Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Art for Waitangi Day

Some art I’ve happened to be considering this week seems appropriate to post for Waitangi day. You can figure it out yourself without my commentary though.

Ralph Hotere White Drip to Mister Paul Holmes (2003)

Interesting who ended up owning it. Image taken from here that does do some explaining

And then there’s this from Banksy. Image from here

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A Spotless Mind

Some recent events have got me thinking about, well, thinking.

Firstly this:

Pic shamelessly stolen from David Cauchi’s Pointless and Absurd blog

The Ian Curtis memorial wall in Wellington is no more. More about it at the afore mentioned blog (and I agree – arseholes) and on Stuff which aptly calls the council’s buff squad, the ‘killjoy division’. My problem with this is not so much that its gone, although that is sad – it will surely rise again and hopefully with some version better than this (at least get the dates right guys). It’s that this piece of graffiti has been there on and off for 28 years and has significant meaning – to those of us Joy Division fans at least. Some nice writing around Joy Division and significance can be found on Philip Matthews blog here and here and here. To me what has happened here is ‘cultural vandalism’ *- council sanctioned vandalism.

And as Component susinctly puts it:

Pic not so shamelessly stolen from Component’s website

Is this what they are aiming for – grey minds? But it got me thinking about the quote from Alexander Pope’s Eloisa to Abelard:

“Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d;”

Maybe its easier this way? Not thinking or questioning or remembering? Recently I have been finding it increasingly difficult to equate my day-to-day domesticity with my thinking and aspirations. Also with the seemingly exciting lives of various unencumbered friends seem very desireable. Maybe that’s what Valium was to the 50s/60s housewife – keeping the mind spotless, in order to keep the house the same? Maybe a certain amount of greyness is required to live this life. Maybe the art and the writing (and the ukulele playing) is simply bashing  against the bars? Or maybe its more universal and that the powers that be want everyone greyed out and drone like in every endeavour?

Lets not , eh?

* although some have accused me of cultural vandalism myself for playing ‘Love Will Tear us Apart” on the ukulele

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Worth a look

I read this great post today over at DigLog. I especially liked this

“I studied was the Russian constructivists of the post WW1 period. These artists faced with a western world in ruin, dismissed the notion of art for arts sake, in favour of art for the common Good. They though that artists should get involved in social causes, politics, architecture, engineering, clothing, apply themselves to rebuilding the world in a better way through becoming integral in the processes. Their image of the artist was as creative worker, in a boilersuit, pencils in pocket; a pragmatic, creative problem solver interacting on an essential level with society. Not playing peripheral party-pooper. Espousing a life on the margins of society whilst courting and demanding the same society give attention and reward to their special gifts.”

Personally I think this applies to wider society because its not just artists who think they are “special”. And bless my little socialist heart, if I think that “the creative worker” would be a wonderful response to current times. However in times of depression, its also good just to have nice things to look at :-)

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So like many bloggers when in a writing funk I can again only offer tidbits. I have been musing on how art develops as an artist ages and matures but I don’t know enough about it to write yet and I’m still working on items about street art gentrification and madness and art but no one piece is coming together. I’d like to write about the weirdest email I got today acknowledging receipt of a job application which caused me to wonder if I’d actually want to work in that place.

Anyhow The Montana book award shortlists were announced yesterday and many have commented on the amount of visual arts books. Of course there is the spat about only 4 fiction titles being shortlisted and other items and the anti-Wellington sentiment creeping in again. The best comment I’ve read read on that topic so far is on Beattie’s Book blog where an anonymous commenter replies to “what’s Wellington got to do with it?” with “Wellington shot bambi’s mother”. And while there is talk of some Wellington cabal I really don’t think regionalism is the problem here. On a brighter note one of the better books I’ve read lately, Waimarino County, was shortlisted in biography section. Author Martin Edmond muses on this here.

Speaking of books, the illustrated version of Denis Glover’s Magpies has been reprinted. Illustrator Dick Frizzell says “It sank a bit when it was released actually. I threatened to reprint it myself and eventually the publishers came to the party so it was reprinted and it just kind of hung around by the skin of its teeth until it reached some sort of tipping point in the public consciousness…Although I have never called it a children’s book, a lot of parents have told me their kids wanted it read again and again until the book fell to bits. I just don’t know what the kids would be actually hearing.” Its now on MY shopping list.

I also read this interesting interview with John Updike, which begins. 

NEH Chairman Bruce Cole: I think I may have told you that in my former life I was an art historian. While there are many Ph.D. art historians, the people I most enjoyed reading were the poets and the critics who brought great language to their description of art and were able to express the meaning of the art.

John Updike: I think it’s a field where to be an amateur is not necessarily a disgrace. Some of the best have been, in a sense, amateurs-Baudelaire and Henry James, to name two.

I guess this spiked my interest because I read recently how Rita Angus hated non-artists (Fairburn and Fred Page were the examples) acting as art critics and felt they were out of their ‘zone’. She said, in turn she would not think of critiquing their music or poetry. This is something that is very common in New Zealand but there are a fair amount of people who are critics, artists and writers. It would make a good debate I think.


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Strange days indeed…I’m having one of those “I have to accept I am never going to learn how to skateboard or surf” days. Even looking at surfboard and skateboard art is depressing. Its almost as bad as those days when you realise you are never going to trendy – or even funky. Lucy Jordan can have her sports car in Paris, I’d just like to be ‘hip’ for 1/2 a day :-)

I also wonder if I’ve missed the contemporary art bus (now there’s a visual image for you). I can’t even come up with a good definition of ‘Contemporary Art’ and I am finding Wikipedia annoying. The word/concept ‘Design’ is also proving challenging today. Does it really mean 1960’s orange German Pottery and $220 a roll modernist/atomic themed wallpaper? Actually the wallpaper is almost acceptable as it meets that ‘form and function’ criteria that I have in my head – but what is the function of art pottery? I guess there in itself, is the art/design delineation. Art does NOT have to have a function (maybe its a bonus if it does?). So is art just ornamentation then?

With all the gloomy talk of a recession I’ve been thinking about about art in that context too (as have others out there who are blogging). I somehow doubt there were schemes in NZ similar the Federal Art Project in the US in the Great Depression, but I think it was an interesting initiative. “New Deal arts projects were guided by two novel assumptions: artists were workers and art was cultural labor worthy of government support.” Didn’t Jackson Pollock (and Lee Krasner) come out of that? Some of the murals are pretty amazing – inspired by the Mexican mural movement and Diego Rivera. Of course there is the infamous Rockefeller Centre Murals incident (ahh – political art in its prime).

Rivera at work on the Rockefeller mural

I guess even in a depression there was money for art and I don’t think that will change much. Prices may drop, collectors may be more conservative, but art will continue to be made. On a slight tangent are the 1930’s murals anything similar to today’s bombing or throw ups or whatever you call it? Intent might be similar but there is the issue of permission – mind you, Rivera’s mural was quickly removed when “the man” didn’t like it.

More discussion on artists, families and sacrfice continues, so what about the aforementioned Lee Krasner? Obviously there was a Pollock influence but look at the earlier works.

Gouache Number 4 ( Study for Lavender)(1942) Lee Krasner

although she acknowledged Pollock’s superior gifts, she did not become his follower. More than three years his senior, she was a mature artist when they met and throughout her aesthetic evolution retained elements of her early analytical skills and structural sophistication.”

Way to go grrl!

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Art and Politics

I heard somewhere this week that the peace symbol was having its 50th birthday. I was surprised that its not some organic hippy creation but designed in 1958 by Gerald Holtom, a professional designer and artist.

 So what about political or protest art here. I read recently that “political art is so last century” which seems a little odd as there still seems a lot to protest about. And if you take this view then all art is political “It may well be that an artist can realize aesthetic triumphs while ignoring society, but willful unconcern regarding social matters is also a political position.”

Maybe protest is just a little passe, so I looked back to some major political events ‘last century’, inspired by seeing the Hotere Land of the Wrong White Crowd piece at Te Manawa recently, in protest against the 1981 Springbok tour. Hotere also did his Aramoana works in protest of the proposed smelter being built there, Black Rainbow for the Rainbow Warriror sinking and some more recent ‘Jerusalem‘ works in reaction to events in the Middle East.

Black Union Jack
Black Union Jack, Ralph Hotere

I guess my era was that of the the end of the Vietnam war, the Land March, Bastion Point and the Springbok Tour and that seemed a fertile ground for artists. I was looking for images from Clairmont’s “No Tour” exhibition, as he was heavily involved in the protests but can’t seem to find any – although his Vietnam pictures are about. Ans Westra, Marti Friedlander and Gill Hanly’s photography is particularly strong of the 1981 tour.

So I am thinking…is this a 20th century phenomena? Where is today’s political/protest art or is it just more subtle?  I get the BIG obvious stuff (like Parekowhai) and I did take note of Aniwaniwa by Brett Graham and Rachael Rakena, so perhaps I am just missing it.

Also, was there ever an exhibition of 1981 Sprinbok tour protest art? – there’s a lot about. Would have thought it might have been done in 2006?


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