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Why I Backed the Bull

The amazing Christchurch Art Gallery is the gallery that could. It’s the gallery that still operates to an amazing level even when its closed.

It is the public gallery that has just managed to raise over $200,000 to bring Michael Parekowhai’s Chapman’s Homer permanently to Christchurch via the Pledge Me Back The Bull campaign.

So why did I, a resident of Dunedin, back the bull?

Well the artwork is awesome. Ok that is trite, I found this work deeply moving. It is so unsubtley strong but attenuated by the delicacy of a concert grand piano, albeit a bronze one. The bull is undoubtedly a strong statement and pianos can be either. In this case the strength to support a bull but also capable of calm and storm (videos feature another Parekowhai Piano). Christchurch seems to have taken this work to its heart.

Why Christchurch? Well they WANT it, in fact the Director of CAG, Jenny Harper, obviously wants it a lot.  The letter about my initial donation was hand signed (not a printed sig) and also had a personal note. That’s dedication. I ended up deciding to donate more. The CAG has always seemed to me intent on creating relationships with it’s audience. There is give and take and it has always felt personal and warm and truly invested. I don’t know how they managed this, but that is my relationship with CAG and I don’t even live in Christchurch. I am even a “Friend of the Gallery”….They are doing something very very right. It’s not that others don’t care, but many galleries have a ‘take us or leave us’ attitude, or something horribly one sided. I see change but I admit, my heart belongs to CAG.  And, after a loooong time I am finally able and very happy to give back to them. Also I can always visit…

Congratulations to the Christchurch Art Gallery and to Christchurch. And a huge pat on the back to staff but especially Jenny Harper, who wanted this to happen, and made it happen.

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Seeing is believing

I have had an eventful time. Last week I reluctantly sought help for a persistent visual disturbance through the miracle of a twitter friend who works in the eye department at the hospital to see help immediately. So after a scramble to find someone to look after the children I ended up in ED, diagnosed with a detached retina and had acute surgery* the next day.

My vision the past week, at best, has been something like the first 5-6 seconds of this

Which really makes you appreciate full vision. Also I am not allowed to drive for about a month, and as the only driver in the family that has also presented problems. However travelling by bus, however tedious enables you to NOTICE things. Even if sometimes you notice incorrectly (due to the poor eyesight) e.g. The man I saw walking a very large cat which turned out to be a labradoodle. Taking time and noticing is very good and I have realised that seeing is only part of things even though is stuffed up my plans to go to the local showings of the New Zealand International Film Festival.

An example of seeing &  feeling might be this video that I found on YouTube which completely captured my own recent visit to Seacliff. I think this video – and its only a video – also captures the feel of the place. Its hard to say as I’ve been there several times and it certainly has an atmosphere. Interested to hear if readers get anything from the video.

However, the visual is just out of my reach for now, as is a long term prognosis on my sight.

Now you may go about your business as usual. Someone once said to me that no one  wants to read about YOU, unless you are Steve Braunias.

*Getting eye surgery under a local anaesthetic is… “interesting”

Dead Souls Tribe

Someone once gave me some very sage advice. “The things you have to work hard for are the best“. At the time I wasn’t very impressed with this, but actually it’s true, for me at least. Frequently I have to work hard* to attend things and today I dragged the family out early on a long promised outing, so I could make it home in time to get organised to go to a reading at Dead Soul Books.

These events always remind me how small Dunedin is and how good this can be. I turned up on my own not really expecting to know anyone except Dean Havard:- proprietor of Dead Souls books and also the man behind Kilmog Press. But as people arrived, it seemed like I knew nearly everyone. And the readers: Former Burns fellow, David Eggleton ; current Burns fellow David HowardLynley Edmeades, poet and one of the people behind Deep South. Dunedin is rich in the arts. The event was a launch for Vaughan Rapatahana’s books Toa and China as Kafka (a Kilmog Press book).

The setting was brilliant (Dead Souls is an atmospheric, old world bookshop), and the readings very good. I am sometimes wary of poetry, in fact I told someone at Dead Souls today that poetry makes me feel out of my depth. But I am a reader and consumer of poems. What I like is when a poem speaks to me, whispers in my ear, stays with me long after. Some times they reach out and grabs at me and today’s poems did that; Vaughan’s readings especially so. A poem from China as Kafka ‘At Waikanae’  described asa lovely, lyrical poem reminiscing about the teenaged poet and his cousin mowing the lawns at their urupa, tending the graves of their whanaunga. ” But it spoke to me of living and working on the Kapiti Coast, of the tangi and the urupa I encountered and the sadness. I felt homesick.

Rapatahana also read from his novel Toa “a road trip through the ‘skinny country’ where Mahon, an ex-university philosophy lecturer, and his gun ‘Molly’ blast their way across the country in a black Mark IV.” Now that’s a book you have to read – and I’m looking forward to reading my copy.

I often think of tribes (in a postmodern sense) as I move through life and especially at events like this. I’ve never quite found my tribe. There has always been a disconnect. Occasionally, like today I find myself on the edge of a group and think, “maybe this?” But mainly I think I live at the intersection of many – in that slim crossover area of a Venn diagram; a lost soul perhaps?

But did today’s poetry stay with me? Yes. Humming on the drive home and then while I cleaned out the rabbit hutch and I noticed how sweet the new hay smelled. It followed me to the supermarket and then while I folded the washing. And now while I write this…and that is all good.

Reading
Worst photo ever – David Howard, David Eggleton, Vaughan Rapatahana (and others) today at Dead Souls Bookshop

* It may not sound like work, but for me a trip to the public pools is like entering one of the seven circles of hell.

I have a new job and a major difference from my old job is the lack of a uniform. This is NOT good. I loved my uniform. Not because of what it stood for but a) I suit navy and b) it meant I didn’t have to think about clothes.

I am not a fashionable girl.

In fact in times past when I haven’t had a uniform, I’ve adopted one. e.g. when I was a Mum at home with three small children – T-shirt and jeans. IT person (and cable fairy) jeans and shirts. So I’ve been pondering what sort of pseudo uniform I could have now and this got me thinking about uniform & designers.

Exhibit one: The Air New Zealand Trelise Cooper Uniform. Its ok. I guess it works. I am not a Trelise fan.  In fact I over heard a funny conversation the other day in an op shop.

Manager “What a hideous blouse”

Assistant “But it’s Trelise!”

Manager “I guess its marvellous then”

Much laughter

So sorry but my uniform won’t be Cooper, my needs are more practical, less flouncy. I guess that means Alexander McQueen is out. Now I have to say I liked Mr McQueen’s designs of old because…well…they were artful..but not really for me. But isn’t this lovely? Owes quite a bit to the photography but still…

But the whole McQueen continuum following his death is creepy and as well a US$300 skull scarf is not me; Kmart has cotton knockoffs for $5 and skulls have been so done …

Robert Mapplethorpe, ‘Self-Portrait’ 1988
Robert Mapplethorpe (1988)

The only thing I have decided I would wear daily, if it was acceptable, is not a sculptural Isabella Blow hat but this:

In fact I am making one.

I think the Amish, Mennonites are on to something. Although plain dress and other garb related to religious observance is often considered restrictive and sometimes a form of control, I personally can see immense freedom in it.

Bring me a uniform (or at the very least a shrubbery).

Listening to Patti

In the stress of life and a new job, I have frequently found myself at 3am worrying about work. My remedy has been to listen to audio books which I find soothing and I manage to get back to sleep. I should add at this point that a recording of Ginsberg reading ‘HOWL‘ did  not have this effect.

However my recent late night/early morning sorry has been Patti Smith reading her book “Just Kids“. There is an intimacy in an audio book read by the author, it felt like Patti was telling her (and Robert’s) story directly to me. I was surprised at her accent (yella, fella etc) and affected by her vulnerability. In fact, yesterday morning at 5am I found myself weeping as the story drew to a close with Sam Wagstaff’s and then Robert Mapplethorpe’s deaths. Yesterday was that kind of day and the book on reflection is full of reminders of our mortality.


Patti and Robert lifted from here

It is an old story. I watched a film a while back that is an intersection with Just Kids.  Black White + Grey, is mainly about Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe’s relationship. Ron Brownson has written about this here and I agree it was sad not have more focus on Wagstaff and his amazing collection of photography (which Smith details the beginnings of in Just Kids). I have been dreaming of black and white photographs of American Bison since: the great herds of the great plains of the west, now as non existent as the New York of the 1970s that Smith and Crump document.

File:Bison skull pile edit.jpg

A pile of American Bison skulls waiting to be ground for fertilizer: photographer unknown, mid-1870s (image by Chick Bowen, 27 May 2011)

I hate the concept of ‘bucket lists’ and yet I sort of have one. Sadly often the things I want to see or do don’t exist or can’t happen. For example I wanted to stay at the Chelsea Hotel (a feature of the Just Kids story and many others) but it has been bought out and closed. “ A property developer recently bought the down-at-heel building for $80 million (£48 million) and has turned it over to an architect best known for designing bland Holiday Inns.” Gone the way of the bison, ground into fertiliser.

[This post was written to a soundtrack of Smith’s “Horses” and aided by strong black coffee.]

Home again

We are going through the house hunting process for the first time. Anyone that has done this will know what a minefield it is. My advice so far – “trust no one”.

I suppose it one of those times where you really begin to understand deeply what you like, and what you can cope with. Compromise, patience and all those things that I am not good at come to the fore along with the differences between  you and any significant other involved.

For us, another complication is the very small catchment we are looking in. I’ve always loved mid century modern but no case book houses here. In fact my favourite New Zealand houses were designed by Ernst Plischke and the number of houses he built/designed in Mosgiel or even Dunedin = 0 (please correct me if I am wrong)

There was one, a late deco beauty but a tad out of our price range and we weren’t quick enough. Can’t find a pic online but the bathroom gives you the idea

bath

So I find I am all about character and gardens…..and that soul-less beige 90s – present day houses terrify me.

Actually this shouldn’t have come as a surprise as my latest online obsession shows. I have become a little addicted to Pinterest which is basically online old fashioned scrapbook (as opposed to craft scrapbooking *shudder*). What my Pinterest shows me over time is a fairly well rounded picture of my tastes. I haven’t included art much but over all I’d say it is very telling. There is probably psychologists analysing people’s profiles now. It might also prove to be a valuable relationship tool (if you both had accounts) instantly showing up ‘chalk and cheese’ situations.

Here and there

Does Jason Grieg do stencil art?

greiggraf

 

Cumberland Street, Dunedin (2013)