After a summer spent as north as possible, the return to Dunedin (frequently
traumatic) was eased by that bastion of hope; The Honeymoon Suite, kicking
off the year with a blast of Endless Summer. A group show of mostly
small works, there was sun, surf and silliness aplenty. Judy Darragh's
poster pin-up girl smiled relentlessly, despite cum-like substances oozing
over her bikini-clad bod. Local bad boys The California Girls Cartel
gave us endless opening night pleasure with old style video game Galaxian (personal
high score 36,250) as did R. Leonard's Beer Fridge packed with
Double Brown: cheap, but it sure hit the spot.
Next up was the impossible to ignore (believe me I tried) 150th anniversary of
Otago which generated a variety of events and exhibitions: most involved an abundance
of white starched petticoats and top hats. However, amidst all the cultural imperialism
I managed to discover a few gems: Golden Prospects, at the Community Gallery,
contained (mostly wall-based) works by New Zealand artists of Chinese descent.
The lack of any other apparent curatorial criteria meant the show was a wonderful
mix of the traditional and the contemporary with cement sculptures mingling with
digital prints nestling next to domestic pottery. Vanessa Jack's luminous light
boxes were a personal fave, with their lush reminiscences set amidst clumsy,
Running in tandem with this was Reckoning With The Past, an exhibition
of contemporary Chinese painting at the Otago Museum. This exhibition was so
exciting that I even attempted to steal the catalogue (without success). Everything
in this show was Big. Larger than life family portraits by Zhang Xiaogang dominated
the entrance. Thin blood lines connected the family members, emerging from tiny
holes in the skin, running over the body and back in. Further in was Feng Mengbo's Street
Fighter series, where inflated screen shots from the game were redone lovingly
in a neo-boganesque painting style.
Also at the Museum that week (suddenly emerging as the local vanguard of contemporary
art) was a two day performance by members of Everything Inc. at the Animal Attic.
The top floor of the Museum was packed as performer Amos Mann, dressed in a gold
sparkly bodysuit, led the audience through a guided tour of the animal exhibits,
complete with a sort of taxidermy awakening, as the animals howled, roared, and
came to life around us.
Starting the New Zealand leg of its two year tour of Australasia at the Dunedin
Public Art Gallery, was Pre Millennial, by Mike Stevenson and Ronnie van
Hout. A very corporate-style show, objects were laid out with military precision.
This may have been due to the show's obvious need for longevity, but led to a
rather sterile overall blandness in the curation - I felt the craving for a bit
of ramshackle quality and sloppiness, all of which was rampantly available upstairs
with Terry Urbahn's Karaokes. Despite the frustrations of constantly breaking
down equipment, I managed to chortle my way through Terry's own little beauty,
and weep silently through Violet Faigan's heartbreaking rendition of "The
First Cut is the deepest" complete with high school-style storyboard.
Last mention must go to the high quality consumables at the Trans Tasman Tea
Party held by The Local Anaesthetics (in association with Jane Curtis, Adam
A. Hyde, and Honor Harger), which ran jointly at The Honeymoon Suite, Dunedin,
and at The Pod, Newcastle, Australia, and can be found in cyberspace at http://va.transtasman.com.au.