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Issue 6, 2017

Issue 06

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News

  • Better Living (Wage) Everyone

  • Prisoners locked up for 26-hour periods prior to riot

  • Executive Officers to be paid for their labour

  • Paintings, not bubbly, stolen

  • Men might take some responsibility, for once in their lives

  • Iconic artist dies

  • Sad State of the Sector

  • Little allegedly defames frail, dying billionaire

  • VUWSA had an art collection

  • Fairer Fares Final Hurdle

  • Features

  • Hana_dark2

    Dark Objects

    – SPONSORED – Shadows are everywhere in Dark Objects. Curated by Faith Wilson, 2016 Blumhardt/CNZ Curatorial Intern at Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt, the show features work by Hana Pera Aoake, Clara Chon, Hye Rim Lee, Huni Mancini, Natasha Matila-Smith, Sorawit Songsataya, and Jade Townsend. All the artists are people of colour. To be […]

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  • dan

    Disenchanted Prophets — Matakite Matekiri

    – SPONSORED – In 1984, having made it all the way from Ngāruawāhia, the hīkoi to Waitangi was stopped just south of their goal. Police barred the bridge to the treaty grounds; only a delegation could proceed. The answer was definitive, an extension of the kotahitanga (oneness of purpose) movement that had brought the different […]

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  • LAURA

    Tangata o le Moana

    – SPONSORED – Moving from South Auckland to central Wellington, the decrease of Pacific culture/language/people I saw daily was a culture shock. Living in the CBD, I didn’t know where to go to find Pacific culture near me. I found solace at the Tangata o le Moana exhibition at Te Papa Tongarewa. In a city […]

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  • badgirl

    NOTE TO SELF: HOW TO WIN AT THE ART GAME AND STAY IN YOUR LANE

    – SPONSORED – Written by NZ’s #1 art world bad girl   The art world is a game. It is a game Have you trained? Are you ready to run the race? Do you own New Balances or Nike Frees? You have to be comfortable, because it’ll take decades to run the race and get […]

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  • Hana_dark2

    Dark Objects

    – SPONSORED – Shadows are everywhere in Dark Objects. Curated by Faith Wilson, 2016 Blumhardt/CNZ Curatorial Intern at Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt, the show features work by Hana Pera Aoake, Clara Chon, Hye Rim Lee, Huni Mancini, Natasha Matila-Smith, Sorawit Songsataya, and Jade Townsend. All the artists are people of colour. To be […]

    by

  • dan

    Disenchanted Prophets — Matakite Matekiri

    – SPONSORED – In 1984, having made it all the way from Ngāruawāhia, the hīkoi to Waitangi was stopped just south of their goal. Police barred the bridge to the treaty grounds; only a delegation could proceed. The answer was definitive, an extension of the kotahitanga (oneness of purpose) movement that had brought the different […]

    by

  • LAURA

    Tangata o le Moana

    – SPONSORED – Moving from South Auckland to central Wellington, the decrease of Pacific culture/language/people I saw daily was a culture shock. Living in the CBD, I didn’t know where to go to find Pacific culture near me. I found solace at the Tangata o le Moana exhibition at Te Papa Tongarewa. In a city […]

    by

  • badgirl

    NOTE TO SELF: HOW TO WIN AT THE ART GAME AND STAY IN YOUR LANE

    – SPONSORED – Written by NZ’s #1 art world bad girl   The art world is a game. It is a game Have you trained? Are you ready to run the race? Do you own New Balances or Nike Frees? You have to be comfortable, because it’ll take decades to run the race and get […]

    by

  • Arts and Science

  • Women in Action

    Setting aside the sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero cross-genres, the action genre is still a rather large field to mine. Historically, we tend to associate Hollywood blockbuster action films directly with masculinity. Men like Tom Cruise, Denzel Washington, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwarzenegger have oeuvres ranging across decades of action films that have brought them prestige and a whole lot of money.

    The big franchises — James Bond, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Bourne, all but the most recent Mission Impossible and Fast & Furious films included — relegate the few female characters to the role of victims, eye candy, or love interests who must be protected and kept separate from the action. More recently, two other tropes have become popular; the agent who uses “womanly wiles” to seduce her target, and the sexless military woman who toughs it out.

    I’m not trying to say that women should not play these sorts of characters. However, overwhelmingly, they are the only roles we see them in, and this creates a distorted image of what women are capable of, both in film and in reality. The well-worn plot arcs limit the range of roles for women, are usually disempowering, and are devoid of creativity to boot. Even films such as Fast & Furious 6, which has been lauded for its casting of Gina Carano and Michelle Rodriguez, still have scantily-clad women as set dressing, fewer female characters overall, and most of the female character development happens off-screen. Further skewing representation is the dearth of queer* women, WOC, and older women in action films.

    Here are some actresses and films that have bucked the trend:

    Firstly, let’s shift the focus to the Hong Kong golden age of action cinema, the ’80s and ’90s films which spawned the likes of Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and John Woo. Michelle Yeoh, who is Malaysian born and of Chinese descent, is an acclaimed actress whose mainstream successes include Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Supercop, as well as Tai Chi Master. She worked alongside Cynthia Rothrock, one of the few American actors to become a star in Hong Kong, in Yes, Madam, another classic of this era. Kelly Hu, Hawaiian born American with Chinese and English ancestry, was also in the kung fu action business, but has been consigned to TV work more recently, working in series like Arrow. As these actresses have aged, their roles have diminished, but their skills are just as sharp.

    Back in the US, we have the likes of Angelina Jolie, whose repertoire includes Mr and Mrs Smith, the infamous Salt in which she was cast as the leading role that had been written for Tom Cruise, and the earlier film Wanted. Lucy Liu and her co-stars in Charlie’s Angels paved the way for the small-scale film D.E.B.s, an action-comedy including a lesbian spy-villain romance, and hopefully more female ensemble films to come. Actresses like Michelle Rodriguez and Zoe Saldana lend talent to films such as Girlfight and The Losers (both older titles), while RED stars veteran secret agent Helen Mirren. Every actress mentioned has a variety of other titles to her name in other genres also worth checking out.

    Lastly, let’s get excited for upcoming film Atomic Blonde, starring Charlize Theron as a bisexual spy romantically enamoured with a villain played by Sophia Boutella. And if you need any more titles to get you going, I suggest an in-depth Google search.

     

    * This article employs queer as the reclaimed umbrella term used to refer to all who identify as LGBTQIAP+.

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  • Difficult People

    After binge watching the first two seasons in approximately four days, the best thing I could come up with to describe Hulu’s Difficult People is: “Curb Your Enthusiasm, with more B-List cameos, meets a less stupidly offensive It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia meets a more diverse Seinfeld meets the best underground trashy celebrity gossip sites that I check daily.” Difficult People co-stars Billy Eichner, host of Billy on the Street, a quiz show filmed in New York City that involves Eichner running up to people on the aforementioned street and demanding answers to things like, “For a dollar, name a white woman!” and storming away screaming about Gwyneth Paltrow when they can’t answer. Billy on the Street is one of my favourite shows, but I can’t begrudge people for finding it difficult. However, Eichner’s brash energy works beautifully in this sitcom collaboration with comedienne Julie Klausner.

    Eichner and Klausner star as exaggerated versions of themselves — struggling comedians trying to catch a break in New York City while still finding themselves enamoured with every A-Lister they run into at the industry events they eventually get kicked out of. Billy is single, barely working as a waiter, and slowly running out of places to work out at in his city after banging his way through all the gay men at his local gyms. Julie writes recaps of reality television shows online (sound familiar?) and lives with her square but loving boyfriend, Arthur, and their two dogs, Senator Jelly Beans and Greg. Billy and Julie are exceptionally difficult, and so are the people around them: Billy’s married bosses Nate and Denise (Gabourey Sidibe, Empire) and his co-workers, the “recently” out Matthew and Lola, a transwoman who passionately believes 9/11 was an inside job. Lola is played by actress and trans activist Shakina Nayfack, who also served as a consultant on the show and wrote the majority of her character’s lines.

    Eichner and Klausner are both pop culture fanatics and it enriches their production, making watching them gleefully and perfectly recreate iconic scenes from films such as Pretty Woman and Sixteen Candles all the more satisfying. The characters within Difficult People are all hysterical and appreciate being so, and seeing them laugh at their own jokes is far more satisfying than any Chuck Lorre-sanctioned laugh track. “When did comedies just become half hour dramas?” bemoans Billy, all but turning to face the camera and winking at the audience. Difficult People remains punchy and funny throughout each 23-minute episode even when dealing with relatable situations. Or maybe not so relatable ones, like running over David Byrne from the Talking Heads, or forcing Nathan Lane to stick his hand in a toilet for a fake charity. The shows other celebrity cameos are all niche and fantastic and everyone commits to being a weird asshole; Debbie Harry, Kate McKinnon, Amy Sedaris, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Nyle from America’s Next Top Model, and even my fave Countess Luann de Lesseps from Real Housewives of New York!

    I think I was always destined to like Difficult People because it features a self-sabotaging struggling television reviewer and Billy Eichner yelling. It’s not for everyone; unabashedly a show about relentlessly difficult people, if you find Peep Show or Curb Your Enthusiasm hard to watch, I wouldn’t recommend this. Additionally, if you don’t have even a vague rundown on pop culture from the last 10–15 years you’re gonna get a little lost. I’ll give you a free one: Kevin Spacey’s a fucking creep. The show’s third season premieres this August.

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  • Van Gogh’s Ear: The True Story — Bernadette Murphy

    The infamous tale of Van Gogh and his severed ear donated to the local prostitute has always been a fun topic of discussion among art nerds; so here was this art nerd, yours truly, keen to get into what the latest writer had to say about the guy. Van Gogh was your typical VUW student: spends all his money on durries and wine and lives in a degenerate flat in a windy city. He was deep and brooding and thought no one understood him and his art (or BA).

    Van Gogh’s Ear is Bernadette Murphy’s desperate attempt to be the next Raymond Chandler. Thinking of herself as a detective figure, she describes and deducts like any cheap detective novel would; convoluted, fluffy, and try-hard. It’s hard to get past the first few chapters — her self-indulgent life stories and anecdotes have next to no relevance to what the title promises. This is a set up for a sleepy and bland read where you have to reach for the fun stuff about one of the most interesting, influential, and controversial artists.

    In all fairness, Van Gogh’s Ear is Murphy’s first novel, but it’s infuriatingly obvious. Her style can be jolted and awkward and her descriptions lack creativity. She also had a tendency to repeat herself over, and over, and over again. Murphy, we get it, you reached “dead ends” and had “hot leads” and other classic, half-baked terms.

    There are redeeming features — it ain’t all bad. You can learn some interesting stuff from Murphy. Her research process was so long and arduous that it is actually very cool that she discovered and compiled extensive information surrounding Van Gogh. Overall, I would recommend Van Gogh’s Ear to any first year art history student who needs to pick up on their basic art jargon and learn some research skills.

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  • Podcasts about The Bachelor: Indulge Your Guilty Pleasures

    The fact that I am an avid watcher of The Bachelor and all extensions of the franchise (yes, all of them) is not something I typically work into conversation with my peers. Is this because I do not possess a burning desire to talk about the show in great length and detail? No, it is because I have found my release in the wonderful world of Bachelor-related podcasts.

    It was around a year ago that I was delighted to find that there is not one, not two, but definitely more than five podcasts dedicated to discussing The Bachelor. One of my favourite things about podcasts is the diversity of content. If you have a niche interest that none of your friends share, do not fear; instead, make podcasts your medium of choice. You will find solace in the knowledge that there are many out there who share your weird, specific obsession.  

    Anyway, back to The Bachelor. If you are like me, and pretend to watch the show for “social commentary” purposes rather than just as trashy entertainment, hit up podcasts. One of my personal favourites is the Huffington Post (I know, I am sorry) podcast Here To Make Friends. It is hosted by two cool ladies, Emma Gray and Claire Fallon, who chat about the show from a feminist perspective. There are often guest appearances from former Bachelor contestants, offering genuinely fascinating insight into the behind-the-scenes processes of the show.

    If one Bachelor-related podcast is not enough to satiate your appetite, then firstly, I salute you comrade, and secondly, you should check out Accept These Bros and Bustle’s Will You Accept This Podcast for refreshing and humorous run downs of the show.

    For those who dabble in the New Zealand Bachelor series, The Spinoff have a highly entertaining podcast from a Kiwi perspective called The Fantasy Suite.

    I will finish by saying that Bachelor podcasts have saved my dignity and allowed my friendships to flourish. I now feel no need to vent to innocent friends and family members about a show they probably despise or at best do not care about. So shout out to podcasts for validating, enabling, and pandering to my love for terrible reality television.

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  • Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei — Barnaby Martin

    Simply put, Ai Weiwei is one of the most prolific and courageous contemporary artists that we have the absolute privilege to be able to enjoy. By teaming this amazing guy with the amazing author/journalist Barnaby Martin, The Hanging Man is a snappy, sympathetic, and well thought out read. Anyone who is interested in art, politics, human rights, or Chinese history will have a field day.

    The Hanging Man dives into the 2011 arrest of the politically notorious Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei. Considering the subject of this book, the mere 244 pages talks about a lot more than just his art. Martin provides a deep history and will surely influence how we know and understand the artist today. He discusses past poets and artists who faced similar, or even worse, circumstances within the political context of China. The vocabulary is direct and the author makes no excuses for excessive language, hitting the point straight and hard. It’s shocking and will no doubt surprise you.

    Martin covers years of historical oppression in a country that’s constantly under international scrutiny for its political procedures, diplomatic relations, and dodgy human rights practices. Martin skilfully wrote on all of these issues, doing more than just a shallow skim as typically found in an artist’s profile book.

    In the best way possible, absorbing all of the heavy content in The Hanging Man doesn’t consume you or make you sad. Rather, it makes you mad. Real mad. Mad over the current crises in our own home and abroad. Rather than feeling beaten down by everyone upstairs, Martin uses Ai Weiwei as a figure to be followed. Through art, Ai Weiwei figured out the way he could bring to light (nationally and internationally) conflicts and issues that still plague his home today. Go forth and fight the power!

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  • Everything

    Developer: David OReilly

    Publisher: Double Fine Productions

    Platform: PS4 (reviewed), PC

     

    This being the Art issue, I thought it would be a good idea to have a gander at an “artsy” game, one where the rules go out the window and any sort of weird shit is possible. Oh boy, did I find one!

    Everything is from the slightly demented mind of David OReilly — an artist, filmmaker, and animator with a very distinct aesthetic. If you’ve seen the Adventure Time episode “A Glitch Is a Glitch” you’ll know exactly what it is; low-poly 3D models, more glitches than Assassin’s Creed: Unity, and an absurd sense of humour inspired by internet memes. His previous effort in game development was Mountain, a simulator which barely qualified as a game since you couldn’t interact with anything.

    Perhaps taking that criticism into account, Everything is a game about controlling, well, everything. You’re plopped into the middle of a procedurally generated universe as a random creature, and initially you can “descend” into something smaller than what you start as, the game’s scale shifting with you. Eventually you’ll reach, no joke, the sub-atomic level, at which point you can “ascend” into bigger objects, until you can control entire galaxies. You can keep shifting between levels, so one minute you could be a cockroach and the next you’re an entire freaking galaxy!

    There seems to be an underlying hint of ridiculousness indicative of OReilly’s involvement. The animals in the game don’t have a traditional walk cycle, instead flipping head-over-heels in the most hilarious fashion, as if they decided walking was bullshit and cartwheels were much more fun (which, face it, they are). Objects of a similar nature can be grouped together, and it is incredibly hilarious to see massive herds of deer or shipping containers roam across the landscape without a care in the world. The very concept of the game is so ridiculous you can’t help but wonder if they made the whole thing for a joke. Yet, it seems OReilly wants you to take it a bit more seriously.

    Interspersed throughout the world are “thoughts” — tiny pieces of existentialist musings from perspective of an object. It’s a little weird to see what a rock thinks about its own existence, but weirdness is OReilly’s raison d’être. More substantially, the presence of quotes from philosopher Alan Watts really hammer home the game’s themes. Watts espoused the belief that all objects in the universe are connected, that we need to free ourselves of the idea that space separates things. Including snippets of Watts’ lectures to find is a stroke of genius that takes Everything from being a weird gameplay experiment to a much more transcendental experience. You stop worrying about trying to find something else to control and instead start to think about what every object in the game, from an atom to a planet, is thinking and experiencing. You find yourself drawn in and never want to leave.

    Unfortunately, despite the metaphysical experiences and there being so many things to find, there is little else of substance to Everything. I felt like I had found everything the game had to offer in just over an hour, and while it felt great to play at the time, I didn’t feel any need to return to it. If you’re a hardcore completionist who likes collecting trophies then maybe you’ll get a bit more out of it gameplay-wise, but this is otherwise a therapeutic experience masquerading as a video game.

    I don’t know, maybe I’m just not qualified enough to talk about art games? Why do I play games? HOLY SHIT, WHY DO I EVEN EXIST?! AAAAAAGGGGHHHH!

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  • Ignore, defer, and move on?

    Maddy Plimmer, Congratulations

     

    My first reaction to Maddy Plimmer’s Congratulations, like (I suspect) many others, is to try to close the window and move on. This is clearly spam; just one of the dozens or hundreds of claims to my attention that I dismiss every day. Ignore, delete, move on.

    Then, on a second look, I recognise that there’s more to the image than there first appears. It does resemble an example of the vapid flotsam of the so-called information age — but it’s been rendered analogue, stamped imperfectly. The graininess emphasises the image’s singularity, and while the stamp presumably still exists, this iteration is flawed in ways that other iterations will never exactly match. All of this stands in opposition to the perfect replication of the digital image.

    Out of context, rendered subtly human through error, I encounter it as a small human gesture in the face of a society saturated in digital noise. It draws my attention to the effort of ignoring that I put into navigating that society, effort which I do my best to not notice. It suggests a desire for authenticity frustrated through only having access to mass-produced material — a problem which is particularly suggestive if extended to the society as a whole. If all cultural production is sampling and remixing, how could anything be truly innovative? On the other hand, cultures clearly change. Is that purely a consequence of changing material conditions? Is it enough to turn this pop-up into a stamp, or is that just mashing together past and present, preserving the problems of both? How do we get to a future?

    Even this more critical and interested reaction, though, feels empty. The initial impulse — to ignore, defer, and move on — has been extended into a new generic response. Rather than categorising the piece as spam, I’ve categorised it as “art.” To do that, I’ve mobilised only knowledges which were familiar. I haven’t learned anything from this experience in its specificity; rather, I’ve taken a set of expectations and fitted the territory to the map. Just like my initial reaction, I’ve minimised my costs.

    To learn something or to have an experience that respects the specificity of the piece, perhaps I have to take it entirely seriously. I have to entertain the possibility that I am in fact the 100,000th visitor — that this isn’t a joke. I really am being congratulated. I’m able, through some effort, to make myself feel a vague sense of happiness at the prospect of winning something. Looking again, though, I realise I’ve misread the message; it isn’t actually promising me anything. It’s just congratulating me. There’s no prize. Somehow this doesn’t bother me, which is suggestive. Is it that I’m more interested in success for its own sake than the rewards it might give? Perhaps being singled out from the crowd of 100,000 is itself the reward. Looking closely at the thin sliver of joy I’m feeling, I think it probably does subsist on that desire to be special.

    I can only sustain the feeling for a moment before the utopia falls apart. There’s a persistent sense of silliness to my attempt to read the picture naively, and it eventually “kicks me out” of enjoyment. Practical issues also quickly intrude; what about the other 99,999 visitors? Do they know that they’ve missed out? Perhaps the message is haunted by the ghosts of 99,999 other messages: “Condolences! This is not a joke! You are not the 100,000th visitor!” Look closely at the image of the happy face, and you might detect a guilty edge to its otherwise blissful expression.

    Still, I’m determined. I eventually settle into a kind of equilibrium, oscillating between a sense of success and the realisation of its meaninglessness. By now I’ve been looking at the page long enough that the looking becomes its own object; look long enough at anything and it turns into a mirror. My sense of meaninglessness in itself raises an interesting question; why is it meaningless? If it’s pointless because it doesn’t feel good — if I try to justify my disinterest on the basis of sensual pleasure — then I’m faced with a challenge. This is the experience I’m having. If I want to maximise my happiness, should I discard this moment and move on to the next, or should I plunge further into this moment and try to extract the most from it as I’m able? The question seems to turn on my expectations of other experiences, but there’s always an element of uncertainty in prediction. Perhaps I’ll discard this moment, feel disappointed, and move on to the next, only to feel the same sense of disappointment and continue on. One could spend a life doing that. Eventually I have to linger over an experience and decide to feel good about it — so why not this one? Like the haunted happy face, the casting of anything as ‘meaningless’ conjures the inevitably spectral figure of ‘meaning’.

    In the end, it’s impossible. The equilibrium doesn’t resolve into anything positive; instead, I gradually lose hold of it, and am forced to go elsewhere in search of meaning. Perhaps this is the point; by registering the utopian potential of the image, we’re brought into contact with its impossibility. Perhaps I have to learn to appreciate the process of searching for meaning; turn the search for something into its own object. Viewed in those terms, Congratulations might be recast as a stop along the way — a stage in an endless search.

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  • He tangata, he tangata

    Chevron Te Whetumatarau Hassett- -Mum with whakahuia-

    Chevron Te Whetumatarau Hassett, Mum with wakahuia

     

    When I was studying art in high school, it was very rare that I could find a Māori artist to inspire my research — rarer still to find a Māori photographer. Historically we have always been in front of the lens, categorised, fetishised by classical anthropologists, consistently portrayed by an external “other”. We were Victorian-style portraits in black and white, or primitive brown bodies crouched before a fire. We were tourism ads, heavily edited in bad taste, to lure tourists into meeting “the simple folk of a time gone by.”

    When I first came across Chev’s work, my first reaction was one of deep excitement. Here, FINALLY, I relished the moment of seeing someone who is young, who is Māori, in control of the image and the stories it tells. No longer a slave to the stranger and their pocket Pentax, finally someone to guide whakaaro Māori (Māori ways of thinking) in the work they are creating, and gifting to the world.

    Chev’s images are an insight into his whakapapa. He invites us in, and through the image we gather and share stories of his whānau, and his iwi (Ngāti Porou). Here, his Pākehā mother holds up a waka huia, a taonga made for her by Chev’s father. Raised into the sky, I feel a certain reverence for the piece, and what it means for telling the kōrero of one’s whānau. For me at least, there is a kind of deeply felt nostalgia. While these figures are not my own family, they are archetypal characters in whom I recognise my own loved ones.

    There is a word in Ngāi Tūhoe, “matemateaone”. The word speaks literally to how we all die by the same dirt, but more so than this, the word is something that is only recognised when felt. Some say it represents the land that we all eventually return to, and our duty to protect it. Some may say it invokes a shared humanity, and the recognition of people in the faces and actions of others. To feed others is to feed oneself, and to connect with a person is to connect with their tīpuna, their whakapapa, the land that fed and nourished them. E ai ki te kōrero, he aha te mea nui o te Ao? Ko te whakautu: “he tangata, he tangata, he tangata”. He whakaaro tēnei ki roto i ēnei whakaahua. Mai i te huinga o te tangata ki te tangata, te kanohi ki te kanohi, ka puta mai te whanaungatanga, me ngā whakaaro hōhonu mō ngā iwi kē o te Ao.

    These are things I feel when I see Chev’s images. I see my own uncles and aunties, working on the marae. I see our kuia in their diva-like glory. Our taonga, treasured and loved as they are, amongst the taiao (natural environment). There is a desire to connect and to whakarongo (listen). The narrative is distinctly Ngāti Porou, an iwi of people who, as Chev proudly told me, were probably one of the first to occupy Aotearoa. In this image, I recognise my own Pākehā mother, and the deep connection she feels to Te Ao Māori, having carried and raised two Māori children of her own. In what ways are our Pākehā parents, our Pākehā whānau, weaved into the narrative of whakapapa Māori?

    I think there is a story to tell, if you look into these images deep enough. The story is one of colonisation, and of the modern Māori. Especially in art, that conversation has not been unaddressed. Ralph Hotere, Michel Tuffery, Robyn Kahukiwa, are all Polynesian artists who have successfully explored culture in modernity, and in diaspora. The interaction of Te Ao Māori and Te Ao Pākeha has a well documented conversation over many different realms of creativity. Nevertheless, these images offer something new to that conversation; a resounding statement that these people are here to stay.

    As a single image, this photo is emotive, a face raised to enlightenment in Te Ao Mārama. As a series though, this work becomes a narrative. The people of these images, clad in everyday clothing, seem finally comfortable to be in view. Photographed in places of significance, the ngahere, the moana, and on the marae, this is the revitalisation of Māoritanga on this land.

    Those paua eyes set deep in the waka huia glare at me. Inside them is a challenge and an invitation; pull fast into the currents or be swept away. It’s not the most traditional method of kōrero, but Te Ao Māori is definitely at least as cool as Chev is making it out to be.

    He kōrero kei runga mō te huinga tāngata ki roto i te ao. He whakawhanaungatanga ka puta atu, mai i te noho kanohi ki te kanohi . Koinei te āhua o ngā pikitia nei. Ko te mahi a te kaiwhakaahua, he mahi hononga. Māku e kī, ko te wero me whakanui tātou i ēnei mahi hononga, ngā mahi toi a te rangatahi Māori. Nā te mea, ko te rangatahi i tā i te ao kei waenganui, kei mua hoki, i a tātou. Tīhei mauri ora.

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  • “Where I stand, where I sit”: Textures of us

    _MG_7368

    _MG_7371

    Nathaniel Gordon-Stables, Where I stand, where I sit

     

    Spread across pink silk, mounted to a ceiling, is a conversation. Nathaniel Gordon-Stables has created a discourse. The projected image — his bare feet, twinkling upon homely, ’70s-patterned carpet — invites (the audience) into a private sphere.

    Nathaniel Gordon-Stables (Ngāti Kurī) is a fourth year Fine Arts student, and a working artist based in Wellington. Nathaniel is tangata ira tāne as well as takatāpui; a queer trans artist who spreads his work across topics of gender identity, te ao Māori, and intimacy with the self.

    ——

    In a softly-lit studio, Nathaniel and I sit and talk about his work.

    Where I stand, where I sit is a multi-format piece suspended from the high ceiling above us. An image is projected upon paper-thin, beige-pink fabric screen. We see Nathaniel’s naked legs and feet, restless upon rather ugly brown carpet. During the video, Nathaniel undresses; his nondescript black shorts tossed aside, almost out of frame. At the end, Nathaniel’s feet carry him off-camera. A seam, ugly and wide, splits the screen at an irregular angle.

    At an early point in our discussion, I come to understand that Nathaniel’s work is about texture. His hands pull at his sleeves while answering my questions — and in his work, the act of touching is key. His work makes its home in the question: “what does it feel like?

    Nate points to the billowing silk screens and tells me: “I wanted this fabric to be ‘skin-coloured’. I wanted it to represent my skin.” The material used to create the screen is milky, Caucasian. We laugh a little bit even though it’s not really that funny. We’re standing in the dark. Over and over, Nathaniel’s black shorts slip onto the off-brown carpet. Quickly, undressing becomes entirely commonplace.

    I watch it for a while, while Nate tinkers with a fancy, Massey-owned DSLR camera. To be honest, it’s hard to resist touching the hanging screens — Nate’s work leads us straight to our tactile senses. The fabric floats daintily in the studio draught. Despite being beautiful and ethereal, the screens aren’t perfect. The foremost is split by a crudely stitched cleft. I ask about it. Nate says: “the seam is about my binder — it’s something that holds me together.”

    Dialogues of self-love and self-care are critical to those struggling in their body. This piece of art reflects intimacy with the self, focusing on rituals around clothing and skin. To Nate, nakedness and exposure are acute. As he tells me, Nathaniel is well acquainted with feelings of discomfort within his body. Expressed through unveiling his skin, Nate confronts the audience’s expectations of a queer body. And here it is, the unwritten, fundamental discourse: showing the trans* body without spectacle. More than this, however: Nate is in control of the audience’s gaze. Equally in control of the audience’s level of intimacy and scrutiny, his work shows the intimate rituals of his body, set against a familiar backdrop. He contextualises his body within the space. The overarching question here is: “how can I make my body feel safe?

    There’s a strong sense that Nathaniel, and other local queer artists, are on the cutting edge of change and social progress. Nathaniel’s work comes from a new school of thought — the artist using the artist as a subject — creating conversations and statements through the body. He’s answering the question: “what does my body feel like?

    Through ritual and process, Nate is describing his relationship with the self. I ask him why. “It’s about giving trans* and queer people the message that their bodies are powerful.”

    ——

    Indulge in my vanity

    A space where my body exists to be free

    A whare you may or may not understand

    You belong here, with me

    Don’t mourn for our loss

    Kare they are with us

    Takatāpui they are with you

    — Nathaniel Gordon-Stables

    by

  • How to be a Pretentious Fuck 101

    So you’re in an art gallery, staring at some piece you know fuck all about. There may or may not be colours involved, possibly a shape or two thrown in the mix, fuck maybe even a body part of some description. Some middle aged person wearing clothes that cost more than your annual rent comes up next to you and murmurs, “interesting….” There is only one way to respond — show them up with your sick knowledge you got from an overpriced education (that they probably didn’t have to pay for).

    But don’t worry dummy — I’ve got you! Just link whatever you’re looking at to some music, easy as pie! Here’s a cheat sheet for all you “2 kewl 4 skool” kids out there. All you need to do is pick out a few keywords from that little piece of card or whatever it is they put next to art.

    First things first, does this art in front of you look old af? You know the ones, with the tacky arse looking frames with people’s faces on it that look like an actual face. You’re probably looking at something renaissance, baroque, neoclassical, romanticist, or realist. Any of those words look familiar? Let’s be real, this is the easiest lot to pair. Just throw on some classical music, idiot! Wanna feel real smug? Pick one of those real loud ass German pieces with all the horns and call it a day. Don’t be too obvious though, pick something like Tchaikovsky 4th instead of Beethoven for christ’s sake.

    No faces but a real mundane arse scene instead? Something flute-based works, try Vaughan Williams. No faces, and the scenes looking a bit more colourful? That’s postimpressionism, stupid, throw on some Leoš Janáček.

    But what do you do when it all starts getting, ya know, weird? Let’s take it a step at a time, together. Are they pictures of normal things, but really off? Like a face that a 6-year old did? Then it’s probably expressionist or Fauvist. For a time-accurate piece to make you feel like a real superstar, blast some Arnold Schoenberg. You got a melting clock or some other ridiculous ass scene? Dadaism dummy. Put on your most pretentious face and listen to the old John Cage staple, 4’33”.

    No normal things? Bunch of geometric shapes? You’ve got yourself some Cubism or De Stijl there probably. Techno works super well here, throw on some Brian Eno, pal. Real cartoony looking stuff? You know the ones, the soup can, the one of that woman drowning. Throw on some Devo and make a comment about commercialism in a tone that implies you’re being ironic, but also ironic about your irony.

    What about if instead of shapes, there’s just a block of colour on the canvas? Probably abstract impressionism. Jump right in the deep end with some drone, listen to Earth (personally I’d go for Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version) and really just start drooling. People will know you’re a true art fan then.

    You’ve got no geometric shapes, no solid colour to go off — what the fuck do you do here? Here’s where it gets a bit shaky. You’re staring at a pile of junk on the floor wondering if you should admire it, or let the gallery staff know someone’s emptied their pockets. There’s a shark cut in half that you’re walking between, a black and white photo of some rickety arse shack.

    Fuck it, throw on whatever, flip the old person the bird and call it art. Vice might write about it.

    by

  • 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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