Keeping up with Kiwi creatives around the globe
Have you noticed the presence of Kiwi creatives overseas has been growing, along with their list of artistic achievements? But that doesn’t mean they are overly-celebrated and supported to work abroad, nor does it mean they are widely publicised back home in Aotearoa. In fact, it’s near-impossible to find regular and comprehensive updates of international art projects taking place abroad.
After working in the New Zealand pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2015, Pauline Autet observed that “Based in Berlin since 2009, Auckland born and educated Simon Denny is very established in the art world, and his project for the Venice Biennale 2015 was huge in global media. Yet, when I returned to New Zealand, I realised the local media coverage, and consequently awareness and debate about the artist and show, was disproportionately low. And in line with that, there’s close to no discussion or documentation of smaller-scale events taking place abroad with Aotearoa artists”.
Paris-based Autet is the founding editor and curator of Contemporary HUM. She came together with arts publicist Winsome Wild in 2016 to produce a centralised, web-based platform aimed at creating more visibility for Aotearoa artists overseas. Today, the project is run by a small team of creative kiwis abroad.
What Contemporary HUM covers
As the first and only platform of its kind, HUM hosts in-depth conversations, exclusive exhibition reviews, and long-form essays responding to the work of contemporary New Zealand artists and creative professionals either based or exhibiting abroad. Publications are posted twice a month and are commissioned out to writers or curators who are in some way intimately involved or interested in the projects they cover.
HUM covers New Zealand’s participation in special art events, such as Liste Art Fair, Art Basel and Frieze London. In 2017, the editorial team was on-site for the opening week of the Venice Biennale, sending out daily updates and conducting interviews with exhibiting artists (including, Lisa Reihana, Francis Upritchard, Paul Handley, Kāryn Taylor and Bruce Barber) in both official and parallel venues. Something they will be doing again during the Vernissage week of the next edition in May 2019.
The selection process for projects is careful and critical. It also means the writing is engaging and unique. For example, Louise Garrett’s intimate conversation with her long-time friend and artist Nathan Pohio; craft enthusiast and Objectspace director Kim Paton’s account of her visit to Munich where 23 jewellers from Aotearoa displayed work; or Carter Imrie-Milne’s review of the award-winning work of Zac Langdon-Pole in Belgium.
Contemporary HUM also hosts public events. Whose Oceania? in London saw panellists James Belich (an Oxford professor), and Matariki Williams (curator Mātauranga Māori at Te Papa), tackle some of the challenges surrounding the presentation of Māori and Pacific artworks in large, offshore institutions.
Another great feature of the Contemporary HUM website is their up-to-the-minute calendar. If you are heading off overseas, check it out to see the international events and exhibitions. As an artist or a curator you can use this handy calendar to promote an upcoming international event.
Aiming high and stretching wide
Autet has had a firm desire to both encourage critical discourse and publish writing that would benefit artists, “A well-written critical text that brings a thoughtful interpretation to an art practice can be a significant tool for an artist to develop their practice and gain further opportunities.”
Artist and 2016 Walter Prize recipient Shannon Te Ao praised the Contemporary HUM article about his commission for The 2017 Edinburgh Arts Festival, written by Andrew Clifford, noting that it is an invaluable document to introduce his work to curators who are unfamiliar with his work.
Autet is a firm believer in a collaborative approach and has built international networks of writers, curators and other art professionals. HUM’s commissioning process has been able to continue thanks to funding from Creative New Zealand and private sponsors, and through Patreon, which allows readers to sustainably sponsor content when they donate online, the sum going directly towards the production and promotion of each essay (also boosting the writer’s fee). She plans to establish HUM as a charitable trust in 2019, with long-time supporters Heather Galbraith, Chloe Geoghegan and Bridget Reweti joining the team as trustees.
Surf the art waves with HUM
New Zealand artists are making waves overseas, and Contemporary HUM is the one place where you can keep up with it all. So, whether you are an artist wanting to announce an upcoming exhibition abroad, a writer or curator with a stellar idea for a publication, or if you’re simply interested in what’s happening on the international art scene, make sure you, like The Big Idea does, link into Contemporary HUM’s website and sign up to their newsletter here, or follow them on their Facebook and Instagram to keep yourself in the swim.
Image credits, top to bottom:
Panel facilitated by Contemporary HUM with (from left): artists Bridget Reweti and Erena Baker from Mata Aho Collective, Tessa Giblin (Commissioner, Ireland at Venice 2017), Alastair Carruthers (Commissioner, New Zealand at Venice 2017). Image: Crystal Te Moananui-Squares.Bruce Barber pointing to New Zealand in his appropriation of 'The Surrealist Map of the World,' 1929. Personal Structures: Open Borders, Palazzo Mora, Venice. Image: Contemporary HUM.
James Belich, Matariki Williams, Lana Lopesi, Pauline Autet, Whose Oceania? panel discussion hosted by Contemporary HUM on 29.09.18 in London. Photo: Crystal Te Moananui-Squares.
Shannon Te Ao, With the sun aglow, I have my pensive moods (still), 2017, two-channel video, colour and sound. Cinematography Iain Frengley. Photo: Johnny Barrington. Courtesy of the artist and Robert Heald Gallery.
IWA: New Zealand Makers, Handwerksmesse, Munich, 2018. Photo: Contemporary HUM.