Point issue #39 was originally published in print for the the week 7-13.August 2013
WHERE ART WAS NOT, THERE ART SHOULD BE (...MAYBE...)
By Aaron Hawkins
The forces of centralization and rationalization are alive and well in Wellington. We have heard much outrage from many quarters recently about how badly it is starting to bite at the Dunedin economy through job losses (announced or on the cards) at KiwiRail, New Zealand Post, the Dunedin Hospital and now Invermay. The focus of the local response has been on fighting the decisions, but this needs to be supplemented with an effort to create our own alternative vision. The best thing we can do to try and forge our own future together is to play to our strengths, and the potential of our creative community to play a large part in this has gone untapped for far too long.
Self-styled Australian visionary Marcus Westbury set about trying to revive the flagging fortunes of Newcastle after they’d been hard hit by the decline of heavy engineering since the 1970s. Unemployment rose, disposable income shrank, shops closed and remained empty. One of his projects, Renew Newcastle, aims for “City revitalisation through creative use of empty space”. A small and committed team work to solicit funding, recruit interested property owners and then liaise between them and the potential short-term tenants. Leases are short, so it doesn’t get in the way of potential long term tenants, while pop-up art galleries, boutique stores, social entrepreneurship projects and the like get a foot in the door where they otherwise couldn’t have afforded it (rents are generally cheaper than commercial rates). So far around 100 projects have been enabled in 52 sites in Newcastle’s CBD. Art not as a mirror, or a hammer, but as a driver of urban renewal and economic development. Activity breeds activity, while decay breeds decay, and it can escalate quickly in both directions.
A Renew Dunedin project along similar lines to the Newcastle vision would be a strong signal that the Dunedin City Council was prepared to take on bold new ideas with the potential to help stave off the stagnation of our empty retail and office space. It would also offer a vote of confidence to the Arts & Culture Community they tip their hat to occasionally but don’t yet take seriously enough. We have an international reputation as a creative city – music, fashion, design, art, literature and film-making especially – and it has long been a missed opportunity that the City hasn’t traded more on this as a way to attract both visitors and residents alike. A City that supports art and takes artists seriously, with costs of living as low as we have, would be a magnet for great minds doing great things, and fill our collective cash registers along the way.
The DCC supporting Arts & Culture needs to be about more than public art projects and acquisitions budgets for the DPAG. It needs to be about recognising both the intrinsic value of the creative act, and the associated economic development potential those creative acts have if they’re fostered here in enduring and meaningful ways. We’d be crazy not to.
BADLY MCBAD & HIS BAD BADSTERS
State of theatre health found to be not critical enough
By Jimmy Currin
Does that sound like a stupid thing to say? It might to the representative of Counterpoint Productions I spoke to who claimed that there was no point to a review that was published too late to promote the play it was about. I already had my money out to pay for Moose Murders (written by Arthur Bicknell, directed by Abby Howells), and while I confess I was trying to push my luck, it seemed like strange reasoning. Trolling, as one sometimes must, online forums about performance, you see a fair bit of anguish from people who feel that their work is not being written about with sufficient rigour. Yes, you heard correctly; there are practitioners who want more (and better written) criticism. Well, why on earth would they want that? Quantum mechanics, and the theory of quantum entanglement, may help us to understand further.
When two particles have been in proximity to each other, they evince relational characteristics ever after that are not only measurable but acausal – that is, they are bonded whether or not they interact with each other ever again and regardless of the distance between them, and these relational effects take place in each particle without even the intermission of the speed of light. Add to this the – I think only theoretical at this stage - notion in physics that whenever a single electron is agitated so as to leap to a higher orbit, every particle in the universe must move, however subtly, to accommodate it, then we can start to appreciate that the effects which we take away from interactions are far more complex and intrinsic than may be immediately apparent. I’d say the proof that we are all one and time is meaningless is not quite in; but it would seem that what happens to us and near us does not ever, in a literal sense, become dead stuff. It is active and with us, whether we acknowledge it or not. Criticism therefore becomes not simply a bystander to privileged events, but an activated part of the flow of energy, and since it informs as well as appreciates artworks, it is in effect as acausal a relationship as any.
By crikey, though, criticism is surely what Counterpoint are up to with Moose Murders. Supposedly “the worst play ever” on Broadway, we are meant to find carefree indulgence in a group act of considering something as irredeemably bad, it would seem. It’s a pretty lumpy farce, true, but since it’s sort of boring and trite as well the only real reason for mounting it can be to mock its inverted status. I accept it’s not exactly the same thing as a gang of teenagers kicking a homeless person, and the psychological gymnastics of dealing with failure as a concept were surely at play here, but really the only interesting thing about it was how they partially failed to make it appalling. Strewn throughout the shrieking (which should be banned as a trauma trigger event – namely, it makes me feel as though I’m being screamed at), stomping and mincing were a few genuinely clever moments of distanced, nuanced character tropes that worked quite well as good-humoured critique on the crappy performance of crappy personalities that too many people – you and me, even – sometimes enact as part of sometimes crappy lives. Thank you to those few actors – especially Rosie Howells, who was superb throughout – for bringing at least something to this piece of