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Lowdown: Doors Open, Doors Close

17 Nov 2022
All the biggest news, happenings and events in the Aotearoa creative community - we herald those starting their careers, those at their peak and one that has sadly been cut short.

As the unseasonably early Christmas music and decorations in shops and malls underlines - the end of 2022 creeps ever nearer.


For some, the looming calendar change represents the hope of turning the page on part of their story they don’t want to read again.


For others, it’s filled with hope and optimism of what lies ahead.


And there is no better glimpse into what that future may look like than through the eyes of the next generation of creative talent. Throngs of artistically-minded students in creative fields throughout Aotearoa are reaching the graduation point of their courses.


It also provides an opportunity for art lovers - both visual and perfomance - to see this untapped talent for themselves, in person. It’s an opportunity not to be taken for granted, given the last few years of graduates weren’t afforded the same chance. Neither were the public.


These events aren’t just to tick a box in a curriculum. For many, it is the first real chance to build a connection with the industry they aspire to be part of - and to create relationships that help foster their success.


There’s a decent chance that many of the creative community’s future stars - or someone who uses creative thinking to make a major difference - comes out of this current batch.


University of Auckland’s Creative Futures Exhibitions - 25-27 November on its City Campus -  includes a range of disciplines - aligning the Elam Artists Graduate Show, ReDesign Graduate Show and Modos Te Pare School of Architecture and Planning Show to allow the public to sample all three exhibitions over the same weekend.


The Te Pātaka Art Trail connecting Unitec’s former and current campus areas in Ōwairaka Mt Albert has been opened to the public - and includes several more iterations full of creativity and contemplation.


Second and third year Unitec Dance Students will perform regenerative choreography on 22, 24 and 26 November that invites participants to move in relation to compositional offerings and movement scenes that unfold before them - designed to elevate their sensory awareness of the historical site.


There is also an aural experience to take in with another Unitec activation from the School of Creative Industries -  A Conversation, involves two people sitting on a large woven mat, Te Whāriki, overlooking the Puna, wearing headphones, tethered together and tuning into the same sound source. You can book one of the 20 sessions available between 30 November and 7 December to soak in this collaborative sound work by Becca Wood, Pouroto Ngaporo and participants.


Toi Whaakari’s 2022 versions of Manifest and Toi Film ran earlier this month, spotlighting the incredible work and imagination of their new batch of makers being unleashed onto the creative community.


Victoria University of Wellington’s end of year exhibition for the Schools of Design Innovation and Architecture has been on display since the start of the month running through to 21 November at its Te Aro Campus, with their graduates “exploring their auahatanga - creativity.”


AUT’s recently held a well-attended Bachelor of Creative Technologies exhibition, showing off the creativity and innovation in their student-led projects - and tonight (17 November) opens its AD22 Graduate Exhibition for Communication & Interaction Design majors opens with awards evening, with the public able to see the projects until 19 November at its St Paul Street campus.


Media Design School's set to display what their graduates have on offer with the Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow event - ironically on tomorrow (18 November) at Wynyard Quarter’s Madden Street.



The works featured by this year’s graduating class in graphic design, interactive design and motion design showcases themes that touch on social-mindedness, collaborative designing, community-enriching, interdisciplinary practice and culture.


Jim Murray - the Programme Director of the Bachelor of Media Design - told The Lowdown “it’s a really exciting time for young designers. The convergence of our physical and digital worlds have increased design’s influence on people's day to day lives. With that influence comes increased responsibility.” 


Chas Clark, I wish I Could (2002). Photo: Media Design School.


Murray states this has shaped the nature of their students' final major projects on show.


“What stands out about this exhibition for me is the exploratory nature of the work and the breadth and depth of topics that students have tackled - from creative media campaigns using AI to heighten awareness of skin cancer to an ambient machine that reflects the unique soundscapes of Aotearoa.


“It’s really rewarding to see our students use design to build towards a better future.”


Calais Soper, Feckl (2022). Image: Media Design School.


Being exhibited is proving a regular occurrence for one of MDS’s well credentialed lecturers, Jocelyn Janon. The French born, Auckland based photographer is highly regarded in Aotearoa’s creative community for his skills - and 2022 has been a boom year for recognition.


In the past few months, he’s been a runner-up at the New Zealand photographer of the year awards (society and culture), featured in the PX3 Prix de la photograhie in Paris, bronze medallist at the Monovisions Black & White photography awards and across the Tasman, his photo of actress Albertine Jonas is currently on display in Paddington as a semi-finalist for the Head On Portrait Awards.


Albertine. Photo: Jocelyn Janon.


Feedback frenzy


But while there is optimism from those fresh creative minds for the here and now - there is still a wait to come for those in the running for the next allotment from Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s (MCH) $28 Million Cultural Regeneration Fund.


After only five initiatives made the cut from the 66 submitted for the first round of funding, there’s been a more direct plea for support from many of the 240 applicants for the second round that’s currently being decided and will be announced in the new year.


And the response has been big - with MCH confirming to The Lowdown that they have received more than 8000 public feedback responses this time around.


Chief Executive Joe Fowler told The Lowdown “the overwhelming majority of feedback has been positive - with only a small fraction of respondents questioning the benefits of specific initiatives. Where people have raised doubts, this appears to have been done constructively and with respect.


“We would like to give a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to provide feedback and support for the proposals. It’s heartening to see people taking the time to support their colleagues in the sector, particularly given how busy people are.


“We look forward to using your comments to help us make informed funding decisions for initiatives that will have lasting benefits for arts, culture and heritage in Aotearoa New Zealand.”


Full force for Festival


Six World premieres, 12 Aotearoa premieres and five Australasian premieres - the first post-pandemic Auckland Arts Festival (AAF) programme has been released.


After a few shows were announced earlier, the full line up is out and it includes the return of international acts after several years of closed borders or cancelled events.


Organisers are touting the inclusion of waiata, kapa haka, dance-theatre, comedy, cabaret, aerial, jazz, opera, kōrero, sand art, orchestral and chamber music, R&B, K-rhythm, afrofunk, light art, photography and visual arts, Korean pansori, puppets, fire, film, family, infrared technology, theatre, Chinese pole art, a biodegradable light event, and accessible performances.



One of the early local highlights looks to come from a trinity of Pasifika talent, with unrelenting poet Tusiata Avia (above) looking to repeat the extraordinary success of Wild Dogs Under My Skirt with her adaptation to stage of her latest award-winner The Savage Coloniser Book. The recipe for that success has been followed, combining with FCC theatre company in producer Victor Rodger - with Anapela Polata’ivao brought on board to direct.


There’s a strong influence from AAF’s Toitū Te Reo programme, designed to show a commitment to te reo Māori, with 10 events in the line up.


And among the international additions, the hugely popular Spiegeltent returns including the never-seen-in-Aotearoa Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent along with overseas cabaret masters Strut & Fret with Blanc de Blanc Encore. 


AAF’s Artistic Director Shona McCullagh told The Lowdown “our early release shows are selling beyond our expectations, and we’re truly stoked to be announcing the rest of the programme today. Summer is coming and the people of New Zealand are ready to be uplifted by our Festival artists from Scotland, the Netherlands, Korea, Australia, America, Canada, England and of course, Aotearoa.


“It’s been a rough ride for us all over the last two years. We’ve needed courage to persevere, and yet we continue to face challenges as a sector with crew shortages and recent funding disappointments.


“So, through a lens of championing courage but also celebrating the power of artists to draw people together and inspire us, we have built a rich programme for 2023. We wanted to ensure that we not only honoured some key New Zealand projects that were cancelled in 2022 but also provided vital commissioning and presenting support for six world premieres of work from Aotearoa.” 


Among those given a second bite at the cherry after suffering the pain of forced cancellation earlier this year are Sam Wang’s one-man bilingual Skyduck: A Chinese Comedy,  the controversial New Zealand Opera offering of The Unruly Tourists and The Bill Withers Social Club starring Troy Kingi, Dallas Tamaira, Rio Hemopo and Lauren Barus, while the Siva Afi Festival will return to Māngere Arts Centre after having to shift online in 2022. 



The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra will perform the world premiere of Victoria Kelly’s Requiem (above) which includes Ātahu – a work for taonga puoro quartet, Maianginui and orchestra by poet, composer and musician Ruby Solly.


If you can’t wait that long to experience Kelly’s new work, then you’ll be pleased that she’s released a song from Requiem in not one but two languages, with some exceptionally talented vocal help.


The English version is performed by renowned tenor Simon O’Neill…



…and the Māori one, He Taurere, by Anika Moa.



The project has been bubbling away for Kelly since she first asked Sam Hunt for his permission to set his poem to music 20 years ago.


Kelly explains "I was inspired to release a Māori version of Requiem because Sam’s poem calls to mind a beautiful intersection between Māori and Pākeha world views. 


“Once Sir Tīmoti (Kāretu) had interpreted the poem, Anika and I worked with Dame Hinewehi (Mohi) and Stacey (Morrison) to intertwine the reo and the music and I reworked the accompaniment.


“The result feels completely different to the English version despite the musical DNA being the same, because the reo transforms the flow and intention of the piece."


The write stuff


Applications were said to be both strong and high in volume for this year’s Michael King Writers Centre (MKWC) residencies.


After wading through 509 individual applications from 108 applicants, 18 residencies have been handed out.



This year’s cohort who will spend time at the historic Signalman’s House in Devonport (above) will be working topics that include an indigenous Moana Pasifika “eco-gothic” vampire novel, a play about friendship and how power status evolves over the years, a collection of creative non-fiction stories about migration, Ukraine, alienation, escapism and belonging, a novel which has at its essence a whakatauki which points to the strength of women and another novel that is about the collapse of democracy in an organisation of alpaca breeders. For the first time, one selected writer will focus on a collection of short stories in te reo for adult readers.


The established writers to receive residencies are Duncan Sarkies, Sam Brooks, Rosetta Allan, Jacquie McRae, Caroline Barron, Helen Heath, Liz Breslin, Mary-anne Scott, Sherryl Clark and Joan Fleming.


It’s interesting to note that there is a continuing trend of big numbers applying in the emerging writers category, with MKWC noting “there is clearly a large and growing demand for developing writers to have an opportunity to retreat and work on their craft.”


Those given the opportunity in this category are Daniel Satele, Josie Shapiro, Gwynneth Porter, Nataliya Oryshchuk, Amber Esau, Hana Aoake, Atakohu Middleton, and Ruby Porter.


Geoff one of the best



There’s been an outpouring of appreciation for the work of New Zealand poet Geoff Cochrane, as well as sadness after his sudden passing this week.


With 22 published works to his name and a deserved status as an Arts Laureate to go with his Janet Frame Prize for Poetry, Cochrane’s impact on the literary community cannot be underestimated. Many of the country’s leading writers and poets have taken to social media to mourn his loss and praise his mastery of the craft - he was a genuine writer’s writer.


There’s a wonderful tribute to Cochrane in The Spinoff that shows his influence on writers of the calibre of Pip Adam, Chris Tse and Anne Kennedy, among many.


As poet James Brown puts it: “Everyone reading local poetry has, or should have, a Geoff Cochrane moment, a blissful book in which they discover his compressed, “courtly” (as Damian Wilkins once described Geoff’s writing) poetry mined from his singularly Wellington life, past and present. For most of that life Geoff was a full-time writer, something many writers fantasise about but secretly know they could never sustain.