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current situation 2018
discarded cords and cables, copper, wool, galvanised steel

Karen Rubado uses refuse to create weavings of great sensuality. She teases out latent material richness, discovering the gold inherent in the straw. Here she uses cords and cables, items so commonplace that they are easily overlooked, so deeply useful that any material loveliness is quite invisible. Disassembling them, Rubado undoes the mode of their making, answering quick machine mass-production with painstaking handiwork. The elements are then woven together with equal care and attention, converted into something other. Passages of dirt and wear remain, however: vestiges of the materials’ former lives that summon attention to the before, as well as the transcendent after.

Rubado has commented that her work is not primarily directed towards advertising the problem of the proliferation of waste (can any of us still claim to be ignorant of same?), nor the potential for us to recycle so much that is currently discarded. Indeed, current situation is not a strong example of recycling in the sense that it does not produce a ‘useful’ object; the hanging does not afford insulation, as one made of different materials might. Rubado is largely uninterested in utility, concentrating instead on the question of mutability, the revelation of the beauties and histories hidden in household objects, and the fabrication of intricate entities we ache to pepper with our fingerprints.

Detail photograph courtesy of the artist.



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$1/Word: A Living Wage for New Zealand Art Writers 2018
screen-print on paper and page work in Art New Zealand 166

Typeset in Futura by Jonty Valentine at Index.
Presented with support from the Chartwell Trust and Whitecliffe College of Arts & Design.

With $1/Word: A Living Wage for New Zealand Art Writers, artist and art writer Emil McAvoy proposes a fix to the underpayment of writers commonplace in the art industry. The work is a call for action, in league with similar political-economic campaigns, such as the campaign for a universal basic income. Despite the work’s simple message and mission, it raises complex questions about how text and value interact in different contexts, not least because it takes two forms. On the one hand is the announcement, a form traditionally paid for by the promoter and disseminated to the widest possible public at little to no cost to recipients. On the other is the art print, well designed and limited in number, sold to the public as something special.

Of course, McAvoy advocates for writers whose texts are not found in promotional materials or artworks, but in magazines and, increasingly, online – floating round in the ether with no meaningful means of protection. Priced affordably at $10 (one dollar per word in the title), the print functions as a marker of support for the cause. Furthermore, the project invites us to reflect on the value of art writing in abstract/qualitative as well as concrete/quantitative terms. Are art writers mere parasites on the ‘real creatives’, artists? Or, as Rosabel Tan has suggested, are they more like gut flora, helping to sustain the ‘body’ that is artists and their audiences? If the latter, perhaps the art writer deserves more credit – and less dependence on the credit card.

Copies of $1/Word: A Living Wage for New Zealand Art Writers are available from the BakerDouglas bookshop at Auckland Art Fair.

Mock-up image courtesy of the artist.



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stumbling alongside one another 2018
digital prints on stretched charmeuse silk and laser-cut acrylic adornments

Tim Wagg’s stumbling alongside one another blends old and new modes of art-making. His stretched works immediately recall paintings, but they incorporate a host of non-manual processes, the images captured using digital cameras, tweaked with software, and printed by machine. His adornments are similarly dependent on the digital/mechanical, being designed on the computer and laser-cut. The use of recently developed technologies provides a bridge to earlier works by the artist, which examine the ways in which New Zealand politicians of the 1980s and ’90s set out to shape a deregulated, ‘competitive’ economy favourable to technological innovation, and the belief of these politicians in the transformative power of such innovation.

Here, the artist turns his attention more squarely to phenomena and concerns of the present. Photographs of interlaced youthful hands and of a camera screen showing dreamily lit mountains are reminiscent of Instagram or Tumblr posts, while earrings modelled on roses and snakes have the flavour of digital icons or pictograms. At the same time, Wagg’s motifs have political connotations, hinting at emergent ideologies based on cooperative engagement. Another image, made under the Harbour Bridge, accepts the potential of technology without forgetting the natural. Swelling seawater jostles artificial light, producing an automatic sketch capturable only in the presence of both a sophisticated camera and a deliberate human agent.

The works that make up stumbling alongside one another are available for purchase from Tim Wagg.

Photograph courtesy of the artist.



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Te poho o Hine-Ruhi 2018
oil pastel on paper

Presented with support from Creative NZ.

Raukura Turei’s Te poho o Hine-Ruhi (‘The chest of Hine-Ruhi’) grows out of an extended visit to Toronto, Canada. Living in close quarters with an old friend, the artist became acutely aware of her body, its rhythms, and its demands: ‘the need for privacy, the need to communicate, to rest, to masturbate, to meditate, to fuck, to cry’. At the same time, she found a new daily routine and a sense of security that encouraged her to engage in self-scrutiny. This process gave rise to an ongoing series of drawings, close-ups of the artist’s body made using oil pastel, a medium that is highly responsive to the artist’s touch and that yields images of a sensual, painterly materiality.

The works that make up Te poho o Hine-Ruhi, are not solely intended as reflections on and of the self. Turei also wishes to raise questions of female sexuality and body sovereignty more generally, to engage and empower other women. To this end, she has turned to a powerful entity beyond herself, Hine-Ruhi, a Māori goddess associated with movement, dance, and the dawn. Where earlier works showed the female body near life size, here it swells to a superhuman scale. The range of tones in each work has also increased as Turei has steeped cascades of velvety pointillist strokes in misty passages. These works are resolutely joyous, suggesting the delight not only of a human body moving through dawn air, but also of the world at large dancing into a new day.

The works that make up Te poho o Hine-Ruhi are available for purchase from Raukura Turei.

Photograph by Tim Wagg.



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The Fall 2017
HD video 16:9, 4 minutes, 58 seconds

Originally commissioned by the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 2017.

Angela Tiatia’s video work The Fall draws on the accounts of survivors of the Battle of Singapore during the Second World War. The Battle saw Britain’s key colonial and military outpost in South-East Asia fall to the Empire of Japan. Winston Churchill called it the ‘worst disaster’ in British military history and it remains the largest surrender of British-led forces ever. Tiatia, however, is less interested in exploring the failings of the Allied forces or the impacts of the Fall on geopolitics in the region than in the effects of catastrophic change on individuals and groups on the ground.

The work does not literally restage the fallout of the Battle, instead creating an evocation of a social order in disintegration that feels as much like an alternative present, or a dystopian near future, as it does a meditation on history. A single panning shot captures a cast of characters coming unhinged from their humanity, violating the codes we ordinarily take for granted. The nature of the disaster remains unclear. Viewers are left to imagine their own: wartime, say, as with the Battle of Singapore; environmental, like the hurricanes that have ravaged the Caribbean; or perhaps political, an extension of the divisions opening up on the other side of Te Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa.

Angela Tiatia is represented by Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney.

Still image courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf.



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The Anatomy of Fear 2018
ink on paper with gold leaf

The Anatomy of Fear explores fear as a system of control in the present day. Anonymous artist FIGMENT presents images of guns used in police killings of innocent African American people. The horror of the subject-matter contrasts sharply with the formal beauty of the works. Their elegant linearity gives them the appearance of meticulous technical drawings (or even anatomical diagrams) of the weapons, while embellishments in luxurious gold leaf suggest the esteem in which guns are held in the USA. Words such as ‘thief’ and ‘coward’ appearing on the weapons highlight the criminality of shooters and gun manufacturers alike, while stressing that it is fear, as much a belief in ‘freedom’, that underlies the worship of the gun.

While it is unclear where FIGMENT is based, the presentation of these works in Aotearoa implies the extent to which the USA, its cultures, and its problematics infiltrate the wider world. The artist raises the question of our responsibility as citizens of a nation allied to America not only politically, but also socially, especially by way of platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr. At the same time, the presentation of these emblems of fear and oppression serve as points of reflection on the state of our own State, one in which gun ownership and violence are comparatively low, but one that also harbours considerable racism – not least in our ‘criminal justice’ system, in which Māori and other people of colour are grossly, unjustly overrepresented.

The works that make up The Anatomy of Fear are available for purchase from FIGMENT. Proceeds from sales will be used to purchase and decommission the depicted weapons. Decommissioned weapons will be transformed in the next phase of this project.

Draft image courtesy of the artist.



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Untitled 2018
site-specific vinyl installation

Presented with support from Creative NZ.

Louisa Afoa tells stories, placing a particular emphasis on the experiences of her family and other diaspora communities living in Aotearoa. In this work, she recounts her discovery of a Facebook post by an unnamed acquaintance (the term ‘friend’ is not used) in support of some party at risk of being ejected from New Zealand, juxtaposing this with recollections from her childhood. With characteristic understatement, Afoa hints at her father’s engagement in physically demanding work and her family’s need of additional, charitable support. Her happy memories sit alongside an awareness that Pacific families like hers are often positioned as ‘drains on the system’, even though they contribute disproportionately to the productive economy.

The text ends with a simple question: ‘What have we done for New Zealand anyway?’ The object of the question remains unclear. Does it refer to her family’s contribution to the country, or the contribution of Pacific people in general? Or is Afoa perhaps placing the question there for the Pākehā/Palagi majority (which seems so easily to forget that it, too, comprises people originally from elsewhere) to ask themselves? Ultimately, Untitled reminds us not only of the nuanced narratives of individuals and communities that lie behind commonplace stereotypes, but also the tendency for well-meaning individuals to treat the one person whose story they do know as the exception – without seriously questioning the rule.

Photograph by Tim Wagg.



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The Camper Project 2017 to present
bespoke camper van

Jade Parks’ The Camper Project could hardly be more appropriately titled. There is a decidedly campy quality to her homemade caravan, which flip-flops between earnestness and humour. On the one hand, it draws attention to the gulf that still separates art-making from handiwork, and testifies to the artist’s resourcefulness in overcoming limited funds for travel and accommodation. On the other hand, it gently burlesques our tourist industry, camper culture, and do-it-yourself ethos. Inside the vehicle, a Siri-like Australian voice provides an exaggeratedly deadpan recitation of a list of instructions – peppered with both imprecisions and absurd details – on how to build a similar camper on a seriously shoestring budget.

Parked behind The Cloud, The Camper Project pings off two other outdoor works: Hikalu Clarke’s Lexus commission and Michael Parekowhai’s The Lighthouse. Clarke’s installation stands a glitzy yang to Parks’ humble yin. Together, they testify to the extent to which individual transportation still dominates both Auckland and New Zealand. Next to Parekowhai’s work, which Anthony Byrt has interpreted, in part, as a reaction against the nationalisation of the ‘foreshore and seabed’ in 2004, Parks’ work might be understood to suggest a break with the Pākehā tradition of assuming and asserting legal ownership over the natural world, embodying instead respectful, temporary residence – dumping not permitted.

Photograph by Tim Wagg.