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The Lowdown #13

Dane Mitchell: photo supplied
Simon Kaan: Paua and Chopsticks, 2018. Supplied.
Jesse Johnstone-Steele. Photo: Vanessa Rushton Photography
Mark Amery brings us the art news and weather from Aotearoa New Zealand.


This week: Venice Biennale update; wearable coats of paint; representing women; and the wonders of the small book. 

Dane Mitchell has announced his Venice Biennale venue, or rather: venues. He follows Simon Denny in basing his 2019 exhibit across multiple locales. In new details on the project released this week, the principal venue has been announced as the rather lovely looking Palazzina Canonica, former headquarters of Istituto di Scienze Marine, a marine sciences research institution, heralded in PR as a collaboration partner. Quite what the relationship between Mitchell and a marine science lab might consist of has yet to be clarified. We await the slow reveal that typifies Venice Biennale media rollouts.

What we do know is that the pavilion will act for Mitchell as “the repository and base for an automated broadcast of the vast lists of things which have disappeared, become extinct, obsolete or been destroyed, with industrially produced cell tree towers (designed to be camouflaged as trees) acting as the transmitters of information.” The work, entitled Post hoc, asks what our relationship might be to things that have disappeared, “and what our responsibility to this information is, leaving the question open,” according to the artist. Dane was featured in a short interview with Denizen last month.

Post hoc co-curator is Zara Stanhope, formerly of Auckland Art Gallery, and now curatorial manager for Asian and Pacific art at GOMA in Brisbane. That sees her manage what may be Australasia's most significant art event: the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. That’s in November, and the full artist list was released this week. New Zealanders include Kushana Bush, Gavin Hipkins, Anne Noble, Lisa Reihana, Peter Robinson, Areta Wilkinson and Tungaru: The Kiribati Project led by Chris Charteris.

Balancing Women

Balancing the roles of mother, writer, director, and performer: Chelsie Preston Crayford has taken out the prize for the Best New Zealand Short Film at the international film festival awards for Falling Up. The story explores a break up, and was filmed with Preston Crayford’s own ex-partner. Preston Crayford’s searching interview with Sarah Catherall is up on Noted, and well worth a read but even better is a short film festival video interview with Chelsie here.

Art activities celebrating the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand are gathering apace. Te Uru gallery in Waitakere have an interesting open call out to women artists. In 1993 the Association of Women Artists initiated an exhibition of postcards to mark the 100-year anniversary of suffrage. Te Uru will exhibit the original postcards alongside new ones. Women cartoonists group Three Words have posted the details on their blog.

Speaking of women collectives I personally recommend Collective Women: Feminist Art Archives from the 1970s to 1990s at Auckland Art Gallery, which does well exhibiting exactly what it says on the label. Just opened at the Dowse is new work by Mata Aho Collective in Can Tame Anything. This dialogue with 1980s installation work proposes that the earlier period of women’s practice is vital to the present.

And on the subject of representation: the storm that met the Pop Up Globe’s programme announcement with an all-male Taming of the Shrew has seen artistic director Miles Gregory make an about turn. They have made a commitment to cast equal numbers of male and female actors, with their 2018/19 Auckland season to feature 14 women and 14 men.

And new public art work of the week? Catherine Griffith’s beautiful giant mirror on O’Connell Street which I enjoyed - like numerous others - instagramming last week. This NZ Herald story reveals the interesting commissioning backstory.

Awards News

Coats which turn out to be literally coats of paint have taken out the National Contemporary Art Award at Waikato Museum. Rotorua artist Sarah Ziessen won with You and Me, The Weight of History, two paint skins dressed up as snazzy jackets. According to the artist, the work explores the way we communicate personal and cultural identities through pattern. “Over time the paint skins will distort with the pull of gravity, the patterns becoming harder to read - thus echoing the way the signification of distinct patterns become obfuscated or even lost over the course of history.” Runner-up was Kereama Taepa, and merits were awarded to Natchez Hudson and Martin Awa Clarke Langdon. The judge was Pataka’s Reuben Friend. Back in 2013 Ziessen won the Rotorua Museum Emerging Artist Award.

Wednesday night saw the annual Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards at parliament, quite the party in recognising those who’ve provided opportunities for people with limited access to engage with the arts. There was also an award for outstanding achievement as an artist: to Jesse Johnstone-Steele, who has played a key role in Touch Compass Dance since its inception in 1997.

Jesse Johnstone-Steele, with Minister Sepuloni presenting Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Award. Photo: Vanessa Rushton Photography

A report on the Arts Access winners is here, and Lynn Freeman on RNZ’s Standing Room Only (herself winning an award for her commitment to reporting on diverse arts and artists over nearly 20 years) spoke to students from West Auckland involved in Humans of Hendo which saw young people use photography to make connections with people in Henderson.

Finally New China Eyewitness: Roger Duff, Rewi Alley and the art of museum diplomacy was the big winner at the Publishers’ Association design awards, designed by Christchurch’s Aaron Beehre for Canterbury University Press. It scooped Best Illustrated Book, Best Cover, and the Gerard Reid Award for Best Book.

Comings and Goings

Christchurch Arts Festival, which returns in 2018, has a new management team which by the look of it promises a new approach. Free Theatre’s George Parker is new artistic director, known for his championing of cross-disciplinary experimental community practice in Christchurch, and CEO is Claire Wilkinson, whose background is in funding and business development.

Also on movements Adam Goodall has replaced Kate Prior as theatre editor at Pantograph Punch. Goodall will direct  I, Will Jones at Auckland’s Basement Theatre from 7-11 August. Recommended on PP this week is Jean Sargent’s piece on Taylor Mac’s extraordinary play Hir, currently being produced by Silo.

Big event announcements: New Zealand’s largest gathering of Asian art practitioners has been launched, the Asian Aotearoa Arts Hui is in Wellington in September, features a pop-up radio station and public art platform and sees the return to New Zealand of Hong Kong based artist Yuk King Tan among the guests. And, for October, the Auckland Artweek website and programme have gone live. Artweek runs October 6 - 14.

Simon Kaan: Paua and Chopsticks, 2018 at Asian Aotearoa Arts Hui, 2018. Supplied.

Small books

Small books are an increasingly big thing, with the number of publishers growing. For Photoforum Mary Macpherson interviewed Harry Culy, co-owner of Bad News Books, who have amassed an impressive catalogue of photobooks.

Small Bore Books have worked with critic Wystan Curnow, artist Phil Dadson and Te Uru to produce the fifth ‘lost’ issue of journal Splash, originally intended for publication in 1987. Splash was edited by Curnow, Roger Horrocks, Tony Green and Judi Stout between 1984 and 1986.  A From Scratch special, documenting the work of this important cross-media group, it was prepared but never published. Meanwhile the impressive From Scratch survey exhibition and performance series held at Te Uru earlier this year has received CNZ funding for touring.   

Want more?

Te Karere have put together a great television piece on Wi Taepa and his Auckland Art gallery survey exhibition.

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Written by

Mark Amery

7 Aug 2018

Mark Amery has worked as an art critic, writer, editor and broadcaster for many years across the arts and media.