I just want to say that I am heartily sick of the term “iconic”. It seems sometimes that every little bit of pop culture, kitsch or kiwiana is some sort of cultural icon. Are we that desperate for identity? It leads to the country being littered with gigantic fish, fruit and vege, L&P bottles (actually I don’t mind that one), gumboots and stuff like this.
I guess it taps into nostalgia, our childhoods, a simpler time, and makes us smile but after a while it just gets on my nerves. ‘Iconic’ begins to make as much sense as that song by Alanis Morrisette which is only any good when interpreted by Ed Byrne. It becomes about as appealing as a paua shell ashtray set in black resin and makes me wonder what was so threatening about giant rabbits in Cathedral Square? That said, I am the owner of a disconcerting amount of kitsch items.
Now I’m done with that rant, I made a great find at the library book sale today. ARD Fairburn biography “Walking on my Feet” – 25cents (!!!) One wonders why they were getting rid of it. It had quite a section about his fabric prints of Maori rock art designs (after T Schoon). I was ‘debating’ over at Ashbash today about the symbolism of Schoon and Walters and cultural theft etc (I really need to just lurk there and keep my mouth shut) and I wish I’d mentioned Fairburn’s money making off the back of these images – even though he did badly because he gave so much away. I have seen a framed panel in the current “Art of the Nation” exhibit at Te Papa and I understand they hold more of Fairburn’s fabrics. I wonder if they are a conservation nightmare considering how he ‘aged’ them by letting the fabric go mouldy under his house?
My library really has been getting better and better and it made the past year when I didn’t have access to a University library (which is SO NICE to have back) bearable. They have bought the last few books I have suggested including “The $12 Million Stuffed Shark“, the author of which, Don Thompson, will be on the Kim Hill programme this weekend. OK so they had the artist of a Nigel Brown limited edition print that hangs in the library down as Gordon Brown but they were happy to correct that. And I’m saying all this without the prospect of being employed there either :-) The building even has award winning architecture by Warren and Mahoney. Apparently it is a “carefully layered and elegantly composed building that engages the human spirit” which is a bit of a stretch but I do like the modernist influence.
On the subject of books, the New Zealand Post Writers and Readers week starts tomorrow. I doubt I will get to anything but will attempt to see “The Camera is a Small Room“. If you are looking for icons, “Art & Text” might do the trick as McCahon’s I AM could truly be considered iconic.
As a footnote, isn’t it weird when you come across something that could have been written from your own life. This has happened a few times recently which maybe is just a reflection of New Zealand literature and the commonality of experience of NZ life with the country being so small and all. But “Chemical evolution: Drugs and Art Production 1970-1980” by Martin Edmond was scarily close to home – so many familiar people and places. Also just as a social history document it was prescient with all the talk of “Muldoonism” in the current election scare mongering and also recent cases bringing up historic police corruption. All I can say is that I don’t think ANYONE wants to go back to those times politically. Anyone remember the Knobz and the song Culture? Which brings me to “Tea Towel of the week” – a la Richard Till.