While showing at the 2018 Art Fair, PĀNiA! announced an ambition to work with American artist Bruce Nauman. Her initial proposal for Whanaungatanga involved a ‘fabulously outrageous and fun’ collaboration with the superstar, but this proved unfeasible (not to worry; PĀNiA! says the idea will keep). Instead, she works with him in spirit, doing so not only at The Cloud, but also at Mokopōpaki on Karangahape Road and at Te Tuhi in Pakuranga. Her Fair project was inspired by Nauman’s word stacks. PĀNiA! invited me to collaborate, requesting lists of my favourite things. Some of my responses were too long, so judicious shaving was required. She kept only words for ‘things, male names, and place names’. This trimming is a light-hearted nod to the fact that we both ‘like men’, as well as a play on the name Nauman—Nounman being a near-homophone.
Making the pun visual, PĀNiA! appropriates a ‘universal man’, turning this very familiar wayfinding symbol into a larger-than-life neon. Should he feel shy, PĀNiA!’s big, buck naked orange Nounman need only reach for his towel, wrapping himself up in a text close to his heart. The curator’s words; the artist’s composition. If Nounman is seen as a work about boys, and one famous big boy artist in particular, then it’s tempting to read PĀNiA!’s declaration as a feminist statement. Whatever the case, a series of mansplaining texts will be available to help visitors unpack the work a bit more. Do feel free to make up your own meanings, but please remember to bring your own soap.
PĀNiA!, the anonymous and enigmatic but always interesting über-cool-girl, artist-about-town is a country babe at heart. She likes piña coladas, and getting caught in the rain. She’s not into yoga and has half a brain. If you like art made at midnight, and a thick slice of cake, she is the love that you’ve looked for; tautoko PĀNiA! and escape.
Francis McWhannell is an independent curator and writer based in Tāmaki Makaurau. He has contributed to various arts and culture magazines and websites in Aotearoa and Australia. Recent publications featuring his work include Dynamo Hum: Denys Watkins: Selected Paintings 2004–2016(2017), andPainting: A Transitive Space(2017). Nounman is his first foray into artistic collaboration. It wasn’t his idea.
Image: PĀNiA!, Nounman (working drawing, Cobden Street, Auckland), 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Mokopōpaki, Auckland.