Archive for February, 2008

Historical Tagging

There is still a lot in the news about tagging and graffiti and street art including the idiot who tagged a glacier. Because there have been quite a few references to cave drawings in the debate, I checked out two books “Prehistoric Rock Art of New Zealand” by M Trotter and B McCulloch (1971) and “Maori Rock Art: An ink that will stand forever” by Paul Thompson (1989). The Thompson one has excellent photographs and I just wish I’d had either on hand in my forays to look at the South Island sites. Last time we were down that way we went to Opihi site near Pleasant Point. That’s where the well known Taniwha images are but I recall being a bit disappointed. I guess it just wasn’t like the clear graphic images I’d seen.

stamp.jpg 1967 20c stamp

Thompson in the Maori Rock Art book had this section which I find very relevant:

“And we might like to ignore those whom we call vandals, who, ever since the drawings were discovered by Europeans. have scratched their own initials around and over the ancient forms, Whether the product of adolescent sexuality, as AP/PD, or the equally primeval drive to assert one’s existence, as in P.D.T 1951, these latter-day scribblings as yet have no sociological or political important, but if the results of spraycan graffiti – RASTA 4 EVAand the like – lasts over several decades, then some earnest young academic might be found analysing them and writing on the spread of a racial consciousness, albeit imported, among the young and the poor. When the original Vandals swept out of the north and sacked it was naturally enough a disaster for what was regarded as the civilised world, but after one thousand or so years, poets and artists delighted in the picturesque qualities of the ruins and thought drolly on the brevity of human achievement. Time softens the effects of disfigurement and destruction, and may even add an extra layer of meaning.Just as tourists now seek out Lord Byron’s weathered signature carved into the stone blocks Poseidon’s Temple at Cape Sounion overlooking the Aegean Sea or, closer home, yet apocryphally, Rutherford’s on his old desk at Canterbury University, these contemporary scrawlings will have an interest for the future. Not because the perpetrators are likely to become famous poets or scholars but because their idly scratched initials will provide a basis for speculation: who was here on a summer’s afternoon eighty years ago? The compulsion for recent visitors to leave their marks may even actually reflect, in part the intention of the original artists: I think, therefore I am, therefore I sign. But in the meantime, let us ignore these hopeful and defiant additions of the twentieth century, and stand, with our backs to the wall, to look out to the time when the rocks stood bare.”

There is quite a bit about Theo Schoon’s work too and his obsession with this art (and his habit of “touching them up!). However it did bring attention to preservation of these artworks and and had the (unfortunate?) side effect of popularising them. Items such as scarves and ashtrays printed with rock art images appeared in souvenir shops and the like.

So to my pic of the day. Lord Byron aside I think this is a great example of historical tagging and a particularly NZ one.


BTW: If anyone has any experience with art cataloguing software can they leave a comment please?.

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A short intermission…

The flu and world crude oil prices got the better of me so its a stay-at-home day rather than run madly around some galleries day. So here are some random items.

I just want to note that if someone corrects me on a blog entry I happily go back and put in an ammendment. However if you don’t read back you’d never know, so some updates are:

The ‘influenza” work at Pataka was created by Siliga David Setoga and a reference to the deadly influenza epidemic exported from New Zealand to Samoa in 1918.

The ‘stolen’ McCahon cross is in the McCahon database.

I have been interested in art and architecture particularly in industrial buildings since my attention was drawn to the Pyrmont Incinerator in Sydney. I can’t believe they just knocked it down. I am on the look out for New Zealand examples. The Victorians were quite good at embellisment, for example the Invercargill Water Tower but I’ve seen nothing in the same league as Pyrmont.

Detail from the chimney. Pyrmont

Somewhat related to this is an online site I have been watching – urban_decay at Livejournal. Some of the photographs are incredible and I especially like some out of Russia.


I have also been looking around the McNamara Gallery site and am very impressed – its worth a good look. Another gallery to put on my list to see.

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How to look at a…?

Since reading Justin Paton’s excellent book ‘How to look at a painting’  I have been thinking of doing a sweep of the Wellington galleries as he did in Auckland. Geographically this is not quite so easy though and I am having a little trouble compiling a current list of galleries. With my uneducated eye, I also think an guide may be in order to appreciate it fully anyway. Perhaps a companion volume is in order “How to encounter an installation” or something?

I am thinking of going on down to the City Gallery tomorrow morning to see “Reboot: The Jim Barr and Mary Barr Collection” and maybe go over to the Theo Schoon thing at Te Papa. I do wonder if Reboot would be better if I had seen ‘Good Work’  in 2001 though. I know I have to see more art and more art that’s outside my comfort zone so I will go – just not sure if tomorrow will be the day.

This possible job has got me thinking about public art and local government involvement. I looked up the Wellington City Councils art policies as they have come in for a fair amount of criticism about their artworks. I found this interesting.

Artistic merit and quality: art works will and should be the subject of debate as to their artistic merits. Regard will be given to: public response and interaction; accessibility to the public; the degree to which it reflects Wellington’s heritage and/or contemporary culture; merits of the work; whether the work is enduring enough to justify the costs associated with its adoption.

Of course there is a committee to decide all this stuff. The Public Art Panel is comprised of (according to the website) Mark Amery, Alison Bartley, Tina Barton, Heather Galbraith, Rob Garrett and Karen Wallace. You know I am sort of with Hamish Keith on his hatred of committees (as espoused in “The Big Picture”). Last time I worked in the corporate world I refused to have more than one committee-type meeting a week as I felt they were a BIG waste of time. I feel the outcomes of these types of panels are also often watered down and meek. I have no idea if the above panel is like this – any comments? There is a nice gallery of Wellington public art. I quite like some of it.

Anchor Stone – Ra Vincent

Speaking of public art, I am intrigued by this exhibition ‘What We Walk By’ images of Wellington’s Inner City Street Art by Dra McKay.

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So what are your qualifications…?

Some things have conspired recently to make me look at qualifications. A few people have  asked how I am qualified to write this blog. Well actually I am not in the sense of any formal art qualifications but any idiot can put a blog up right? And I do have post grad qualifications in other areas. There is no test you have to pass or licence you have to take out to have a web space. As a friend said, this is about art and MY life which I am uniquely qualified to write about. I am after all Jane Public – the person who likes arts and letters and has a little knowledge (definitely a dangerous thing) and walks into your gallery, watches your film, reads your book, sees your public artwork. I am not part of the art world or literary world. I am a viewer, a consumer, an end-user.

That said I am considering applying for a job that would take me into that world in an employment sense. I know I could easily do the work and a large chunk of it is admin. However my CV doesn’t have any arts, literary or museum quals on it. I doubt I’d even get short listed but I am going to apply for the process anyway. I wonder if I should wear the Hammond shirt to the interview if I got one (ha)? I think I like being mostly an outsider actually :-)

On a lighter note, I wanted to run a competition for a picture of the worst NZ public art work but that seems a little negative and I’m not sure how the prize (cupcakes) would travel via NZPost. So I’ll just post a picture for the day.

Jacqueline Fahey – The Birthday Party (1974)

Oh yes – I am anxious to see the Theo Schoon exhibition on at Te Papa too

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