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Archive for November, 2012

I recently picked up a clearance copy of Hemingway’s “Death in the Afternoon“. I like Hemingway  although I prefer his writing when less blustering and more sentimental. My favourite Hemingway book is “Islands in the Stream“, and I wonder if it was not published during his lifetime because it is such a tender book in places, as well as a great fishing/action/adventure yarn. One day I will visit Bimini although the hotel burnt down in 2006.

The photos in “Death in the Afternoon” are quite special, no matter your position on bull fighting. I feel they illustrate the horror of the sport as well as the glory. I particularly “like” the caption of one photo “Granero dead in the infirmary. Only two in the crowd are thinking about Granero. The others are all intent on how they will look in the photograph.

These photographs were in my mind when I happened to be in Wellington of the opening weekend of Michael Parekowhai’s “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” at Te Papa. I managed to have a few hours spare to really spend some time looking around and I also made a point of seeing Fiona Pardington’s Flora,Fauna at {Suite} Gallery which was truly wonderful.

I had read a lot on-line about Parekowhai’s pianos and bulls and was interested in their current incarnation after seeing photos of the Venice Biennale arrangements and the gift to Christchurch of a partially outdoor installation

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Michael Parekowhai’s On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer, Christchurch 2012

On Sunday afternoon, as I approached the long gallery at Te Papa I was disconcerted to hear a young voice singing Adele’s “Someone Like You” with piano accompaniment. Oh dear! but the cluster of bulls and pianos at one end of the gallery had such great impact, that I forgot about Adele for a minute.

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Parekowhai installation at Te Papa

Another player soon took a seat at the red Steinway (He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu: Story of a New Zealand river) and launched into a passionate rendition of….well I’m not sure really. I like to think it as Rachmaninov because 25 years ago I worked with a very very kiwi bloke kind  of guy who would sit at any available piano and very play amazing classical music – usually Rachmaninov – and this reminded me of Russell. All the while, a logo’d Te Papa person circled, taking photographs.

My reaction was very similar to that of Best of 3, who wrote about her experience beautifully.

I don’t think I have ever been so moved in a museum. There was something about the way that people’s individual reactions and responses built into a collective experience that just opened my heart. It made me realise just what power artists have, that they can make occasions like this for us. Parekowhai is quoted on the exhibition info panel as saying There is no object I could make … that could fill a room like sound can.”

yes I cried….it was so moving and I felt overcome by thoughts about of my last few years…life the universe and everything. It also reminded me of saying goodbye to McCahon’s Northland Panels at Te Papa when I left the North Island. I cried then too.

There was a small emotional death for me this August afternoon, with a powerful piano soundtrack played on a carved red piano and with 2 large blackened bulls as harbingers of something ominous. Like the photo in Hemingway’s book, I felt that only I am thinking about the future. The others are all intent on how they will look in the photograph.

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