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Who wants a prize pig?

Howard Jacobson with his Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize in 2013. Image credit: Alamy Stock Photo, ID:D8EAY1
Edith Amituanai, SwitchHittaz in the new park (detail), 2017, courtesy of the artist
Paul Nache Gallery, Tim Melville Gallery, Whitespace Gallery, installing at Akl Art Fair (via Instagram)
Patricia Piccinini in front of her work, 'Kindred', 2018. Courtesy the artist, found via RNZ Standing Room Only
Marquette of Biljana Popovic's current project as part of her residency at Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin, 2019. Image courtesy of the artist.
David Titchener, Jenny Black and Wendy Gray with the plaque in the Tararua’s marking Billy Apple’s artwork locating the centre of New Zealand’s sovereign territory. Image: Cornel de Ronde, GNS Science.
NZIFF 2019 Poster. Courtesy Ken Samonte/Ocean Design
Layne Waerea, Free Dust, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.
Here's Mark Amery with a real grunty prize for Lowdown #43.


A Prize Pig  

It’s not so much the tyranny of distance these days, more that New Zealand artists overseas can still go unnoticed until tagged Kiwi within the global digital media firmament. Usually when nominated for a prize and, in this case, a rather unique one. Lined up to go from local obscurity to proud antipodean ownership is New Zealand-Londoner Paul Ewan, who has been shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction in the UK.

The winner of the prize will be presented with a case of Champagne and a rare breed pig will be named after their winning novel at the Hay Festival, held in Wales in late May. Google will confirm that men ranging from Terry Pratchett to Howard Jacobson have previously been so honoured.

Notoriously the prize was withheld last year because no book was judged “funny enough to deserve to win”. And, as the Irish Times reports Marian Keyes also accused the judges of a “sexist imbalance” in the prize (which has only been awarded three times in its 18 years to women writers) after she failed to make the shortlist. This year’s shortlist features four women.

Ewan’s book Francis Plug: Writer in Residences is the latest in his series of literary world satires featuring real-life literary people (here’s a great Guardian review). He spoke to RNZ’s Kathryn Ryan way back in 2014 after the publication of Francis Plug: How to be a Public Author.

Also on a shortlist, but with no pigs in sight: Jessica Le Bas, Nina Mingya Powles and Michael Steven are the three finalists for the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize to be announced at Auckland Writers Festival in a couple of weeks.

Explosion of Media for Artists

Paul Nache Gallery, Tim Melville Gallery, and Whitespace Gallery installing at Auckland Art Fair (via the galleries' Instagram accounts)

It’s Auckland Art Fair week (May 1-4), with its bevvy of projects, talks, well-dressed dealers, oh and ridiculous amounts of art. That also means the highest profile in the media visual artists get year round - in the absence currently of our own biennale, triennale or national surveys. Evidence: Five cracker artists you may not have heard of did Q&As for the NZ Herald, and their Viva section has a special Art focus on Wednesday. Remix have done a starters guide to investing in art with three good guides. On RNZ John Reynolds spoke to Kim Hill about his ongoing project The Missing Hours concerning Colin McCahon’s disappearance and night walk around Sydney in 1984 (new instalment ‘Centennial Park’ is at the fair).

Also for RNZ, I interviewed experienced art dealer John Gow together with newbies Jhana Millers and Laila O’Brien about the fair and visiting popular Australian sculptor Patricia Piccinini. Piccinini’s work showed to over a million people in Brazil back in 2016, yet is being represented at the Fair for the second time by wee Matakana’s The Vivian gallery.  

Patricia Piccinini in front of her work, 'Kindred', 2018. Courtesy the artist, image via RNZ.

Walking with Artists

John Reynolds also mentioned to Kim Hill his “guerilla launch” in Sydney of ‘McCahon’s Way’, celebrating the day of McCahon’s walk-about disappearance in Sydney. Reynolds describes it as “the eleventh great New Zealand walk” - adding to the Department of Conservation’s ten. “Its innovation is that it’s a New Zealand walk that is not in New Zealand.” The McCahon walk has previously been captured by writer Martin Edmond in his brilliant 2011 book Dark Night: Walking with McCahon (Justin Paton review here).

Another artist helping us celebrate the love of a great walk is artist Billy Apple. Apple has always brought art right out into the world through collaboration, rearranging our perspective on space in fresh new ways. His latest materialises in the form of a plaque installed in the Tararua Ranges, near Greytown marking a new physical centre for New Zealand – the centre of the extended continental shelf. Since 2008, the United Nations has recognised that New Zealand's sovereign territory includes this shelf, adding an extra 1.6 million kilometres to the nation's exclusive economic zone.

David Titchener, Jenny Black & Wendy Gray with the plaque in the Tararua’s marking Billy Apple’s artwork locating the centre of NZ’s sovereign territory.
Image: Cornel de Ronde, GNS Science.

In this GNS Science video, science collaborator Cornel de Ronde and Apple discuss the project, with footage of the work’s remote choppered-in installation. As Apple explains, the role of the artist becomes clear: asking questions of scientists no one else would ask – like, where exactly is the centre? The exact location and walking instructions are here. Suitably - for the layperson still getting their head around conceptual art - the tramping trail itself is marked ‘difficult’ but it’s en route to a hut.  

Apple shows little signs of slowing down. Here’s John Hurrell’s review on Eyecontactsite of his April solo show at Mokopōpaki.

Dancing Up and Down the Island

It’s New Zealand Dance Week, an annual national raise awareness time. This year it launched for the first time outside a national centre: Palmerston North was chosen for its strong dance culture.

Fabulous Photography

It’s the third Photival documentary photography festival in Wellington, drawing together exhibitions and events across the Capital. A welcome new initiative at Photival is a weekend of film screenings about NZ photographers (18-19 May). The big Wellington announcement, however, is a survey of the work of Edith Amituanai, Double Take taking over the Adam Art Gallery. This joins her show with the historical work of George Crummer at New Zealand Portrait Gallery. Busy Amituanai month – she also has a strong presence in Layover at Auckland’s Artspace.

Edith Amituanai, SwitchHittaz in the new park (detail), 2017, courtesy of the artist

Māori Artists head to New York

To coincide with Tuia 250, a group of Māori artists have taken their work to New York to rebalance conceptions of Captain Cook ‘discovering’ New Zealand. First seen in Gisborne over summer, their exhibition He Tirohanga ki Tai - Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery has opened there in conjunction with the UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues. “For us, it’s a specific concern about the re-entrenching of colonial fictions within the minds of hearts of our future generations,” says artist Tina Ngata in a Māori Television item. It’s at a pop-up version of Ora Gallery in New York. Giarna Te Kanawa ran Ora Gallery on a more permanent basis between 2015 and 2017.

Welcome Marten Rabarts

On the subject of reclaiming Kiwi, New Zealand Film Festival have announced their new 2020 director Marten Rabarts. Rabarts currently heads EYE International in Amsterdam – the organisation responsible for the international marketing and promotion of Dutch films. Interesting to read Rabarts background though – he left New Zealand aged 16 to pursue dance and theatre before shifting into film in the 1980s. Of Ngāti Porou and Ngāpuhi descent, I also note that this appointment will see the still relatively rare occasion of a Māori leading a national arts organisation.

Rabarts will replace Bill Gosden, retiring this year after an incredible 40 years at the helm. Nice also to see acknowledgement this week of an enduring creative commercial partnership: between Bill and Ocean Design, who have done the distinctive illustrations for film festival posters for 30 years. They’ve unveiled the latest here, and here’s a pretty nifty timelapse youtube clip of its development.  

NZIFF 2019 Poster. Courtesy Ken Samonte/Ocean Design.

Worthy Writing

The Academy of NZ Literature has been publishing prose excerpts and poems from the books shortlisted for the Ockham NZ Book Awards. Also recent on the ACNZL site is this cracker interview by Mark Broatch with CK Stead. Stead on NZ literary criticism: “I’ve more often felt ignored – overlooked – than given close and searching attention. And so much reviewing is amateurish. In the UK and Ireland, there have been critical analyses at a level I seldom get here.”

The Academy is an impressive writer-led initiative aimed at writers begun in 2016, and the website offers a trove of great, well-curated content.

Elsewhere on the literary web is this interview with poet Gregory Kan by Paula Green on NZ Poetry Shelf, on the occasion of his recently published volume Under Glass.

Biljana in Berlin

This year’s NZ visual artist in residence in Berlin, care of Creative New Zealand, is Biljana Popovic. Eleanor Woodhouse writes on Popovic’s smart playful exploration of design through installation art and interviews her on Contemporary Hum. Popovic’s upcoming show at Künstlerhaus Bethanien looks at the aesthetics of the stations of the U-Bahn – the Berlin Metro - considering their histories and diverse interiors. Popovic: “I like to state it as a joke: ‘design solves problems and art creates problems.’ When I’m making art, it’s always an open-ended process.”

Marquette of Biljana Popovic's current project as part of her residency at Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin, 2019. Image courtesy of the artist. 

Theatre Trick

Over recent years Trick of the Light Theatre company have created a rare arsenal of eminently tour-able theatre works. Following dates at the Southland Arts Festival they have a six-centre North Island regional tour across May of 2012 work (rather ironically titled given its longevity) The Road That Wasn’t There. Here’s a Theatreview review from Invercargill and an interview with the Gisborne Herald.

Finally, on the art fair buzz, Layne Waerea’s work ‘Free Dust’ features in this month’s Pantograph Punch excellent ‘Unmissables’ column.

Layne Waerea, Free Dust, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

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Top Image Credit: Howard Jacobson with his Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize in 2013. Image credit: Alamy Stock Photo, ID:D8EAY1

Written by

Mark Amery

1 May 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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