Sunday, 28 September 2008

The Unconnected

The DomPost finally published my letter. A week ago. But I missed it then.

It's a shame they cut bits - some really good bits. If you want to read the unabridged version go here.

It was one of those things where I could have written an essay. Criticised the Council for their lack of publicity (thanks Kerry!), criticised the paper for showing no interest in the works, criticised Viv for clearing knowing nothing about Getty images. And, as Steve Rowe pointed out, "Ha ha - brilliant. No mention of the day to day visual pollution - it's easier to block out when it's not 'art'...". Maybe, you know, his lightbox money machines are in some way commenting on this idea.

So now I'm sitting back waiting for Viv to contact me with her $100.

And here's a vaguely random, completely unrelated shot of my torso, displaying coconut paste art.

Oh the joys of parties full of young strangers (some very strange!).

And for something utterly stupid try this. I am variously Tangle Jig Palin, Recoil Mush Palin, Crunk Petrol Palin, and Churn Scorpion Palin. Awesome. Thanks America.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

The Reviewed

Tim recently posted this review.

He only posted part of it though.

Here's the rest.

Made In Taiwan

At the screening of Allan Wilson: Evolutionary I saw, Made In Taiwan was also shown. Made by the same production company, Auckland-based George Andrew Productions, this documentary was really a practical demonstration of Wilson’s work. Starring Nathan Rarere and Oscar Kightley, the pair trace their respective family lines (Maori and Samoan) back to a common ancestor, based on DNA analysis.

It screened on TV a couple of years back and I remember being both enchanted and bored. I blame the ads breaking up the flow. There’s no denying that Rarere and Kightley are good, natural, user friendly frontmen, and they revelled in tracing their story.

Their journey took them from some cafĂ© in Auckland to Rarere’s family at Mahia, then to the Cook Islands to find the departure point of the seven waka, over to Samoa and Kightley’s family, to Vanuatu to compare physical features of various Polynesian and Melanesian races, and finally to Taiwan.

As one of the guys said, Taiwan was much like New Zealand, where the colonial culture had pushed aside the native Taiwanese. Rather than looking ‘Chinese’, native Taiwanese looked Maori. Ignoring what got them there – the DNA results – there was an undeniable physical similarity. Even the language, dance, and arts had similarities. As Kightley said at the end “the Pacific has shrunk for me now.”

Alone Made In Taiwan is a fascinating documentary, one about us as people, as a nation. Together with Allan Wilson: Evolutionary we have a great pairing of two stories every New Zealander should know, and one great man to thank for both of them.

There are also some Film Festival reviews of mine in the mix someplace around here.

Again he missed a couple. For editorial reasons. I got free tickets, I don't care.

But I know you all care greatly about my opinions. Especially my regualar reader who regularly complains that I write too much and don't put up enough pictures.

This post is for you. ;)

I Just Didn’t Do It

It often seems to be the case with Film Festivals that it’s the films I know least about, and maybe don’t even really care about seeing that I enjoy the most; those lacking the weight of expectation. Films like last years’ The Home Song Stories. Admittedly this year has been a quiet one for me film wise but I Just Didn’t Do It falls into this category. As good films should, this both entertains and enlightens.

It appears that opportunist sexual molestation is common on the Tokyo underground. And it also appears the Japanese justice system is anything but just. A young man is accused of touching up a school girl on the train. He declares he didn’t do it, but the officious prosecutors decide that the weight of evidence (i.e. the girl’s testimony) proves otherwise.

There are similarities to a Hollywood John Grisham movie – underdog fitting to protect and defend his innocence when the system is against him, case picked up by well-meaning, over-worked counsel, including the conflicted beautiful young female lawyer, and the wise idealistic partner. Much of the action takes place in the small, sterile courtroom where points are made with none of the flamboyant grandstanding we’d get from their American counterparts.

While it’s not exactly Kafkaesque – after all our underdog does know what he is accused of, and who his accuser is – we do follow the slow progress as the wheels of justice roll. There are similarities to Western judicial systems but there appear to be quite obvious differences too, including the presumption of innocence and the requirement for reasonable doubt. The hearing is spread over eleven sessions in about as many months, with the judge (and juror) changing half way through.

We sit there amazed at the injustice and the wilful involvement of so many who should know better. But then, that’s the role of this movie; to point out the major failings of the Japanese system. It’s not exactly corrupt but it is far from perfect. The final speeches from counsel, and the judgment, have a significance wider than this story. It seems to speak about (in)justice issues worldwide, but the closing shot of the fortress-like Japanese Supreme Court bluntly brings us back, reminding us it’s Japan we’re interested in today.

I Just Didn’t Do It is a slow film, without the (melo)dramatic spectacle we’ve come to expect in courtroom dramas, but the story is compelling and not without humour, and the cast are all superb, particularly the two ‘victims’. It is a classic Film Festival movie, a worthy foreign language film more people should see though this is likely to be your only chance.

The Cool School

The documentary is a difficult film to do well. The last few years has seen a resurgence in the popularity of documentary films but the quality varies greatly. The structure of the film seems to require many of the same elements as with fictional stories – conflict, narrative flow, interesting characters, interesting subject matter etc. Even with all these elements there is no guarantee of a great film.

The Cool School is one such doco. About the LA art scene that grew in the 1950s around Walter Hopps and the Ferus Gallery which he established. It was a story about which I knew nothing and the only artist I was aware of from that scene was Ed Ruscha. I figured it'd be a good education if nothing else.

Hopps spent a decade creating the scene based on the premise that for it to be successful there needed to be:
1) artists to make the work
2) galleries to support it
3) critics to celebrate it
4) museums to establish it
5) collectors to buy it

It's hard to fault his logic. And he set about realising his vision. Growing a pool of artists, giving them somewhere to show (Ferus) and getting people to come and see it. Being of the Beat-generation aesthetic the works tended towards assemblage and abstract expressionism – works that didn't garner huge critical praise at the time, though, not infrequently, they were derided.

Blending recent interviews with the major players and others from the periphery (including Dennis Hopper, Dean Stockwell, John Baldessari and Frank Gehry), and photographs and films from the period, the story is well told. We follow the slow fifteen year trajectory of the scene to its 'overnight' success, and uncover the dramas inherent in the initial struggle and sudden fame. To add to the conflict the film makers put together the first reunion of the (still living) artists in 35 years. Over dinner it appears the old wounds still smart. Ironically the downfall of the gallery came after they looked beyond LA and started showing East Coast artists, starting with Andy Warhol's first show, and later Roy Lichtenstein and Japser Johns.

While the story is interesting in itself and can arguably be read as an allegorical tale about modern art, ultimately, I found it lacking as a film. There was nothing massively wrong with it, I’m just not sure it has added anything to the history of its subject. There is a nice little conceit with colour largely being reserved for showing the art works, but overall there it seems to lack the passion the subject deserved. Where other films have compelled me to discover, or reignited my interest in, their subject, The Cool School left little I wanted to nibble on.

Of course now the Film Festival has left town, you're unlikely to ever get the chance to see these movies. Your life really won't be any the less for it, so I wouldn't fret about it too much.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The Red

From memory this was called Big Red.

It was in the Tauranga Art Gallery. Yes they now have Art in Tauranga.

It was big. It was red.

I took these with Diana. In Jodi's presence. She laughed at me.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

The Other End

Please refer to my earlier post for some meaning.

And here's another blogpost you should check out. The photo is like just so amazing!!!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The Cliched

It has been a while since I've actually watched the sun set; since I've actually willed it down (it works!!! just not as fast, or as warm, as I'd hoped). Sure I've been out and about when the sun has gone down, but it's not often it does it for my benefit.

But on Sunday it did, and I just watched it.

And took photos. Of course. On my cellphone. Like this one. Complete with mud/sheep shit splatters.

And this one looking into the sun to backlight my mess of hair.

And this one. Which was actually the scene I was there for. Sort of. Hopefully the film shots will have something better. I took enough of the damned things.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

The End

There are times, when wandering around shooting for your upcoming show, that you feel you've exhausted what you were trying to shoot, but still have shots left on the film.

You have three choices.
1) rewind the roll
2) save those shots for another day
3) take photos of random shit to finish the roll

Generally I choose the latter.

This was one of those occasions. If you search here hard enough you'll find some other shots of this place. I met the owner just weeks prior to this fire. Now the place is a favourite haunt of Vic Uni photography students.

Monday, 8 September 2008

The Geeks

I was whisked away to Wanganui last Friday.

Well actually I did the whisking, but it was only organised Thursday night.

I took these geeks to Peter Black's opening.

Bloody photographers.

And this is the backyard of where we stayed.

I can fully recommend it as a place to say in Wangavegas should you need somewhere nice, and cheap.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

The Critics

It's taken a long while but finally we have a critic. From today's DomPost.

Naturally I had to defend myself. So, just in case they don't run it, here is my Letter to the Editor.
In response to Viv Turner’s letter of 4 September regarding Courtenay Place Park, I would like to point out that regardless of the worth of the park (though personally I feel it is a more pleasant place without that narrow through road), the purpose of the lightboxes is to present contemporary New Zealand Art in a very public way, and to invite debate about the works, and about art in general.

The first exhibition in the lightboxes consists of photographs by eight new and emerging Wellington artists. The main idea of the exhibition was to represent the breadth and depth of contemporary photography, from portraiture to documentary to landscape to conceptual. While it was never likely to be to everyone’s tastes, I feel it is a strong collection. While we didn’t set out to be contentious we were aware that some images may cause more of a stir than others. The whole process was overseen by the Public Art Panel.

I am the first to admit that there has been a general lack of explanation about the work and why it is there. I suggested that the Curators’ Statement be placed in the park somewhere, but these issues are outside of my control, so it hasn’t happened. It is on the council website however -

Just to appease you, you will probably be happy to know that these images will only be up for another few weeks, though whether you’ll like the replacement images I can’t say.

Oh, and I’ll willing take your $100 for pointing out that it is a cow’s tongue photographed by Shaun Lawson.

Andy Palmer
Co-Curator Courtenay Place Park Lightbox Project
Mount Cook, Wellington