Although Auckland has been privy to a great deal of art practise of
all kinds of late, the one night that stood out for me as being both
relevant to the theme of this issue, and as a showcase of some of the
more engaged artists currently working here, was 'Shadows and Fog', Fiat
Lux's inaugural video screening. Fiat Lux are committed to a varied programme
supporting artists operating at a range of professional levels. Most
of the works featured in 'Shadows and Fog' were by visual artists moonlighting
in a "lighter" medium, and obviously enjoying it. Video in
the hands of the technically challenged can be remarkably revelatory,
and many works verged on the confessional...
Tessa Laird's 'The Life of Bryony'
Poet/artist Bryony Jagger is captured in her own environment, contemplating the
various colours and textures of domestic entrapment; replete with personal associations
and even more personal attire. Never seduced by the excesses of technology, Tessa's
documentary technique owes as much to David Bellamy's arguably presumptuous empathetic
zeal, as to the predatory fervour of Real TV. Where Bryony's fancy wanders, Tessa
follows, her succession of grinding pans and stumbling zooms roughly approximating
the mind's eye. Because ever-present, the film maker is thoroughly implicated,
in turn freeing us to indulge our curiosity in a truly remarkable creative spirit.
Bryony lets it all hang out, "lovely vulval excitation" and all. Who
am I to patronise that kind of passion? Meanwhile, Tessa's treading a pretty
Vaughan Gunson's 'Holiday Fun'
Off to the beach to paint a Karl Marx banner? Not my idea of a picnic but at
least it was a nice day for it.
Megan Dunn's 'The Rose'
As Bette Midler wails and Max Ernst's "magnificent romantic surrealist canvases" roll
by " open(ing) windows into extraterrestrial worlds" the great surrealist
master starts to look something like a panel van artiste. The Rose; a ballad
of cultural equality? I'm not sure whether Megan's intention is to elevate Midler
through undermining Ernst, or vice-versa. That depends on your point of view,
and that's really the point. As the two superstars play it off in an attempt
to make us feel more, we come to the realisation that, high and low, we're all
after the same thing; Some say love…
Daniel Malone's 'The Strike Church'
This is a video document of a stage one Elam performance in which Daniel Malone
and Martin Poppelwell dragged a piano up to Symonds street and attacked it with
a couple of French sticks. My suspicion of men who prod things with French sticks
aside, it's an energetic tribute to Joseph Beuys - there are the felt hats, walking
canes, Agee jars and various other rigmarole in case we missed the significance
of the piano (though Daniel reveals a closer physical resemblance to Adam Ant
than prime mentor Beuys, who never got into those dangly earrings).
Taisha Hutchison 'Untitled'
This is a video document of a stage two Elam performance project in which Taisha
Hutchison brutalised a row of miniature tin huts by flicking, kicking and dousing
them with buckets of water. Taisha's presence is certainly the most engaging
thing about this film, and after watching it a couple of times I've come to regard
it as a self portrait.
Robert Hutchinson's 'Against Nature'
The film of the book is a tale of late gothic flamboyance; 19th century French
decadence, heavily disguised as a role-playing meet in the English Lit. reading-room.
A perfectly type-cast Matthew Highland plays the neurotic, agoraphobic, impotent
aesthete Des Esseintes. He sneers at a couple of small children squashing chunks
of bread into each other's sweaters (echoes of The strike church here?), and
is thus driven into self imposed exile through his desire to escape the horror
of human mundanety. It's difficult to know whether Hyland made this role or the
role made him.
Graeme McFellen 'Untitled'
I imagine Des Esseintes might have admired Graeme McFellen, a genuine aesthete,
committed to staying cosy and getting his cultural fix from the telly. McFellen's
canine alter ego whiles away his days and nights in leisurely reverie over an
apparently endless string of Coronation Street closing credits. It's purgatory
with an afghan knee rug.
David Townsend's 'Danse Classique'
David once again goes a few steps further than Daniel, this time delving back
to a previous creative incarnation as anti-hero Captain Hook in the Janete McCutchin
School of Dance's 1988 performance of Peter Pan. This is the first and last performance
in which David had no control over his wardrobe. For those who have wondered
at the motivation for some of his later performance work this little gem provides
Janene Knox's 'CanDance' and 'The City That Shimmies'
Fiat Lux's placement of the projection screen in their Hobson street window frontage
provided a public interface at times more fascinating than the videos themselves.
It also meant a welcome shift in context for Knox's films, sex industry snap
shots originally produced for a general public screening and risking the icy
indifference of a stoically alternative art audience. Is there nothing these
people haven't seen?
The Night Cleaners' 'Carry on Alien Nurse'
The Alien Nurse and her hermetically sealed side kick, decked out in full protective/receptive
kitchen-ware, set out to transmogrify the thermal wonderland, hampered only by
a crew of mind numbing, vac-pack totting genuine night cleaners. With a keen
eye for the absurd and a mesmerising table-top hula routine, Alien Nurse is the
sickest and sexiest tape in the selection. Eat your heart out Russ Meyer. Pure
in-camera editing here - we even get a brief glimpse of our stars on a holiday
cruise, relaxing before that final shoot in the luv tub, and...
More kitchen implements. More sick puppies. More noise. The ubiquitous Daniel
Malone pops up again as an abused Igor suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome.
That pretty much covers everyone who's done anything around here in the last
few months, give or take a few Australians. Graeme McFellen's Kisser show re-featured
his favourites, gallery hosts Megan and David. There's more retrospective Taisha
at Lopdell House right now, Daniel is paired up with Denise Kum at Teststrip
for some prosthetic kung-fu antics, Saskia Leek (aka Alien Nurse) is showing
at Jonathan Smart Gallery and her Side Kick Simon Cumming seems to be everywhere
right now, with shows in the world's smallest gallery (really?), C.B.D. and Teststrip,
and a new film in the pipeline. Looking forward to that one.