Don't believe the lies. Art in Hamilton is "where it's happening." Sure,
we've suffered numerous setbacks - plagued by disaster, one may even
say. Nevertheless, looking back over the past few months, I fondly remember
several highlights - islands of hope in the sea of indifference and so
on. R-E-S-P-E-C-T to all the true believers stickin' it to the man.
The Waikato Museum has been keeping up its end of the deal by providing for some
out of town talent, and a few local heroes too. You gotta wonder though, how
committed are they to supporting work that's done here, with what sometimes come
across as token inclusions. This is in no way a reflection of the artists; rather
it's an indication of the lack of confidence in them from the powers that be.
Of course, the lack of a dedicated public art gallery is glaringly obvious, and
while potential exists, the past has seen it crushed by commercialism.
August at the Museum saw Hamiltonian photographer Margi Moore participate in A
Town Called Malice, a curated show with significant New Zealand artists under
the theme of domestic chaos and suburban angst. Others included the likes of
Merylyn Tweedie, Bill Hammond, Phillip Clairmont, Marie Shannon, Jenny Dolezel,
Alexis Hunter, Michael Smither and Mary McIntyre.
Somewhat curious was that Moore stood out as one of the most contemporary of
the retrospectively 70s crowd. Her work explored those fine lines between right
and wrong, youth and age, and the malevolence and naivety that exists in cognisance.
Next up, David Clegg's [mono - the museum of noname objects] stopped in.
The fact that most of our 'live' exposure to art in Hamilton is often provided
by whatever is passing through the community at the time (like water in the river,
yeah?) gave some poignancy to Clegg's small travelling museum. The suitcases
that hold the objects for storage and transport were somehow neither included
nor excluded from the installation space. They were perched on the edge with
no apparent design and confused their role as an integral part of the work.
Boyd Webb's touring show passed through recently. Unfortunately, passing through
was all I saw of it. The universe comes to Hamilton, both macro and micro. Whilst
art from outside of Hamilton can seem distant and fleeting, the art created here
often tents towards being of a more intimate, accessible and domestic level.
David Cook's Home Comforts took the intimate to new levels. The small
gallery at the museum became the centre of a living room where one was offered
a voyeuristic inclusion in the life of an 'ordinary' family. Four walls, four
grids of nine photos comprising a montage gave the feel of looking through the
window into a well-lit room. (Unsettling was the fact that the viewer became
the object, out of place, and observed from all four sides.) Your intrusion noted,
you're free to leave.
A lack of established venues has contributed to the spawning of new DIY artists
finding strength through oppression and creating collectives, exhibition spaces,
public works and alternative sites in order to extend the discourse for contemporary
art in Hamilton. The DOT 101 collective has been actively promoting art in the
public arena of Hamilton city for some time now with one of its more significant
projects being En Vitrine, a short term artist run space. En Vitrine aims
to provide access to art - a place to show and see ideas. Open 24 hours, viewable
from the sidewalk and with a weekly turnover of artists, it brings a mixture
of ideas to light.
It has been mildly irritating that so many interesting new artists here are resorting
to the cafZ scene as an art arena, where all too often the work is lost somewhere
between the chatter of different conversations, the clutter of furniture and
crockery and the bottom of a lattZ bowl. Rather than the artist creating an intervention
in the space, the space intrudes on the work. Lisa Benson's Allocation at
Metropolis CafZ was but one of these 'cafe casualties'. The cream of the Waikato
was there, though I suspect contemplation of the paintings was a side issue to
the who's-who-a-thon. The paintings themselves, powdery blue chalk lines resonating
against the stark whiteness of a gessoed canvas made quite beautiful explorations
into process, materials and the residue of a moment, giving an insight into the
"Could this be the birth of creation?"
"I don't know, pass the sugar."
In the city with the most used car lots and supermarkets per capita, our self-sufficient
incognito guerillas gather together planning missions of glory against the bureaucratic
city arts council and the all-too-common indifference of the good people of Hamilton
city. The revolution is nigh. The rest is history. Or is this a passing fad?