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Ready for a Flurry of Festivals?

Performance image from Muljil2, coming to Performance Arcade.
Solomon Mortimer
Queer Pavilion, Auckland. Image: Richard Orjis.
Robert Rapson
Sir Jon Trimmer
Film archivists Richard Falkner, Kurt Otzen and Gareth Evans. Photo by Leslie Lewis.
The latest Lowdown with Mark Amery with a feature on festivals - highlighting some of the ones to watch at this year’s Pride, and festivals off the beaten track.


Flooding Ahead

We’re heading into that time of the year when you can’t move for arts festivals in Auckland and Wellington. Here on The Lowdown, we try and keep you abreast of what feels like fresh art news, rather than just promo those who can afford publicists. 

With the anniversary of the terrorist attacks starting to come into mind, a project in Performance Arcade in Wellington is likely to get widespread attention. Muljil 2, from South Korean performance group Elephant Laughs, features four performers in glass tanks full of water, working with performers on the outside from the local refugee community(pictured). Film of a performance can be seen here.

And another Wellington festival that easily loses out on media air to the main arts festival and fringe is PhotobookNZ, which has now been running biennially since 2016.

Yes, photobooks are a scene all to their own. Besides a book fair, this year there’s a range of international and national guest speakers, workshops and a Chinese and Taiwanese photobook exhibition.

At the opening on March 6, the Australia and New Zealand Photobook of the Year Awards is announced, which has been around since 2011 (refreshingly, the separate awards merged in 2018). To give you a sense of the scene, this year the Awards received 104 entries with 28 of those from New Zealand.

Known for his adventurous bookmaking, among the speakers is Auckland’s Solomon Mortimer, the winner of the inaugural New Zealand Photobook of the Year self-published prize back in 2015. An Elam Masters graduate represented by Anna Miles Gallery, Mortimer was last year’s recipient of the Marti Friedlander Photographic Laureate. Mortimer writes about 2019 photobook A Sun Dance In Sandringham on Photoforum here.

Proud of My Pronoun

In a photographic portrait exhibition in Auckland’s Freyberg Place for Pride Festival, those portrayed are being labelled by their name and chosen pronoun (as reported here by Stuff).

It will be interesting to see whether this gets picked up elsewhere in the arts more often. Photographer Becki Moss wants to “normalise the practice of specifying pronouns among cisgender people, as well as trans and non-binary people.”

Moss’s Queer Auckland portfoilio is online here. Pride Festival opened at the weekend and runs till February 16.

Also for Pride, Auckland public gallery Artspace is umbrellaing a Queer Pavilion this week. An offsite project, while it gets ready to open new ground-floor premises on Karangahape Road come March 6, the pavilion is roving through Albert Park (the site of Aotearoa’s first public gay liberation protest in 1972) in its dancing shoes. Included are ‘dancebombers’ Mega Pash Action (pictured), who talked on 95bFM’s excellent arts show Artbank at the weekend (podcasted here).

Queer Pavilion, Auckland. Image: Richard Orjis.

More details on the Artspace shift to the street are here. New to Artspace will be a small cinema space, and worth noting about their opening show Ōtairongo is that it comes from an artist without a fine arts background - musician and composer Maree Sheehan, exploring representing wāhine Māori through audio-portraiture.

Meanwhile in Pride Auckland playwright Aroha Awarau is about to premiere Provocation, with Jennifer Ward-Lealand directing. The defence of provocation was struck from the law after Clayton Weatherston invoked it in his 2009 trial over the murder of Sophie Elliott. It was used frequently in trials where gay men were murdered. In a powerful Listener interview, Awarau talks about how he has always wanted to write about violence to young gay men after growing up gay in a small town.

Look out for a rather beautifully edited free journal of Queer Culture, Our Selves, during Pride with a range of outstanding artists contributing including Awaraui, The editor is Jeremy Hansen.

Forever a Sparkle that Shines

As I write on Tuesday, like others I’m coming to terms with the news that ex Straitjacket Fits, Orange and Bike singer and songwriter Andrew Brough has passed away in Dunedin.

To many who read his ex-bandmate Shayne Carter’s memoir last year, Brough’s remarkable music will have already been in their thoughts in the past year. As his last band Bike also proved, Brough had an uncanny knack for a graceful airy melodic hook. I can still hear a collection of them curling in my ear.

Never seeming comfortable in the limelight, Brough chose to leave it as gracefully as he entered it, leading to scribe Graham Reid writing in 2012 that, “unless you actually know Andrew Brough, he is one of the great lost figures in recent New Zealand rock”.

A reluctant talker, Russell Brown on Twitter reports on one small mercy: that Brough shared his archive and was interviewed by the producers currently making a Shayne Carter documentary.  Here’s the video for his song ‘Down in Splendour’.

Robert Rapson

Another sad passing we heard about last week: in late January we lost leading ceramicist Robert Rapson. Self-taught, Rapson was the winner of the Portage Ceramics Prize in 201, and the next year he won one of his own trophies at the Arts Access Awards. For many years Rapson had made the awards. 

Known particularly for his ceramics of ships, of which he had an impressive knowledge, we are blessed to have two short documentaries of Rapson online: by Leonard Gerchmann and by Murray Lloyd. A terrific tribute to Rapson has been written by Moya Elliot here.

That tribute is on Elliot’s Cone Ten and Descending, an invaluable site dedicated to news and views on ceramics.   

Sir Jon Trimmer

Valuing our Senior Artists

What we value is recoded by the way we name things. New Zealand’s latest theatre, the Kāpiti Performing Arts Centre opens to the public on the Kapiti Coast February 22, with ballet legend and local resident Sir Jon Trimmer anointed as patron. While the main auditorium has been named after sponsor, local shopping centre Coastlands, the smaller black box theatre is now the Sir Jon Trimmer Contemporary Theatre

This a few months after Auckland's Aotea Centre ASB Theatre was renamed Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre. Let’s hope this precedent sees sponsors getting behind more major arts spaces getting named after our senior artists.

No word yet on who some of the spaces in the Waikato Regional Theatre (due to open 2022) will be named after. This is the performing arts complex in the Hamilton CBD that the government agreed to chip in $12 million towards on our behalf in October - so that should earn us some public naming value, shouldn't it?

Richard O’Brien and Dame Malvina Major are surely on a shortlist - other suggestions welcome to

Film archivists Richard Falkner, Kurt Otzen and Gareth Evans. Photo by Leslie Lewis.

Great Reading Online

Ngā Taonga, the New Zealand audiovisual archive, is now settled in the National Library after moving last year. On their blog they’ve been publishing Archives Fives, a look at the inner workings of the five different preservation teams. This month it’s the film team, who assess, document, repair, scan and store moving image. 

When it comes to New Zealanders moving from front of house and exhibition assistant roles in New Zealand to major careers internationally, Josephine Rout provides good inspiration. After moving to London to complete an MA at the Royal College of Art in 2010, she’s been working at the Victoria and Albert following a passion in Asian art and design. Now she has co-curated a major exhibition, Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk,  as she told RNZ’s Lynn Freeman.  Back in 2017, Rout wrote about her work for the Christchurch Art Gallery’s Bulletin.

The art review site that keeps on keeping on with the incredible energy and good eye of critic John Hurrell, is EyeContact. Here’s Hurrell on the Julia Morison show Head(case) touring from Christchurch Art Gallery at Auckland’s Objectspace.

Another arts review site that keeps giving, with good national spread, is Theatreview. Here is legendary Dunedin theatre critic Terry Mactavish on Dunedin’s Summer Shakespeare. Great headline: Positively Pants with Passion

Missed Laneway in Auckland? Put on a Spotify playlist and graze this excellent gallery of live shots from the Under the Radar crew.

Written by

Mark Amery

5 Feb 2020

Mark Amery has worked as an art critic, writer, editor and broadcaster for many years across the arts and media.

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