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Does art need to do good in order to be good? Kim Hak: Alive, reviewed

Art and Exhibitions The Spinoff

‘Alive doesn’t take enough risks, it’s a show that will please many and offend none.’ Amy Weng reviews Kim Hak’s exhibition that tells the stories of Cambodian refugees who fled the Khmer Rouge through the objects they carried.Alive is an exhibition
'‘ Alive doesn’t take enough risks, it’s a show that will please many and offend none.’ Amy Weng reviews Kim Hak’s exhibition that tells the stories of Cambodian refugees who fled the Khmer Rouge through the objects they carried. Alive is an exhibition with the noblest intentions. In 29 still lives, Phnom Penh-based photographer Kim Hak brings to life the accounts of Khmer Rouge survivors now living in Aotearoa. A thumb strikes a small hand-made lighter; an empty chair keeps company with a faded portrait; two halves of an intricately carved bracelet mould splay apart like an empty shell. Each time-worn object is photographed against a black backdrop, occasionally animated by disembodied arms, as if the owner had just stepped out of the frame. Objectspace is the third iteration of Alive , following chapters in Cambodia and Australia. The project is personal. Hak was born two years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime and he grew up listening to his parents’ memories of that time. In 1975 the Communist Party of Kampuchea, led by Pol Pot, seized control of Cambodia, enacting widespread agricultural reforms. Over 2 million died through famine and persecution. Those who could fled to Thailand and Vietnam. Refugees of the Khmer Rouge also arrived in New Zealand. Through Objectspace and the Rei Foundation, Hak has connected with 12 Cambodian families who settled in New Zealand in the 1970s and 1980s. Hak presents their escape stories through their possessions – they often risked their lives for the objects on display in this exhibition, including family photographs. Yet while the stories these families tell gamble upon the highest stakes, Alive doesn’t take enough risks. It’s a show that will please many and offend none. Kim Hak, Alive, 2019, installation view. Image: Samuel Hartnett. Courtesy of Objectspace. The gallery walls have been painted black. There’s an absence at play, a reverential distance, that held my emotions in check. At points Hak’s staged scenes veer towards the hammy: a pair of surgical scissors menaces the throat of a red rose, a recently lifted sandal reveals a carefully broken twig. These contrivances break the spell of the images. I couldn’t fully connect with the real-life staked on each object. Kim Hak, Alive, lighter, 2018 The strongest part of Alive is not the photographs but the objects themselves, arranged in the centre of the gallery on sleek black plinths. Each object is presented like a museum display, accompanied by a short text that explains its provenance. The surgical scissors belong to a nurse told to abandon his hospital and his patients; he hid the scissors in a bag of rice. A daughter carried the photograph of her mother for decades before it could be developed. A man carved mortar and pestles hewn from mountain stone, to sell at a Thai refugee camp. These objects can’t be touched or picked up, yet they carry the tangible weight of their histories. Hak demonstrates the power both objects and photographs have to transfer memories and act as profound reminders of where we have come from. In particular, the jeweller’s tools and the mortar and pestle speak to the skill and ingenuity of these refugees as artisans in their own right. The objects held my attention. The photographs became secondary, compromised by the presence of their real-life counterparts. Alive is an exhibition that attempts to blur the boundary between art and museum display but doesn’t quite do justice to either. One of the issues I’ve been struggling with is whether art needs to do good in order to be good, and vice versa. This calls into question assumptions we make about art, its role in society and its ability to bring about real change in the world. Alive commemorates the Cambodian community in Tāmaki Makaurau by bringing their stories, momentarily, to light. Billboards of the photographs have sprung up in Manukau. Objectspace has also held a series of public lectures presented by refugee experts and Cambodian migrants. But perhaps what Alive offers is not just a greater awareness of past events, but the chance to reconceptualise our understanding of humanitarian crises and the impact of displacement, not as a tidal wave, but as a slow radiating ripple, a transition that can take a lifetime to come into affect. In Alive , Hak asks us to imagine the cost of war through the possessions we all have in common – possessions that can easily be taken away. At the event I attended, on World Refugee Day, the proximity of the Khmer Rouge was still painfully palpable for the survivors after decades of silence. Alive is a quiet and respectful exhibition, which is a shame because there’s so much to shout about here. Kim Hak, Alive, 2019, installation view. Image: Samuel Hartnett. Courtesy of Objectspace. Kim Hak: Alive runs until 21 July at Objectspace, Auckland'

The Bulletin: Vandalised Captain Cook statue shows depth of wounds

Art and Exhibitions The Spinoff

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Deep wounds shown by Captain Cook vandalism, expert fact checks claims around electric cars, and police deployed to fight non-existent crime wave.A Gisborne Captain Cook statue has been
'Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Deep wounds shown by Captain Cook vandalism, expert fact checks claims around electric cars, and police deployed to fight non-existent crime wave. A Gisborne Captain Cook statue has been vandalised,  and the message painted on it shows the depth of tensions that will surround the 250th anniversary of his arrival in New Zealand. You might recall a different Cook statue was  painted red  back in 2016, to symbolise the killings of Māori people during his first visit. The message that has been painted on it this time cuts to the heart of what happened after that visit – the words ‘thief Pakeha’ is on the front, and ‘this is our land’ on the back – here’s a report on it from  Te Ao News. In general terms, there’s a lot of truth to the words.  This piece from  Stuff  outlines that some of the loss of Māori land came through pressure in the legal system or dodgy deals with settlers, and some was just straight up confiscated by the government. The very existence of the Waitangi Tribunal is an acknowledgement of this. Local Gisborne councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown says the conversations to come around the vandalism will be hard but necessary.  Speaking to  Radio NZ , she said she wasn’t in favour of vandalism, but saw it as a form of activism. “It is based on history and it’s based on that history never being given a chance to be spoken of, talked about or understood, and people want that.” The idea of contested histories is going to become more and more important as the official ceremonies about Cook’s arrival get closer.  On  Te Ao News  there was a recent story which highlighted just how important even how we talk about it will – at its heart, the story was about a dispute between MPs Kelvin Davis and Paul Goldsmith about whether the events should be commemorated or celebrated. It might seem like a small difference, but it conveys a vastly different interpretation of history. These are concepts museums have  grappled with intensely  over recent decades. And the long legacy of those first encounters still holds weight, and arguably can still be seen playing out in seemingly unrelated news stories.  Take, for example, recent comments in the  NZ Herald  (paywalled) by regional economic development minister Shane Jones, where he unloaded vitriol on the hapū Ngāti Oneone. They oppose extension of the Gisborne Port, which Mr Jones described as “hillbilly thinking.” But Ngāti Oneone’s history in the area goes back far further than Mr Jones’ does,  and while the minister himself is tangata whenua, in this situation he is a representative of the Crown. But Ngāti Oneone were there at that first contact with Cook – in fact their ancestor  Te Maro  was one of those shot dead by Cook, another representative of the Crown. Many will argue that such connections are irrelevant, because the country can’t live in the past. But to ignore less savoury aspects of New Zealand history would be to blind ourselves to relevant reasons as to why the country is how it is now. You might have seen National MP Judith Collins’ comments around electric cars,  that the manufacturers should sell them cheaper because there’s “precious little to them”. Fortunately,  Driven  writer Matthew Hansen has taken the time to patiently explain that there is in fact quite a bit to EVs, and also offers a deep analysis of why EV prices are in fact coming down. And if I can just offer Hansen another shout out,  this analysis  is an excellent pros and cons list about what the government’s feebate proposals on more emissions efficient cars will actually do. Police are being deployed around Hamilton’s northern suburbs to combat a perceived crime wave, that they say isn’t actually happening.  Stuff  reports there has been a significant uptick in fears of crime among facebook groups based in the area, but police statistics don’t show any actual rise. In fact they say the areas resources are being devoted to – Flagstaff and Rototuna in particular – don’t actually have comparable rates of crime with other suburbs. Gisborne mayor Meng Foon has been appointed as the new race relations commissioner, after many months of the job being vacant.  He’s been profiled by Alice Webb-Liddall for  The Spinoff , and a few relevant details jump out. Mr Foon has made great efforts to learn Māori language and worldviews, as well as having held leadership roles within the Chinese community. But one thing that I really like is this – he has composed waiata and even released an album. Central and local government have clashed over the torturous cleanup of the Fox River,  reports  Radio NZ . Conservation minister Eugenie Sage’s view is that the Westland District Council haven’t had the money to pay for the cleanup due to their own financial mismanagement. However the district mayor Bruce Smith says the ratepayer base just isn’t there to pay for it, and the scale of the disaster took everyone by surprise. Around 20% of the river has now been cleaned. I’ve talked repeatedly about how great Wikipedia is, and this guy’s story is inspiring beyond belief.  Mike Dickison has been profiled by Farah Hancock at  Newsroom  – he travels the country encouraging people to contribute their knowledge and taonga to Wikipedia. Why? Many people, places events and species that have had a major impact on New Zealand have scant coverage on the platform, and his work has been to change that. Good on him and all of the other Wikipedia editors around the country. This is a really good story and interview from  Nine to Noon  on the value of gorse in bringing back native bush.  The work is significant because it took a combination of ecological knowledge, foresight and unconventional thinking to make happen, but has now resulted in a flourishing 15,000 hectare native forest. The person behind it all? A botanist called Hugh Wilson whose ideas were written off by many. Don’t forget, later on this afternoon those of you who are Spinoff Members will be getting another Bulletin , covering some of the most important World stories right now. In today’s issue, a referendum that could get ugly in Australia, an explosive report connects Russian oil with the European far right, Sri Lanka eliminates measles, and other big stories from around the world. All the details on Spinoff membership can be  found here . The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed, free daily curated digest of all the most important stories from around New Zealand delivered directly to your inbox each morning. Sign up now Email * Right now on The Spinoff:  Catherine Woulfe  has some art-based activities that might be able to keep bored kids occupied over the school holiday.  Duncan Greive  has dived deep into the ratings war between TVNZ 2 and Three, symbolised by their champion shows Shortland St and The Block.  Don Rowe  visits the National Telehealth Service, which was dramatically expanded after the Christchurch mosque shootings. And  Josie Adams  looks at one of the longest lived shops in Ponsonby – the iconic Women’s Bookshop, which is about to celebrate 30 years. For a feature today, we’ll have a piece that looks deeply into how online radicalisation can affect partners.  A few months ago  Mel Magazine  spoke to a series of women whose boyfriends had been ‘red-pilled’ – for those who aren’t aware, it means joining a particularly toxic online male subculture. The results that are described are typically really frightening, and revealing of how the process can take place. Here’s an excerpt: “I had to learn about what they were saying, quickly, so that I could try to debunk his view, or at least challenge them. And usually when we would debate these topics, it would end up in tears.” That’s because, “When I would try refute him, he would flip out. He would say that I was hysterical, that I was stupid and acting on my emotions rather than the facts, that I didn’t want to open up my mind to anything other than my left-wing views.” Still, she hoped that he could at least see some of her perspective — that they could compromise, even when it came to her most deeply held convictions. “I was spending hours a day trying to get him to see other people’s views. But the more he would watch these videos, the more he reinforced his opinions. If I said something, he’d just send another video to ‘prove’ his point. He’d shut down conversations if I didn’t relent and agree with him. He wanted to debate things with me — but only up to a point. Eventually, he’d expect me to side with him.” Radio NZ’s Ravinder Hunia may well have the best job in sports journalism right now, and she’s really making the most of it.  After covering the Cricket World Cup, her  latest piece  is an analysis of the biggest threats the Silver Ferns will face at the Netball World Cup, which is due to start for the team tonight. It’s going to be a seriously challenging tournament for the Silver Ferns, even with their new direction under Noeline Taurua, because the rest of the world has got pretty good too. Finally, the Cricket World Cup will be held this Sunday night, and the Black Caps will play England.  The tournament hosts have smashed Australia in an utterly one-sided contest, chasing down a total of 223 with about 18 overs to spare. If you’re still not over how good the win over India was by the way, please feel free to listen to our latest episode of  The Offspin  – I don’t want to oversell it but it’s basically half an hour of delirious, sleep deprived ranting from Simon Day and myself. Enjoy the final, everyone. From our partners:  A two-tier system of energy use is developing, with those on high incomes much more able to reduce their bills than households on lower incomes.  Vector’s  Chief Risk and Sustainability Officer Kate Beddoe outlines what the company plans to do about that. That’s it for The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, pass on this  signup form  to them. This content is brought to you by Vector. If you live in Auckland, they also delivered the power you’re using to read it. And they’re creating a new energy future for all of us, as showcased by the incredible Vector Lights in partnership with Auckland Council.'

Very cool art activities for very bored kids

Art and Exhibitions The Spinoff

ART-TASTIC is a big heavy beauty of an activity book, written by Sarah Pepperle and produced by the Christchurch Art Gallery. We think it’s marvellous and so do the judges of the 2019 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Keen to
'ART-TASTIC is a big heavy beauty of an activity book, written by Sarah Pepperle and produced by the Christchurch Art Gallery. We think it’s marvellous and so do the judges of the 2019 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Keen to try it out? Here are four ART-TASTIC spreads guaranteed to keep the kids occupied these school holidays. The winter school holidays are officially the worst school holidays. It’s cold and rainy and the cockroaches have migrated to the pantry and you peg the washing out every morning in woodsmoke and fog, knowing it’ll never get dry. There’s no Christmas. No Easter. The rich kids have gone off to the islands or snow, but not your kids. Ho no, your kids are at home, bored with their books, bored with TV, bored out of their minds, apparently. They’ve taken to casually punching each other in passing and have set about rearranging the house into a series of manky surfaces and trip hazards worthy of an early-2000s ACC ad. Every morning you look at yourself in the mirror and you remember the golden school hols of your own childhood and you think: I love them so, I miss them when they’re at school, I will make this a great day for them . You plan to organise… stuff – glueing, cutting, writing, and doodling, all that good pottery at-home brain-food stuff. But the day gets away on you, again, and the kids are bored and need, again. WELL NOT TODAY. Today you can plonk yourself down with a cuppa, tell the kids to have at these activities and pat your good self on the back. Look at you and your constructive arty mind-expanding parenting! This one’s perfect when little attention spans are shot to pieces by sugar and screens (download here ): Our own Toby Morris with equestrian lessons for all (download here ): This is definitely going to produce some solid gold kid-poignancy (download here ). And lucky last, one for the wordsmiths (download here ). Extracted with permission from  ART-TASTIC by Sarah Pepperle (Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, $29.99), available at Unity Books .'

Art the play works for everyone

Art and Exhibitions Waiheke Gulf News

Written 25 years ago, Art has become a classic of modern theatre enjoying long runs in both London and New York.We can thank Waiheke Theatre Company for giving us the opportunity to see it at Artworks Theatre.
'Written 25 years ago, Art has become a classic of modern theatre enjoying long runs in both London and New York.We can thank Waiheke Theatre Company for giving us the opportunity to see it at Artworks Theatre.Art is written by the French playwright Yasmina Reza   ( God of Carnage, Life x 3 ). All her plays take a seemingly small incident and use it as a microscope to explore some aspect of human relationships.In Art the incident is the purchase of a modernist painting and the human dimension is friendship or, more precisely, the role of honesty between friends. • Colin Beardon Full story in this weeks Gulf News… Out Now!!! . The post Art the play works for everyone appeared first on Waiheke Gulf News .'

‘She can draw a ball-sack better than anyone alive’: Hera Lindsay Bird on artist Hannah Salmon

Art and Exhibitions The Spinoff

‘Like Escher, if he was more into dicks than staircases.’ Poet Hera Lindsay Bird celebrates the work of New Zealand artist Hannah Salmon, aka Daily Secretion, and her portraits of angry ‘alpha men’. Like most teenage punishers who took art history
'‘Like Escher, if he was more into dicks than staircases.’ Poet Hera Lindsay Bird celebrates the work of New Zealand artist Hannah Salmon, aka Daily Secretion, and her portraits of angry ‘alpha men’. Like most teenage punishers who took art history in high school, I spent years resentfully analysing the composition of Colin McCahon paintings and various other New Zealand landscape artists; corrugated iron sheds and hills as relentlessly khaki as any military outlet store. I remember my teacher rhapsodising over the historically unprecedented inclusion of a power line in a landscape painting, and explaining to us what a daring thing that was at the time, to forgo New Zealand’s colonial nostalgia for empty pastures in service of the ugly and the contemporary. I suppose at the time it was startling, like seeing an empty crisp packet floating in the middle of Monet’s Waterlilies. But I’d seen hills with power lines all my life. To me, that’s basically all New Zealand was. Instead, those claustrophobic scenes of rolling, nicotine yellow paddocks (which looked like the ‘before’ pictures at any suburban dental clinic) filled me with a great rural despair and boredom. Perhaps they were supposed to. Either way, it took me a long time to look past the old French perverts, with their dreamy red goldfishes and extravagant florist bills, and reconnect with local art. These days I love artists like Yvonne Todd, Kerry Ann Lee, Zak Penney, Robbie Hancock, Richard Shepherd, Matilda Fraser and Tom Henry among others. But Hannah Salmon was one of the first artists who changed my idea of what an alternative, national art might look like. How do I describe Hannah Salmon’s work? Francis Bacon at a hen’s party gone terribly awry? Julie Doucet illustrating a Mitre 10 barbecue expo catalogue? Escher, if he was more into dicks than staircases? As an art moron, the right cultural references are beyond my grasp. Some of Salmon’s drawings are almost medical in their execution. In Meat Face John Key’s head appears in all its smirking, ham-boiled glory, sweat glinting off his forehead like alpine snow. You get the feeling that the doctors of the future will be able to identify many undiagnosed tumours from this picture. A lot of her work can be found on album art and gig posters (many for her band Unsanitary Napkin). She can draw a ball-sack better than anyone alive, and even her portraits have a genital-like intensity to them. Some of her landscapes evoke old Soviet science-fiction vistas, forests and stars and lichens, otherworldly and precise. Her work has an intensity of darkness to it, which draws the eye in like a vacuum. HANNAH SALMON, REMEMBERING DILDO BAGGINS, 2018. My favourite portraits of hers are her renderings of angry men – New Zealand shock jocks, breakfast radio bullies, the racist uncles of our collective unconscious. The Laws and Henrys and Hoskings of the world, faces expertly reconstituted as shrunken testicles. They sit alongside their international counterparts: Trump, Kavanaugh, Duke, Spencer. These icons of male rage are intensely visceral, but at the same time oddly beautiful, every bulging vein, every fleck of spittle, every unruptured aneurysm ghosting the surface of their skin like craters in a hostile alien landscape. Even the black well of saliva at the back of Trump’s mouth seems to glow with a hypnotic intensity, a primordial rockpool in which many single-celled ideas are growing lungs in the darkness. Part of the pleasure of Salmon’s work is her extraordinary talent at rendering these men in almost photorealistic detail. There are almost too many details, like seeing in multiple dimensions at once. But to compliment her purely for her accuracy is to miss the point. Why reproduce male rage in a world that is already so saturated with it? I don’t have a good argument. But there is something about these faces, frozen in their latex mask of bigotry and ego which renders them momentarily impotent. These days I’m more relaxed about landscape paintings. I like hills and rivers and trees as much as the next person, power lines notwithstanding. But if there’s no room in the national canon for Rodney Hide on a chaise lounge with a gas pump for a dick, gleefully ejaculating oil all over a carpet of skulls, then count me out. HANNAH SALMON, THE BALLS TO SAY WHAT WE’RE ALL THINKING TRIPTYCH, 2012. Hannah Salmon is a Wellington-based artist, musician and DIY publisher who produces indecent propaganda under the moniker Daily Secretion . Daily Secretion’s output takes the form of political zines, illustrative and sculptural works that pick away at the crumbling facade of patriarchal capitalism. Her last exhibition The Modern Alpha at Toi Pōneke featured portraits of local and international figures who embody the patriarchy and was accompanied by a scent (“The Modern Alpha: Masculine Odour for the Dominant Man”, made by Wellington artist Nathan Taare) evoking the essence of toxic masculinity, with base notes of decay, sperm and faeces, thinly concealed with bad cologne, cognac and cigar smoke.'