F word explosion

Cover of Herbs, Whats’ Be Happen? 1981
Photo credit: Christchurch Art Gallery via Newshub
Dominic Hoey takes a look at what went up and what went down in the arts in Aotearoa this week.


F is for Funding  

The Big Idea’s own Annie Ackerman went on Standing Room Only, along with Cath Cardiff of Creative New Zealand and Carl Bland and Ben Crowder from Nightsong Productions, to talk with Mark Amery about the realities of long term funding for arts organisations. Of the 86 arts organisations that applied for long term funding 80 were approved, some with healthy increases to support their work. Nightsong Productions weren’t so fortunate, after months of working on their application, the decision has plunged their future into uncertainty. 

When asked by Mark Amery what funding has meant for them in the past, Carl said: “It meant for the first time in our lives we could employ a producer. It also meant we could pay ourselves some sort of wage that was regular”. 

Ben Crowder opened up in this interview on how it feels and how they are moving forward. 

F is for Fiona 

Comedian and playwright, Tom Sainsbury has announced that he’ll be throwing his hat into the Auckland mayoral race. Tom, who has gained national fame for his satirical impersonations of Paula Bennett, says his alter-ego Fiona will be the one running against incumbent Phil Goff.

He announced his candidacy via a video posted on Saturday, with Fiona saying "What happened was, I was talking with some girlfriends and decided to run for mayor of Auckland".

Finding out

As Keri Malthus writes,  “a cynic might suggest that the biggest growth area in the arts at the moment is research on the sector itself - what’s working well and what needs to change to ensure artists and the arts thrive”.

There are two surveys out right now that seek your views. Creative New Zealand is running a survey on sustainable careers and the National Party’s has also released an Arts and Culture Survey.

Fish and Honey 

Award-winning writer and poet Paula Green, recently released Wild Honey  on Massey University Press. The book traces 150 years of New Zealand women’s poetry from household names to those unfairly forgotten. Paula was interviewed by Jane Arthur for the Sapling about both Wild Honey and Groovy Fish, a book of poetry for children. 

The poems come from title suggestions given to Paula by children during her Hot Spot Poetry tour of New Zealand. Paula talks about the importance of poetry and how she hopes Groovy Fish will get kids excited about the art-form. She also laments the lack of poetry books for kids  “If I were rich and had multiple selves I would start up a little press for children’s poetry and run poetry celebrations for children.” 

Farewell to a famous food court 

Mercury Plaza aka Mercs, the famous Auckland food court is soon to be turned into a train station as part of the city rail loop. Over the years the cluster of restaurants has become a hub for all walks of life within the central city. 

Now a group of local Chinese artists are saying farewell to the iconic site with an exhibition, Mercury Plaza: Origins and New Beginnings. 

The exhibition is produced by artists Jia Luo and Joni Lee, and features 14 different artists of Chinese origin all working in varying disciplines. The artists are not only using the show to celebrate Mercs but also address issues faced by artists within New Zealand including “the underrepresentation of Chinese artists within Aotearoa's mainstream art galleries”

The show is running now until the 14th of September. 

Cover of Herbs, Whats’ Be Happen? 1981

We featured a mention of the documentary, Herbs - Songs of Freedom the other week, that captured that iconic New Zealand group.

Over on Audio Culture, Adam Gifford has written up a look at the bands famous EP, Whats’ Be Happen? The EP arrived at a time of social change in Aotearoa, being released two months before the Springbok tour in ‘81.

Adam describes how the EP became a “soundtrack for the Springbok Tour, offering songs to be sung at rallies or played when people were healing tired and bruised bodies after the midweek and weekend protests.”

For free? Policing of bad ideas 

There was a collective eye roll amongst the arts community recently when a police station in Wellington ran a competition to find artists to paint the walls near their holding cells. Artists around the country are pushing back against the comp for a number of different reasons. Wellington artist inky Fang feels that emerging artists will likely be exploited.

"They're essentially not approaching someone to commission the artwork, they're basically crowd-sourcing it for free and offering a few prizes for select people,” she said. 

Meanwhile, Māori artist Chevron Basset is worried the theme of awhi (to embrace or cherish), will not be properly represented. 

“It would be better if the art was designed by someone who had had to go through the experience of being held in cells,” he said.

Arts Access Aotearoa's executive director Richard Benge thinks that artwork in the police station is a good idea, but that the whole process was not properly thought out. 

“You need to engage with the arts community,” he said, “particularly with artists that are skilled in providing art that is going to be suitable for that environment."

The upper hand

Another polarizing art decision sweeping the streets of Wellington is the recent installation of Ronnie Van Hout’s ‘Quasi’. The five-metre tall sculpture was crafted from polystyrene and resin and was originally featured in Christchurch on top of the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū.

Now, the statue stares down at passersbys from the roof of the City Gallery Wellington, causing a stir amongst locals and going viral thanks to the help of news outlets both here and abroad.

These are just a few of our favourite headlines: Funny or Die’s ‘Kneel Before The Giant Hand, New Lord Of New Zealand’, Independent’s 'Disturbing' giant hand statue unsettles citizens of New Zealand’ and Heavy’s ‘Does the Hand Sculpture in Wellington Look Like Trump?’

Photo credit: Christchurch Art Gallery via Newshub

What can we offer?

Pastorale, currently on at Robert Heald Gallery in Wellington, is an art show that also tackles the issue of environmentalism. The exhibition by artist Joshua Petherick, features the work Condolences, with six giant sculptures of drill bits busting through the walls of the gallery (pictured above). 

“At this point what can we offer other than our condolences?” Megan Dunn writes in her review of the show for the Spinoff: “Alongside our commitment to go vegan, quit air travel and eliminate all plastic consumption.” 

Two New Zealand artists taking it to the world! 

Rose Matafeo continues her take over of the comedy world. Last week it was announced her sitcom Starstruck will be released in both the UK and the US. The 6 part series will be set in London and will follow Rose as she juggles two dead-end jobs and accidentally sleeps with a movie star.

"I'm thrilled we get to make it, otherwise it would've technically just been a creepy fan fiction script that I submitted to the national broadcaster,” the Edinburgh Festival award winner said: “The team we've brought together for this series are absolute dreamboats and I'm super excited to be working with them." 

The Spinoff  launched a new series, Things I Learned at Art School, last month. They kicked off the series with one of New Zealand’s top arts exports, Simon Denny. 

In the interview Simon talks about his introduction to contemporary art through Elam, his time at the Städelschule in Frankfurt and his recent exhibition Mine at Tasmania's MONA. 

Simon also goes into his teaching at the HFBK University of Fine Arts in Hamburg, where he’s a professor. He had this great piece of advice for aspiring artists, 

“Only do things you’re really convinced are a good idea – taking into account as much context as possible.”

Written by

Dominic Hoey

21 Aug 2019

Dominic Hoey is an author, playwright and poet based in Tāmaki Makaurau. His debut novel, Iceland was a New Zealand bestseller and was long-listed for the 2018 Ockham Book Award.

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