While the Gallery may be closed, our archive collections continue to develop. As I write, three aspects of managing an archive are happening simultaneously. We are adding new material, cataloguing it, and assisting a researcher to use the archive. All the challenges and pleasures of archive management are on the table.
In Printed Matter's 1981 mail-order catalogue, artist Edit deAk enthusiastically described the 'many hands at work in the process of making and marketing the book'. Turning the spotlight on individuals and groups involved in the production, distribution and sale of books by artists, deAk likened independent art publishing to activities 'like filmmaking or rock 'n' roll music.' While such comparisons with filmmaking have been relatively scarce over the past few decades, artists, publishers, designers and critics have continued to draw parallels between art publishing and independent music.
You might be well aware of fanzines as a form of analogue self-publishing in and around your own arts community. Or they might be somewhat peripheral to the particularity of your engagement with the arts.
For the uninitiated, the word fanzine is often shortened to zine, and is pronounced 'zeen', as in 'magazine'. This abbreviation doesn't merely signal a growing ubiquity, or an economy of syllables for those (like myself) who say or write the word a lot, it also speaks to the shift away from fandom to a growing eclecticism – bringing the lie to anyone attempting to describe zines as a genre.
In the decades before and after the Second World War, Christchurch experienced a remarkable artistic efflorescence that encompassed the visual arts, literature, music, theatre and the publishing of books and journals. And the phenomenon was noticed beyond these islands. For instance, in his 1955 autobiography, English publisher and editor of Penguin New Writing and London Magazine, John Lehmann, wrote (with a measure of exaggeration, perhaps) that of all the world’s cities only Christchurch at that time acted ‘as a focus of creative literature of more than local significance’.
I’ve never actually seen the Mona Lisa, and it’s a fair bet that most people reading this article haven’t either. Yet, according to Wikipedia, the painting is ‘the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world’. So how to account for the fame of an artwork we haven’t seen? And what have reproductions of Da Vinci’s sixteenth-century portrait got to teach us about time-based art and the online environment in 2015?
The first thing you notice, even before the pageboy haircuts and oversized plastic spectacles, is the absence of smiles. The unhappiness in the eyes of the average Cantabrian snapped on these grey, chilly streets seems palpable. Even the Christ's College cadet, cradling a rifle as part of soldiery drill, looks ready to turn the gun on himself. In 1983, the year when David Cook began a project to explore his hometown, a camera as his compass, most locals look distinctly brassed off.
Robert Hughes's canonical text The Shock of the New was first published in 1980 following a successful television series that aired in the UK that same year. In this book, Hughes provided a lively and challenging account of the development of modern art and design in the twentieth century. That this volume should find its way onto the bookshelf of New Zealand art collectors Jim Barr and Mary Barr is no surprise. But the Barrs' copy of the book subsequently became the site for a series of interventions and adaptations that have altered its meaning and significance.
That experience of foreignness, of working within a different geographic or cultural context, has proved a compelling stimulus for arts practices, particularly when coupled with a studio and free accommodation.
As you read this, hundreds of artists and curators from around the world are carving out a living and working space in locations made remarkable by their strangeness and/or the opportunity to live and work away from the pressure of paid work, be it in Sweden or Southland, Dunedin or Denmark, New Plymouth or the Netherlands.
Last, Loneliest, Loveliest is New Zealand's first official presence at the International Architecture Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, and takes its alliterative title from Rudyard Kipling's poem, 'The Song of the Cities', which gives four lines each to various cities from the British Empire, including Auckland:
Last, loneliest, loveliest, exquisite, apart– On us, on us the unswerving season smiles, Who wonder 'mid our fern why men depart To seek the Happy Isles!
Curator Ken Hall writes about his experience of working with artists Chris Heaphy and Sara Hughes, as part of a small team with other city council staff and Ngāi Tahu arts advisors, on the Transitional Cathedral Square artist project.