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Don’t box me in!

Yuki Kihara by Scott Lowe
Ruth Ratcliffe at Arts Access Awards.
Installation view of On the Last Afternoon: Disrupted Ecologies and the Work of Joyce Campbell, Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi, Victoria University of Wellington—27 July – 20 October 2019. Photo: Shaun Matthews
Jumping out of the box in this week's Lowdown #63 are Lisa Reihana, Yuki Kihara, Fiona Kidman, and a slather of accolades and awards.


“The glass ceiling has been shattered.” That was the statement issued by Yuki Kihara on Monday announcing she will represent New Zealand at the 2021 Venice Biennale (Artnews story here). The glass ceiling? While numerous Māori artists have represented NZ at Venice, Yuki will be the first artist of Pacific Island descent to do so. And, as someone who also identifies as fa’afafine and has engaged consistently with gender issues in her work, the Samoan artist will bring diverse voice. Natalie King from Melbourne is curator. She previously curated Tracey Moffatt’s 2017 Venice show. 

The New Zealand artists who are part of next year’s Sydney Biennale - with its clear focus on indigenous artists and issues - have this week also been announced: Kalisolaite Uhila, Elisapeta Hinemoa Heta, Luke Willis Thompson, Lisa Reihana, John Miller, Emily Karaka and FAFSWAG.

Shigeyuki Kihara by Scott Lowe.

Lisa Triumphs 

And in terms of international reach, has there ever been a New Zealand work as successful as Lisa Reihana’s 2017 Venice work in Pursuit of Venus [infected]? The large digital mural depicting European and Pacific contact is currently at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada as part of the inaugural Toronto Biennial and at the de Young Museum, San Francisco (acquired recently by the collections of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art). 

Earlier this year Pursuit was shown in Cape Town, Jerusalem, Honolulu, Estonia, Tasmania, South Australia and Paris. 2018 Meanwhile 3D installation Nomads of the Sea showed at the Sharjah Art Foundation, United Arab Emirates. And in February Lisa will also be part of a show in Paris devoted to Parisian shoe designer Christian Louboutin (Vogue article). Keeping up? For Sydney, as revealed in this smashing ABC Arts story, Lisa will create a new video installation based on the story of Charlotte Badger, Australia's first female pirate. 

You could say Lisa Reihana has achieved for the mural the international cultural moment that Colin McCahon’s large wallworks never made. Lisa was one of the artists who has written about a McCahon work for the McCahon100 project. She writes on the Urewera mural, and the hikoi from Maungapohatu to Tāneatua with a group of artists she was part of in 2000.

“Colin McCahon, you understood that value does not reside in the object, but in the deep dive; the engagement with people and ideas, the love of land, and the struggles with the soul.”

I Wasn’t Meant to Be Boxed Up, Reece Kent.

Out of the Box

Prisoners from 14 prisons from throughout New Zealand have created work alongside well known artists (from John Walsh to Wi Taepa), each artist responding to an identical wooden box. The resulting 120 pieces are being exhibited at Expressions Gallery in Upper Hutt until 1 December as part of Huakina - to open. The programme has been facilitated by The Learning Connexion: School of Creativity and Art, who run art education programmes in prison as well as on campus and by remote. More on the project at their site.

A marble sculpture, which is part of Whangārei’s great sculpture walk at its town basin has been the subject of significant vandalism - knocked senseless might be accurate. The marble column by Anna Korver was made during the biennial Whangārei Sculpture Symposium in 2012.

Four new series have been granted funding by the New Zealand Film Commission and NZ On Air of $80,000 each. They all read as terrific but let’s start with All of Me from Shoshana McCallum, Natalie Medlock, Dan Musgrove and Peter Salmon: “Depressed and ready to end it all, Lauren orders an illegal clone to replace her. But when she messes up the process and gets three unsatisfactory duplicates, she is forced to stick around and deal with herselves.”

Red Light Flashing

A few weeks ago we highlighted the quandary for innovative theatremakers Nightsong Productions. They had made extensive future plans on the basis of being awarded three-year funding from Creative New Zealand, only for that not to materialise. Their latest show Mr Red Light is receiving excellent reviews in Auckland, and is set to head to the South Island and Tauranga Arts Festival. They are now fundraising through Boosted to keep a Wellington production alive and a tour of their work Te Pō next year. At this stage they have had to abandon their planned North Island tour for the new work.

Awards and Accolades Announced 

Dame Fiona Kidman’s novel This Mortal Boy needs a trophy cabinet. The winner of  the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize at the NZ Book Awards has this week picked up the best novel at the Ngaio Marsh Awards, dedicated to crime writing. It has also won the NZ Booklovers Award and the NZSA Heritage Book Award. 

The story is a recreation of the circumstances surrounding young Belfast immigrant Albert ‘Paddy’ Black becoming the penultimate person hanged in New Zealand. Meanwhile JP Pomare, won the Ngaio Marsh award for best first novel for Call Me Evie - a psychological thriller about a teenager recovering from a traumatic incident in a remote cabin in Maketū. It’s now to be published in Europe and North America.

Next year’s Robbie Burns, Frances Hodgkins and other arts fellows have been named for Dunedin. The Hodgkins has gone to moving image artist Bridget Rewiti. As Burns Fellow Dr John Newton is working on the second instalment of a three-volume history of 20th-century New Zealand writing. Kristie Mortimer, has a project looking at dance with offenders, at-risk youth, and children of offenders as the Caroline Plummer Fellow in Community Dance, and the Mozart Fellow is Kenneth Young, who premiered his first opera Man, Sitting in a Garden this year with the APO and Witi Ihimaera to strong reviews.  Elena de Roo has the University of Otago College of Education Creative New Zealand Children's Writer in Residence Fellowship, and plans a project inspired by the paintings of Bill Hammond. More, thanks to the Otago Daily Times.

Ruth Ratcliffe at Arts Access Awards.

Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards 2019 were given out at parliament last week (full results here). Among the winners, the Hobson Street Theatre Company got the Arts Access Creative New Zealand Community Arts Award for project That’s What Friends Are For. The play provided a platform for people who have experienced homelessness, while Ruth Ratcliffe got the Corrections Māui Tikitiki a Taranga Award for her long-standing theatre programme at Otago Corrections Facility (Lynn Freeman spoke to her on RNZ at the weekend). The Arts For All Award went to the Royal New Zealand Ballet (now in their new temporary home next to the Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington) for leadership and commitment to building new audiences by making ballet accessible to diverse audiences. Follow those links for some inspiring stories written by Arts Access.

“A stick is just a tool. It does not make me a cripple anymore than a fork makes you a salad.” Celebrating Disability Pride Week, Arts Access have also published this awesome short video featuring spoken word artist and writer Helen Vivienne Fletcher, directed by Rajeev Mishra.  

For Your Eyes and Ears

There always seems to be a production somewhere in the world of Gary Henderson’s play Skin Tight since it premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1994. Here’s a review at international theatre review site The Theatre Times of its recent Dublin debut. 

Live music site Undertheradar have just launched a new live music video series UTR Caught Live, the first French for Rabbits at Auckland’s wonderful Wine Cellar.

One of my favourite visual arts shows of the year thus far is On the Last Afternoon: Disrupted Ecologies and the Work of Joyce Campbell at Adam Art Gallery, reviewed here by Connie Brown in the Photoforum reviews and essays section. Also newly up a portfolio of the work of Christchurch based photographer Janneth Gil with an essay by Andrew Paul Wood. 

On the Last Afternoon: Disrupted Ecologies and the Work of Joyce Campbell, Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi - Shaun Matthews.

On his excellent Elsewhere site Graham Reid writes on book and CD from Rattle Records Te Ara Puoro; A Journey into the World of Maori Music by Richard Nunns with Allan Thomas, and the Whittaker's Music Museum on Waiheke.

Better off Read is Pip Adam’s writing and reading podcast and is up to its 66th episode. Pip has just started a three-part series celebrating AUP New Poems 5 edited by Anna Jackson. The first is with poet Carolyn DeCarlo

Director of Pataka, Reuben Friend has done some ‘calling out of Cook’ in a piece for The Spinoff Art on the museum’s dilemma of ‘celebrating’ the 250th anniversary of Cook’s encounter with Māori. It’s something he does an excellent job of addressing in the show Here: Kupe to Cook in Porirua, which I visited this week.

Written by

Mark Amery

18 Sep 2019

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

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