with some excellent open world action games, and this game more than deserves to be among them and to be remembered, even if some other titles seem to have stolen a bit of its thunder.

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  • The Road to Oblivion

    George Orwell’s 1937 non-fiction work, The Road to Wigan Pier, depicts the agonising daily existence of the working classes in the north of England where unemployment was rife. Orwell was commissioned to report on this plight by publisher and dedicated socialist Victor Gallancz, who sought to expose the harsh realities of life in the industrial towns in the hope that if the reality of poverty was made known then it would be eradicated and the economic system that created it might be reformed. Wishful thinking indeed.

    Nevertheless, Orwell undertook this task with artistry and unflinching honesty, delivering a book that, in Part One, documents the grimy, oppressed, existence of those either unemployed or barely earning a living in the hellish coal mines of northern England. However, perhaps Orwell also anticipated Gollancz’s overly optimistic aims in simply publishing an exposé of society’s underbelly — after all, in a modern context, a clear view of those who suffer is available to everyone at the press of a button, but reform comes incrementally at best — and he goes beyond the documentary in Part Two of Wigan Pier, with an uncompromising essay fiercely criticising the barriers preventing Socialist ideals translating into effective form.

    Orwell’s essay is as caustic as it is complex, so it is easy to understand why there was such distaste for it at the time, even from Gollancz himself. Orwell saw the world of 1937 as being in a “very serious mess” and therefore does not equivocate in his criticisms or admissions, which would have sat uncomfortably with the middle and upper class socialists who found themselves in the crosshairs.

    Orwell saw class prejudice as a toxic saboteur derailing the pursuit of Socialist reform. He jarringly summarises the revulsion of the higher classes for the working class with words that were freely used in his upbringing: “the lower classes smell.” He might simply be pointing out an inevitable outcome of undertaking manual labour while living with no bathroom, as was the case for virtually all the working class, but it also signals a deep prejudice that was not merely mental but physiological. Orwell saw that, until such prejudices were confronted and deconstructed, effective Socialism was impossible. He saw how declared Socialists could so easily turn to Fascism as they recoiled from those considered repulsive and sought to put them down. Orwell states: “To many people, calling themselves Socialists, revolution does not mean a movement of the masses with which they hope to associate themselves; it means a set of reforms which ‘we’, the clever ones, are going to impose upon ‘them’, the Lower Orders.” While such class-division exists, progress, or revolution, is simply an exercise in replacing old oppressors for new.

    We can perhaps see here the dissenting train of thought that would evolve into Animal FarmOrwell’s searing satire of Socialist ideals twisting into totalitarian tyranny. But beyond that I might draw further, contemporary, significance. Traditional concepts of class in modern New Zealand, or indeed the rest of the West, are not as distinct as they may have been in 1930’s Britain, but if we extrapolate Orwell’s conception of class to modern conceptions of race — not just the aesthetics of race that we tend to fixate on, but cultural, socio-historic race — then it seems that the “classes” that divide us now are more prevalent than ever.

    There is much to unpack in The Road to Wigan Pier, but Orwell’s call to “give up something of ourselves” so that we can admit to and break down our prejudices remains as poignant today as it was in 1937. If we continue to fixate on what separates us we risk retreating into ever-multiplying fragmentary camps of identity, where only those who precisely mirror ourselves aesthetically and intellectually are permitted entry; we will inevitably build a divided world where numerous partisan factions shout and gesticulate their disgust of each other across an ever-increasing divide, never reaching out to cross it, and we will remain on the road to oblivion.

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  • Interview with MEANWHILE

    MEANWHILE is an artist-run initiative founded by Jesse Bowling, Jordana Bragg, and Callum Devlin. Previously located at 35 Victoria Street, they have just moved the gallery and artist studio spaces to 99 Willis Street. The first show at their new location is Undercovers — a collaboration between Lucy Wardle and George Banach-Salas. Hanahiva Rose sat down with Jesse, Lucy, and George to talk about the new space and exhibition.

     

    Jesse, can you introduce MEANWHILE?

    Jesse: We opened on July 27 last year. We were kind of founded through Club Mirage [Auckland-based contemporary art space] and now are here, no longer involved with Club Mirage. When we first started, they gifted us the space and now we’ve moved past that point; we’ve come into our teenage years, I guess. We’ve gone from figuring out how to do it, to now knowing how to do it, but still trying to write the whole ethos of it.

     

    And Lucy and George, you’re doing the first show at MEANWHILE’s new premises. Do you want to tell me a little bit about the show and your practice?

    Lucy: George and I have been working on our project Undercovers for just under a year. The project is based on the ideas of masturbation, and the taboo around the topic — why it doesn’t get discussed. We wanted to make participatory art in an installation environment that opened up those conversations about masturbation and what it means to our bodies and our minds and our beings.

    George: Yeah, we wanted to talk about how masturbation is a form of self-care and appreciation and comfort for ourselves.

     

    These are very tactile works, but how exactly do these big, cushy objects come into play when we’re talking about masturbation? What are they?

    Lucy: We wanted to be really ambiguous and kind of abstract. We thought about the shapes and imagery and feelings that are intertwined with masturbation and the body and then erased some of the elements from those shapes to make them more abstract.

    George: We’ve used a lot of pink and blue, which might come off as quite gendered, but really that was just more of a colour balance that we were interested in. We did want to take it away from being specifically gendered, although we’re more focused towards femme-identified people because that’s what we are. The objects can interact with each other in a way that you would interact with yourself.

     

    For you as artists, what attracts you to a space like MEANWHILE?

    Lucy: I think the experimentation. It can be quite hard if you come up with an idea that doesn’t particularly fit into a certain category of gallery. When we were planning this show we were trying to think of spaces in which it could fit and I was confident we could approach MEANWHILE. I feel like Wellington hasn’t really had an active artist-run space or a more experimental, young, fresh gallery, so it’s really exciting to be a part of something that’s still growing.

    George: I’ve always wanted to be a part of an artist-run space. I’ve always thought it seemed like a very natural way to operate as an artist. I’ve never really felt like my practice fitted into a kind of “white-box” gallery and, while there’s white walls here, I don’t feel like MEANWHILE is that at all. It doesn’t have that exclusionary element that the typical white-box gallery does and because I’m not personally interested in making work to sell, trying to make work for dealer galleries doesn’t really suit me. Working within an artist-run space where the show is for experience and exposure makes more sense for me.

     

    Jesse, how did MEANWHILE go about picking the artists for this year’s programme?

    Jesse: We did a call for proposals and received about 55 applicants. That was when we didn’t even have a space — we were still building the gallery. Up until then we had only been running the window space but there was already a lot of interest in this little institutional thing that we’ve been doing.

     

    You went to Massey, Callum and Jordana [co-founders of Meanwhile] went to Massey, and Lucy and George also went to Massey. And that’s kind of the nature of being in Wellington, isn’t it. Is that reflected in your programme?

    Jesse: No. We don’t try and reflect Massey art culture. We’re trying to broaden the Wellington arts community from this kind of “mate-group” into something more active and involving for a broader audience. How we went about choosing what we were going to do wasn’t biased towards whether you were in Wellington or not, it was more about how the work would engage the community. There are things that we don’t see a lot here because we only have dealer galleries and large institutions and a lot of those spaces aren’t very inclusive.

     

    We have these three pillars: the art school, the public gallery or museum, and the dealer gallery. How does MEANWHILE fit into that structure?

    Jesse: I think we are kind of free from those frameworks because we’re trying to form them ourselves. But also within the art community, and in art in general, you are performing within the bigger institution of “Art”. So I would see us as almost a stepping stone in between those things, but I wouldn’t necessarily say we’re the first step because we don’t just accept people coming straight out of art school, we also accept people who’ve been out for multiple years. It’s more about engaging in exciting practices than it is being a continuation of art school.

     

    Is there a potentially ephemeral nature to the shows here? Do you document them? I think you’ve said before that the fickle nature of the artist-run space is reflected in your name and there’s a certain vulnerability that becomes quite apparent when you are put at the mercy of the real estate market, like you have been. If you hadn’t found this space you might have begun to exist exclusively through that documentation of what you had achieved.

    Jesse: We document them and they’ll be posted on our website, which will hopefully be live next week. Our website is going to act as the archive. Documentation kind of solidifies the act in history. That’s why we did WHAT HAVE WE DONE, our publication. If we had had to move out, and couldn’t find a new place, or something happened, at least we would have that record. I think documentation is important for other people to be able to look back at.

     

    I was walking here and went past the old location, which always seemed like a slightly funny spot — neighboured by the police station and Family Planning. It felt very CBD. And here feels different, but it’s only just up the road.

    Jesse: About 150 metres up the road. I think that space was just on the fringes but this is in amongst it. We’ve never really been interested in Cuba Street and the “Cuba Quarter”, especially because the rent is soaring there. It’s similar to K Rd in Auckland where the rent is rising and rising and the artist-run initiatives, which have always been centred there, are beginning to be pushed out. Gentrification is the reason we had to leave our old space, and by buying into Cuba Street or K Rd you’re buying into the gentrification of those areas. We just don’t want to be a part of that centralisation of culture.

     
    Undercovers runs until April 8. MEANWHILE is open Wednesday to Saturday, 12.00–5.30pm.

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  • Lincoln in the Bardo — George Saunders

    On the February 20, 1862, William Wallace Lincoln died of typhoid fever at the age of 11. This was particularly tough for his father, President Abraham Lincoln, who was also trying to fight the American Civil War at the same time. This tragic event is used as the backdrop and playground for George Saunders’ historical fantasy novel, Lincoln in the Bardo.

    From the first page, Saunders promises a fashionable and modern sense of cleverness. Arranged marriages are frowned upon. Numerous historical sources are knitted together to tell one coherent story. This is a 21st century novel, even though the book is set in 1862.

    Yet the reader soon realises that this is used as a springboard. We are catapulted to the “Bardo”, the world where the dead go. All the ghosts who inhabit the Bardo come across as different narrators, who “take over the story” for a few paragraphs at a time and speak in their own unique prose. This constant code-switching tells one overlapping story but offers different perspectives. For example, Abraham Lincoln is described by one onlooker as sobbing, and by another as gasping. Yet in between all these literary techniques, which may make it hard to read, there is a beautiful simplicity.

    James Joyce’s Ulysses, a modernist Bible, can be boiled down to a man coming to grips with his wife cheating on him. Much in the same way, Lincoln in the Bardo, underneath its arty-farty elitist exterior, offers something worth reading.

    This is a story of loss and death. The use of the Bardo gives the dead a voice. People who would not have been present in the novel are able to speak from beyond the grave.

    A book which may seem complex can seem very digestible once you’ve put it down.

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  • Cuts From the Deep

    All Hail the Queen

    Whenever the subject of childhood celebrity crushes and/or role models comes up, my choice tends to induce confusion, squinting, and the occasional outraged splutter. If all you know her for is ridiculous caricatures of black women in bland comedy films, a painfully insipid talk show, and a strange foray into jazz standards, then Queen Latifah seems like an ill-informed choice. What, strangely, people tend not to know, is that Latifah became famous because of her truly flip-floppin’ incredible, but criminally slept on, rap career.

    Latifah grew up as Dana Owens in a highly religious family in Newark, New Jersey. She found the name Latifah (meaning “kind”) in an Arabic book, and the Queen part was a reference to the fact that many African-Americans are descended from royalty, serving as a badge of pride for her heritage.

    Latifah first gained industry notice for her single “Princess of the Posse” in 1989, and was signed to Tommy Boy Music who released her first album All Hail the Queen when she was only 19. This was an opus of literate and socially conscious lyricism over relaxed jazzy beats, similar to that of A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. She also had an incredible sense of timing and ability to spit complex and erudite rhymes at breakneck speed, and could deftly cross over into reggae, house, and party tracks.

    The song “Ladies First” from this first album championed the power of women at home, work, and as creators of social change. Woke before most of us had eyes to open — challenging the patriarchy and misogyny was a cornerstone of Latifah’s work, but she also wasn’t afraid to delve into other politicised subjects such as poverty and inequality, the cycles of abuse and violence within black communities, and the commodification of a certain brand of black womanhood.

    As a rapper, she was brash, confident, and unapologetic. She refused to be cast in the submissive, sexualised, or victimised role that society and the rap industry wanted her to inhabit. For instance, her song “U.N.I.T.Y.” from her third album, Black Reign, addressed catcalling, domestic violence, and the way the word “bitch” would just roll off rappers’ tongues as if it were a simple term of endearment.

    So now that we have established that I possess neither the comedic film taste of an especially out of touch frat boy, nor a particular affinity for mediocre Billie Holiday covers, and that Queen Latifah is a highly gifted, badass MC, why in the gosh darn heck has she not been enshrined in the minds of hip-hop heads as a pioneer of the industry?

    The most obvious answer would be her identity as a woman. Music as a commercial art form has a long history of overlooking highly talented women, because clearly womanhood means being intrinsically unable to so much as plug a cord into an amp (I wish this were an attempt at an absurd joke, but it does have an anecdotal basis). Hip-hop itself was also a particularly fraught industry for women. It very importantly gave voice to a largely disenfranchised and unheard minority, but it also brought a highly chauvinistic way of regarding women with it.

    These early rappers were reaching, understandably, towards something that had before seemed fundamentally unavailable to them — a much more affluent future. In this way, beautiful women were often regarded as trophies to be attained along the way — pieces of property reflective of success. This kind of insidious misogyny is still rampant in much of the hip-hop industry today. This early era of hip-hop would have been particularly troubling to work in as a woman; with the patriarchy working outside and exerting its influence on the rap industry, combined with the marked lack of respect for women within it, the work of women MCs was swept aside for the bangers of the likes of Nas and Biggie.

    However, to dismiss the bewildering under-appreciation of Latifah’s work as simply due to her being a woman would be reductive: what about the popularity of Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, or Eve, or Lil’ Kim? There is a whole range of factors that could be pointed to as the reason for this. Most obviously, these artists all came around a decade later, when rappers like Latifah and MC Lyte had already begun to pave the way for women in hip-hop. Moreover, Lauryn, Eve, and Lil’ Kim, although occasionally prone to moments of political sagacity, generally tended to deal with material that was designated as women’s territory: jealousy, revenge, love, heartbreak, and sex (almost always in relation to men). Where the political was broached, it was wrapped up in a more easily digestible personalised package.

    Latifah, however, dealt with political issues on a systemic and widespread level, and she was challenging norms that the already shaky hip-hop industry was trying to build itself on. A highly intelligent woman examining gendered and racial oppression, unafraid to discuss the dark and problematic side of hip-hop that many wanted to ignore, clothed in baggy jackets, dungarees, and traditional African attire, was not something that ’90s dudes fantasised about fucking, and therefore the industry deemed her not profitable.

    There were plenty of hip-hop fans who did not need their music and their masturbation material to perfectly align. However, due to the misogyny and fickle nature of the industry at large, Latifah’s message never made it to the mainstream. Further to this, she was invalidated as a voice of the ’90s feminist movement occupied by groups and figures such as Riot Grrrl and Susan Faludi, due to the movement’s inherent racial biases and unwillingness to listen to and promote the voices of women of colour.

    But make no mistake: an integral part of modern and inclusive feminism, and part of the reason Beyoncé was able to stand up on a global stage with the word “feminist” emblazoned into the screen behind her — a key pop culture moment, no matter how watered down you deem Beyoncé’s feminism to be — is none other than the Queen herself.

    So your homework for this week, fair Salient readers, is to scurry off to your laptops and stream, or better yet buy, some or all of Queen Latifah’s albums. You’ll be helping to even out the very skewed gender playing field of hip-hop and its prevailing narratives, while also treating your ears to a veritable rap confection.

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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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