All posts filed under: On Culture

Letter from the editor: Considering natural life cycles of the #

I finished installing my work quite quickly for our group exhibition. I went into the other gallery space to see what the rest of my friends/the artists were doing. Louisa Afoa had a film triptych already installed. I sat down to watch it. I didn’t expect to have any strong feelings toward or against the work. It was more or less a way to spend time. Surprisingly, siting on that ply wood bench turned out to be one of those gushy defining moments that everyone within the arts industry has. That moment when seeing something reaffirms why you too are involved in the arts. It’s not that the work itself was necessarily great—it was after all a student exhibition—but more a moment of realising what art can do. HomeAKL the now infamous Pacific art exhibition at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki opened the night after our show, so our opening by coincidence had a really good turn out. Despite that great turn out I knew that no one would write about this work that …

Morning musings

It’s 8.46am on a Wednesday morning and I’m siting inside one of the new cafes that has popped up on Karangahape Road. I’m drinking a flat white because they don’t make mocha’s here. My breakfast is in my bag. I’m balling on a budget. There are two other people that are on their Mac Books. I make person number three. The furniture is that kind of Ikea-wooden-exposed-table-top type thing. The people coming inside are young and trendy looking. Next door is the new cookie place that sells American style cookies for $3.50 (the Snickers and Nutella are my favourite). The South Auckland girls that go to Auckland Girls’ Grammar are making tracks to school. From my seat I can see the rainbow flags above family bar. I remember my first time clubbing on K Road. Wasted, blurs of faces, lights and music that you feel vibrating in your body. Kebabs are the best at 4am. The Samoan consulate has moved to Mangere. I don’t see as many Pacific people go into the building anymore. Recently I …

43 things I have learnt while working in an art museum.

1. When it’s raining it’s generally busier. 2. Video is the new black. 3. More and more shows are for entertainment. 4. Curators tend to pack exhibitions with as many artists as they can, more is more apparently and I think this is a bad idea.  5. I see a lot of couples, it seems to be the perfect place for a date, perhaps I will go on one too, but I won’t cause I work there. 6. Sometimes the architecture is more impressive than the art according to visitors. 6. People don’t like paying for art exhibitions but it’s the norm in many places. 7. Kids can say the best things about art; we forget to take art at face value sometimes. 8. People hit on the gallery assistants all the time, remember we are paid to be friendly, emotional labor is no easy feat. 9. People generally look at the wall text first; for once it would be nice to have none at all. They are so prosaic, but for good reason. I …

Writing about writing

I’ve reverted to writing about writing.  And fair warning, I have nothing conclusive to say. Almost a year ago now I left Wellington. I bummed off my parents for a bit, went travelling and eventually moved to Australia. Up until that point I was writing regularly, for #500words, Design Assembly, the Wellington City Council, and a few other smaller artsy publications. I had been working at Enjoy Public Art Gallery for almost two years, and was in my fourth year (on and off) tutoring in the design programme at Victoria University. Without really appreciating it I was constantly surrounded by extremely talented creative people. Curators, artists, writers, photographers, designers, illustrators; world-view-altering over-coffee musings were weekly (I lie, sometimes we drank beer). 1. Working for Enjoy was — to put it simply — a very cool experience. I met amazing people, people who I still look up to and work with, and wish happy birthday on Facebook. I hope I appreciated it at the time, but I certainly appreciate it now. The most remarkable thing about …

Fat Maui: how he broke the internet

In the last week my Facebook feed has been full of critiques about Maui’s representation in the upcoming Disney film Moana, penned by New Zealand’s own Taika Waititi. This will be one in a sea of think pieces which have already started flowing here or here and even here on The Guardian. This was intensified after a meme surfaced comparing Maui to a pig and a hippo. To date it has 1247 shares and 2800 likes and climbing, doing it’s rounds in the Pacific Island community both in New Zealand and world wide. There are various arguments against the Disney depiction of Maui and many stem from comparing the build of Maui the Polynesian demigod (which people are calling obese to the point of perpetuating stereotypes) to real-life buff Pacific actors who play non-Pacific often European heroes such as Samoan The Rock Dwayne Johnson as Hercules or Hawaiian Jason Momoa as Aquaman. Even characters such as King Triton from The Little Mermaid aren’t safe from the crossfire. The non-Hollywood representation of deities across different cultural landscapes …

Invisible Bodies Part Three: Transformative Spaces

Invisible Bodies is a short term column by Natasha Matila-Smith, here is part three. In choosing the title for this series, I sought to raise issue with the under-representation of marginalised bodies in contemporary society.  Ironically, marginalised bodies are often the most visible and noticeable. These bodies are exposed because they are different from the ones we often see plastered across televisions and magazines; these bodies are different from the anglo-centric beauty standards we have been brought up to believe are superior.    Reality is subjective, but why is it that seeing multiple realities depicted in media so difficult?  It might not mean much to you, but seeing the same story with the same (often white, heterosexual, cis-gendered, able-bodied) faces dominating the screen is not only unrealistic, it’s boring. In a World that constantly rejects the ‘different’, is the conclusion then that even fictional or seemingly fickle spaces like advertising have no room for the disempowered either? It was suggested by a friend that if I am to talk about ‘invisible bodies’ then I should talk about other …

Sleep

This is an on-going series that investigates Bella Horlor’s new role as a young mother. An artist and poet, Horlor shares the banal quandaries that exist between artistic and maternal labour. You know you should do the vacuuming when your baby does a shit and you have to pull a 20cm long hair out of her ass. This week we have had a sleep regression, meaning she wakes every couple of hours, rolls over and it’s disco time baby. Sleep deprivation used to make me achingly poetic, I could drink gin and bite on that cold moonlight like a cube of ice. It was a sexy thing to be an insomniac once. Artistic. Vaguely French. I used to find it inspirational. But after about two weeks on four hours a night sleeps, it definitely isn’t sexy anymore. My skin feels simultaneously on fire and completely numb, I feel like someone has bottled me in the eyes, and I cant walk straight. The night my girl was born they put me into the maternity ward at …

Invisible Bodies Part Two: Fatshionista

Invisible Bodies is a short term column by Natasha Matila-Smith, here is part two.  Even with a high demand and disposable income, it seems that very few companies are willing to sell big women a product that they are happy with.  In 2014, the US plus-size women’s market brought in approximately ten billion dollars, yet consumer requests for more variety (in body sizing and clothing options) have been largely ignored.  Sure, there are plus-size lines in chain stores but they lack the range of the average-size clothing line. Kmart has an appalling range of stretchy leggings, bejeweled t-shirts with Paris written on them and little in between. Lots of sleeveless flowy loose shirts, kaftans, print maxi-dresses and off-tint mullet tops. Not everyone wants to dress like they are going on a boat cruise. It’s just a lot of the same. I’m also not aware of any women who want to feel like the options presented to them are an after-thought dependent upon the availability of cheap bulk polyester fabrics. Even Beth Ditto, who is well-known for …

Invisible Bodies Part One

Invisible Bodies is a short term column by Natasha Matila-Smith, here is part one.  In Amalia Ulman’s Instagram art project, the artist convinced her 90K followers that she was an over-consumptive, materialistic, timid flower.  Using common tropes of ‘femininity’ found on Instagram, Ulman used her posts to question the literal construction of femininity. Ulman posed in Kardashian-esque fashion – mirror selfies in hip bone grazing body suits while forming a written narrative about female empowerment. Not to make fun of female agency, but to garner public response. This artist featured on various news sources as someone who outsmarted and outwitted the public; now she is not only an artist, but a critically acclaimed artist. Ulman even features on the Forbes: 30 Under 30 list, whatever that means.     I turn to Ulman’s work to discuss another unquestioned stereotype – women who access their naked or partially naked bodies to investigate various concepts – these are typically thin to average sized women. Actually, thin white women – to be specific – are more often recognised in …