Estuary Art and Ecology Prize

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Malcolm Smith Gallery, Howick photo courtesy of artsdiary.co.nz

On Saturday I judged the 12th edition of the Estuary Art and Ecology Prize at Uxbridge Art and Culture’s Malcolm Smith Gallery. More info on the prize can be found here and some local press coverage here. Here are the four winning works from the finalists in the exhibition. More images are available here from artsdiary.

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Marion Wassenaar, ‘Unplugged’ (First) photo courtesy of artsdiary.co.nz

 

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Wei Lun Ha, ‘Colours That I Wouldn’t Want to See’ (Second)
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Mish O’Neill,  ‘Manawa’ (Merit)
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Michelle Farrell, ‘Restore Me Said the Water’ (Merit) photo courtesy of artsdiary.co.nz

Weekend Reading

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A new acquisition for my collection, this 1928 Martin Hürlimann photograph of the Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochin, leads to news from the Indian Express on the Keralan government’s decision to fund the restoration of the nets, a key tourist driver for the state.

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa curator of historical photography Lissa Mitchell writes on Louisa Herrmann, owner of the Herrmann Photography Studio, one of Wellington’s most successful studios of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Here’s an interview with filmmaker Jodie Mack on Radio New Zealand’s Standing Room Only programme and another, a joint interview with filmmaker Fern Silva, at Circuit. Jodie was visiting New Zealand in support of the Free Radicals: Cinema on the Wrong Side of the Tracks exhibition and her own survey in the Len Lye Centre cinema, Glitch Envy.

Jack Hitt at the New York Times on the missing James Joyce scholar John Kidd.

David Smith at Jacobin on the depth of George Orwell’s socialist politics.

And the return of The The.

 

Is Film Art?

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‘Is Film Art?’ in ‘Free Radicals: Cinema on the Wrong Side of the Tracks’

It’s a big day in the office with today’s opening of our latest suite of exhibitions. For me, this means celebrating three exhibitions: Pretty Good for the 21st Century, Free Radicals: Cinema on the Wrong Side of the Tracks and Glitch Envy: Experimental Films by Jodie Mack.

The Free Radicals exhibition is the larger exhibition here and features works by Rodney Charters, Bruce Conner, Steve Cossman, Oskar Fischinger, Richard Lomas, Len Lye, Jodie Mack, and the Parasitic Fantasy Band (Eve Gordon/Sam Hamilton). The title of the show is obviously via Len Lye, but the subtitle was taken from Pip Chodorov in his similarly titled documentary Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film, speaking of ‘cinema on the wrong side of the tracks’. Throughout the exhibition, we’re screening Chodorov’s film alongside the exhibition as well as Brecht Debackere’s EXPRMNTL documentary which explores the EXPRMNTL film festival held in Belgium between the 1940s and 1970s. It was here that Lye’s 1958 film Free Radicals won a prestigious 2nd place. Lye’s 1959 essay ‘Is Film Art?’ lamented the neglect of experimental cinema in the United States and declared he would no longer make experimental films.

Films of Jodie Mack

I’ve just wrapped up a new programme for the Len Lye Centre’s cinema, our next Projection Series. This is the first dedicated to a single artist (other than the regular Len Lye programmes we do) and celebrates the tenth in the series. Projection Series 10 is titled Glitch Envy: Experimental Films by Jodie Mack.

We’re running this programme every Saturday (1pm) from 12 May through 21 July alongside our larger exhibition concerning experimental cinema, Free Radicals: Cinema on the Wrong Side of the Tracks (Mack’s work features in the exhibition too).

You can view the brochure for this programme here. It includes a new essay on Mack’s work by film scholar Jennifer Stob from Texas State University.

Here are a couple of old but good interviews with Mack, by Stob and Daniel Kasman.

 

Weekend Reading

The University of Auckland is proposing to amalgamate its Fine Arts Library into its general library. I used this specialised and internationally significant library extensively, years before being enrolled in the art history department itself. Naturally, there’s opposition to what is a much broader desire for cuts to humanities departments and resources. There are numerous pieces on the matter, a withering response published by the NZ Herald this week and a strange piece by Peter Gilderdale (from Auckland University of Technology) at the Spinoff. Andrew Paul Wood responds to Gilderdale here.

Deepa Bhasthi writes on her childhood discovering Russian literature through the cheap editions of Russian classics distributed in India by the USSR.

An overdue study, Lana Lopesi on the idea of Auckland as the world’s “largest Polynesian city’.

Chika Okeke-Agulu in Frieze with the most sound response to the Brooklyn Museum’s controversial curator of African Art hiring.

To end, the Guardian on Sister Corita Kent.

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‘Sister Corita’s Summer of Love’, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, 2015

3 Essays on Imagereality

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Last year I had the new experience of being asked to write an endorsement for a colleague’s new book. That was Nicolas Pillai’s Jazz as a Visual Language: Film, Television and the Dissonant Image. It was nice to be asked again not long after to do the same for Scott Navicky’s new novel 3 Essays on Imagereality. Here’s what I contributed for the back cover followed by a précis of the work:

“3Essays on Imagereality is the photographic picaresque: a world of image-multiplicity, failed theory and a 24-hours reflecting on the image, the truth and the knuckleball within the walls of the museum.” – Paul Brobbel, Len Lye Curator at the Govett – Brewster Art Gallery

Haunted by photography and fueled by failure, Carlos Spencer-Bayard is an insomniac anythingarian boozehound, who is known to his friends and family simply as “Ghost.” A keen observer of the strangemotion of his own mind, he spends his days engrossed in the daily demands of parenting (i.e. liontaming), but at night, when the noose of nightmadness tightens and the turtle of thought is flipped onto its back, he wrestles with Imagereality. Understanding Imagereality is no easy task, as images are everywhere; and wherever images go, imagetheory must follow. Thus an imagethinker is a scholar of the cultural kitchen sink: nothing is verboten. Shakespeare’s Sonnets and potential self- slaughter, Gnostic intoxication, Gérard Depardieu’s inexplicable sex appeal, Talkreality (also known as Squawkreality), drag queens, author photos, absinthe, and endlessnessnessness: everything is permissible under Imagereality’s spectacular perspectival sun.

More info from the publisher, Montag Press and you can order from Amazon.

 

Len Lye at ‘Toi Art’, Te Papa

I was fortunate this week to have some time travelling in the South Island (including a rare visit to Dunedin to launch Tao Wells’ new publication EASIER).  Having a few hours free between connecting flights in Wellington I was able to get my first look at Te Papa’s new Toi Art exhibitions.

My professional interest in the new exhibitions comes with the inclusion of Len Lye, represented by four of his experimental films, one of which Kaleidoscope (1935) lends the title of one of the key permanent exhibitions, Kaleidoscope: Abstract Aotearoa.

 

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Len Lye’s ‘Kaleidoscope’ in ‘Kaleidoscope: Abstract Aotearoa’, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

 

Te Papa has a great painting by Lye in their collection (one of the best), however, most know Lye through his kinetic sculpture and experimental cinema so these films give Lye a fairly prominent place in the new Te Papa project. One of the great aspects of Te Papa’s display of Lye’s work here is what they have included with Tusalava (1929).

Lye’s first film, Tusalava generally screens without a soundtrack. The premiere screening at the London Film Society in December 1929 included a live, two-piano accompaniment composed by the Australian Jack Ellitt. The score was torn up by the temperamental Ellitt and, since it was never recorded, the film has remained silent except for an occasional use of Eugene Goossens’ Rhythmic dance for two pianos, op. 30 (said by Lye to be similar to Ellitt’s original piece). What this means is that Tusalava is often treated to new soundtracks by contemporary composers, such as Alcyona Mick and Harry Harrison. Te Papa is exhibiting Tusalava in its silent form along with three optional alternative soundtracks produced by Matatumua Opeloge Ah SamPoulima Salima and Matthew Faiumu Salapu (aka Anonymouz).

These three soundtracks were composed in 2013 as part of the exhibition Len Lye: Agiagiā produced by the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Mangere Art Centre (curated by James Pinker and myself). Roger Horrocks reviewed the exhibition in Art NZ #149 (From the Fringe to the Centre: Len Lye at Mangere Arts Centre) and Ema Tavola commented with disdain here. You can buy a copy of the catalogue here.

The new soundtracks featured as part of a public programme where three local (South Auckland) contemporary composers were invited to produce alternative soundtracks to the film, adding a new element to the Pacific character of Tusalava. Kelly Carmichael reviewed this event, noting

‘As public programmes go, New Compositions: Three Composers Respond to Tusalava was one of the most ambitious and successful examples of how cultural organisations can operate in an expanded field of practice.’

The soundtrack project within Len Lye: Agiagiā was driven by James Pinker. He and the three composers should be congratulated that the project lives on beyond a single public programme and now sits inside our national museum at a moment of celebration.

Te Papa has also included a further soundtrack option with Tusalava, an audio description for the visually impaired. This came about from an initiative at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery as part of our Len Lye programme and lead by Sarah Dalle Nogare. Tusalava was selected for a pilot project to see how audio descriptions for the visually impaired would work on pieces of experimental cinema. It seemed the narrative structure of the film would make this the most productive example to work with. Working with our partners at Ngā Taonga: Sound and Vision and Able we produced the descriptive soundtrack and then ran an audience workshop in New Plymouth to get feedback. The exhibition On an Island was the first opportunity to present Tusalava with this new audio and it seemed to integrate well into the exhibition. Hopefully, at Te Papa, many more visitors will make the most of this particular soundtrack. Meanwhile, we’ll be working on audio descriptions for further and the more challenging of Lye’s abstract films.