There’s something about the more subtle bits of art around Wellington that I really love. Although I’ll whinge about the uglier pieces, there are a few overlooked installations that really tickle me. So, I popped out on a Winter’s day a took a few snaps of this one.

It’s called Silent People and is a cunning blend of organic and inorganic material that has always struck a cord. In particular I love the way the piles of river stones are blended into the one space, in much the same manner as humans and their environment. Or at least that is the comment I read. While we see ourselves as distinct from our surrounds, we are intimately tied in form and structure to them.

Even when that environ is something crazy like Dr Seuss trees.

As kooky as they are, Cabbage Trees are something I strongly associated with New Zealand. I remember seeing a related species in the desert in the US and being *shocked* that they grew anywhere else.

Finally, being a play on inorganic vs. non, I’ve always enjoyed the irony of the stones themselves supporting life that couldn’t exist elsewhere in the scrubbed environment of the Civic Square. Most places you’ll find that moss has been carefully removed. But here, it’s allowed to become the toupee to this particular chap, fed on pigeon crap and sheltered from strong sunlight by the trees and the library building that sits to the Northwest.


Of the many ugly things around central Wellington. This has got to be one of the worst. A piece of supposedly modern sculpture, it is in fact an assorted pile of whitewashed crap that could easily have been made as a year 10 art project.

It is awful.

It is placed into a plinth that looks like it was “designed” and built by the Masterton borough council.

It is constantly stained yellow from all the nitrates seagulls leave in there, when it is overflowing with bubbles from teenagers putting detergent in there. Seriously teenagers… get over it. That joke was mildly funny inthe 1950s. Now it’s just plain stupid.

What’s worse is that this awful, horrible piece of crap is sitting in a locale that has some of the best views of Wellington features you can imagine. There is fantastic city-sea bridge (which is, apparently, rotting).

And of course the old boat shed, full to the brim with the same snooty brats who won’t let them build a Marae next store.

Naturally, to accompany this wonderful site we has a fountain that constantly looks like someone has taken a whizz on it.

In short, dear City Council, please get rid of this digraceful piece of pottery before the thing really does become a urinal.

Photo by Rick

Photo by Ricky Maynard

One of the highlights of the Labour Day weekend was to get out to Pataka in Porirua and see the Ricky Maynard exhibition. And it was well worth the trip.

One of the lasting impressions of my interaction with Aboriginal people is the abiding sense of loss imparted to successive generations.

Unless an individual is brought up in a strongly traditional cultural setting then they are in large part carry all the negative aspects of being Aboriginal, meaning they’re black and the absolute bottom of the totem pole, but few of the positives, such the cultural understandings that give meaning and pride to lives.

What culture does for people is gives them something concrete and worthy to hang their hat on. Italians and Greeks in Australia have cuisine for example, meaning they can contribute something unique to the nation that elevates their social status. As their group has moved closer to the mainstream they are able to recall their parents or grandparents cultural lessons and lean on them, even making capital of that culture, both social and financial.

But Aboriginal people have had that taken from them by force, deliberately, over as many as six generations.

Maynard’s exhibition is one of the better captures of that sense of lose. He has three sets of photos shown, and I’ll admit to being shocked to realise that one set is of a group I worked with in St. Kilda. The second set is a series of remarkable portraits such as the one above, in which the lined and weathered faces of Aboriginal people of the Wik Clan are captured in their glory, the antithesis of our beauty-obsessed and superficial society. But it’s in the photos depicting men mutton-birding that he’s found his heart of the tragedy that overtook Aboriginal people.

The mutton-birders are the descendants of a small number of individuals placed on the Bass Strait islands after the genocide of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Clans. In a series of systematic attacks these people were exterminated by settlers and convicts, with the survivors “rescued” and dumped unceremoniously on a set of wind-swept and barren islands “for their protection”. It is a dark and sorry chapter in a 150-year history of such events in Australia.

What the photos spoke to me was the separation of these people from their culture and their past. They mutton-bird these days as a link to their predecessors, and it is a tradition of sorts, but one empty of the deeper rites and ceremonies enjoyed by Aboriginal people in the far North of the country. It’s hard to see why these people are more indigenous than any other person who might have been brought up in Tasmanian, and it is the doubt sowed in the viewer that acts to further undermine the Aboriginality of the individuals depicted, making that viewer complicit in the ongoing destruction of that identity.

It’s a great set of pictures, and one highly recommended.

Left work early yesterday to head up to Otaki (and hour and a half drive if you’re making good time) before the traffic got crazy. The event? Strange Resting Places was playing in the local school hall.

This is a play about a Maori from the 28th Battalion encountering an Italian man during the imminent bombing of the Cassino abbey during WW2. If you’re not familiar with the history, the New Zealand division was given the opportunity to try to take the town of Cassino, Italy in early 1944. Our main man at the time was one General Freyberg, and as part of the assault he had a 1400 year old Abbey pounded into dust by the biggest air bombardment of the Second World War…

Strange Resting Places not only tells the story of the bombardment well, it tells it excellently, with humour, song, three languages, and grace. The actors, Paolo Rotondo, Rob Mokaraka and Maaka Pohatu are superb, and the characters at times so convincing you’ll find yourself shocked to realise what you’re watching.

The play has been touring for fair while now, and I think is in Palmerston North next? If you’re with a couple of hours drive I strongly suggest you attend. Missing this is downright foolish.

Billed as “One tent, one ticket, 10 ACTS! SIDESHOW BURLESQUE as only Nana would remember. Three beauties, Gypsies if you will, perform their greatest oddities from a time long forgotten. Feathers, knives, hammers and hula hoops. Step back with us, just for a moment, you will be most pleasurably surprised!”

And indeed I was pleasurably surprised, who couldn’t be when three lithe, nubile and nimble girls bring you a feather fan dance, a can can, a quirky set with crazy umbrella tents, hypnotic hula hooping twirling, nipple tassels, a nail to the nose of a 50s housewife and much, much more! Did I mention the twirling nipple tassels?

Burlesque, I read (Wikipedia it must be true), means “in an upside down style” and aims to turn social norms on their head.  A clean freak 50s homemaker banging nails into her nose and a kebab skewer through her septum certainly conforms to this definition. 

Magenta Diamond (the 50s homemaker in question) is a gloriously nuanced performer with a number of tricks up her sleeve.  Highly watchable.

Eva Strangelove, is our dance queen for the evening and entertains with a feather fan dance and a humorous, lithe, twinkle-toed, dance with a shop dummy. 

Miss Strawberry Siren provided an aerial display, which may have lost some of its oooohhh ahhhhh effect from the small performance space that is Bats theatre and thus the proximity to the audience. It seemed effortless but also too close.  In addition to her aerial skills she is also a very bendy person, amazing to watch.

So yes, pleasantly surprised, yes, talented performers, yes, fun night, but mostly, I wanted to be teased, titillated, and teased a bit more. Instead it was straight to the chase the first act was strip tease, with far too little tease for my liking.  We were straight to the twirling nipple tassels and well, it is just hard to know where to go from there.

In search of the tease, I wonder if a rearrangement of the 10 acts would have helped create a slow burn, a build up if you will, creating a tremulous, quivering shuddering, that is then released in an explosion of…. Oh darlings, I forget myself!

Definitely go, these ladies are divinely talented and can only get better.  Be in quick as there are only two more shows at Bats, tonight and tomorrow.

Just because I think this statue is amazing, I’m putting a picture up here on Dart.

There’s another picture over at The Wellingtonista

Probably the funniest read fo the week thus far. Lyndon Hood in Scoop.

He jests that in response to the murder of a teenager by a Auckland businessman, the we decide to ban teenagers.

Or spraypaint.

I forget which.

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