Posts by: freeranger

UP THE PUNKS 2012: The City Seen Through Thirty Something Noisy Years of Wellington Punk Culture.

 
 
 
 
 
“Not in the habit of saving things for posterity or thinking themselves as history. Not caring about the past, not seeing too much future to look forward too. Whether or not that was really true, it was definitely the understood attitude and mood… I’ve just started on this book and already I’m on a tangent…”

Aaron Cometbus

 

Time. It’s treated quite strangely in the world of punk rock. Most people arrive as though they were the first. And they leave out the back door to make way for a younger, more energised generation. Aaron Cometbus, of the Bay Area fanzine Cometbus, nailed it in a retrospective on his first 20 years of zine-making. When it came to cultural self-awareness, he claimed that punks were decidedly evasive. Whether fueled by  idealism or nihilism, they were preoccupied in a haze of the ‘spirit of the times’. The view from the blazing vehicle of punk rock is framed by a combination of radical ideas, growing pains and fast guitars. Vision under such speed is surely fuzzy. Beyond the ‘here and now’ getting a cultural perspective to the past (or future) is hard. But the last decade or so has seen a renewed interest from within and without Wellington’s punk community with a call to explore the vestiges of time and uncover the recesses of the city’s nearly forgotten punk past.

Enter Wellington’s own unique and peculiar cultural time-machine – UP THE PUNKS! It travels to depths of 35 years ago and up to the active present, exhibiting the stories and artefacts of a vibrant, living underground community. The ongoing documenting and open source archiving initiative provides an important means of linking together a body of diverse works such as music, arts, literature, activism and various aspects of DIY culture, which would otherwise seem disparate across generations past and present. Youth culture is rarely this prolific and broadly expressed. It is a showcase of spirit – the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

 

Original poster for UP THE PUNKS 2002 designed by Kerry Ann Lee

 

To claw back the history of an obscure society, obsessed with its very obscurity, is not an easy task. Works can be as fleeting as youth itself, leaving little trace, if any at all. But memory will still prevail. People still fondly recall the legendary performance of influential bands which never lasted long enough to produce more than a rough demo and play at some house parties; rants from a younger version of someone-you-know found in a photocopied zine which was subsequently lost to time and a small print run; piles of old screen-printed posters and merch; dusty records and cordially exchanged mixtapes now warped and stretched; abandoned film negatives of rallies and hangouts with cherished friends. Interesting and unexpected things happens when returning to these places.

 

Punk was always positioned in relation to a wider context, differentiating itself from mainstream society. But over time, as we all know, things change, the mainstream changes too, and so each generational iteration of punk rockers bear traces of that change too. I can’t help but recall the backdrop of a transitional Wellington city in the 1990s, its people waking up from the quiet slumber of economic downturn. People were crawling out of brutalist buildings determined to paint over the grey walls that had only served to compliment the depressive color of the sky.
Whether or not these are actually my own memories, I’m reminded of something geographic, something spatial and material, tangible and almost graspable; squats on the waterfront as Te Papa was still in construction; un-refurbished flats with remnants of 70’s décor; walking home after school via The Freedom Shop, the local anarchist bookstore which was housed in a rustic shed on upper Cuba St before being squeezed out by the Bypass; the hired-out community halls; picking bottles off the street during shows; skinhead encounters in Newlands; skateboarding with mates in the Hutt; the patience required to order records and zines from overseas…

 

The Cure jamming at a house party in Mount Victoria, August 4, 198.1

 

UP THE PUNKS presents a case for continuity between generations otherwise fragmented and disjointed. In doing so it proves, in my mind at least, that the past 35 years wasn’t just an excuse for playing silly buggers after all (although there was a great deal of that too). It’s evidence of a sustained cultural activity. In such a hotbed for ideals put into action, ideas can last a long time, or burn out alongside musical trends, fashion, and haircuts. I’m curious as to how punk – peripheral by nature – has extended and adapted to other aspects of society, or whether (in many cases I imagine) it is left to the embarrassments of youth. It would be interesting to know what happened to those kids as they enter different areas of society, as they develop skill-sets for new contexts and responsibilities. It is contributions from these people that keeps the UP THE PUNKS online archive lively. I can think proudly of punk friends who are now educators, union organisers, lawyers, academics, artists, health care professionals, engineers, innovators, activists, musicians, amazing parents, and just all round good people.

 

A film made by Chris Knox on the punk and post-punk ‘Wellington Scene’ otherwise known as the ‘Terrace Scene’ in 1980. 

 

Without continuing to sound like a back-in-the-day-old-timer, it has to be said that a big aspect of the UP THE PUNKS effort is to present Wellington punk culture as a living community, uniquely localised and continuing today in full force. It stands in contrast to the picture painted by a Te Papa exhibition ten years ago that presented punk as a petrified historical nomenclature that only happened elsewhere. The ongoing spirit of participation from enthusiastic new blood will ensure that punk respond to a changing world, ultimately securing the promise of it’s future.

 

And because of the open sourced, participatory nature of the UP THE PUNKS archive, we now have a means of looking back through the noise of time. With the raw information available to all, the historical narrative of punk in Wellington can be constantly rewritten and contested.

At 16 years and counting, Punkfest is New Zealand’s longest running annual punk event.

 

UP THE PUNKS proposes one last important thing; that this living history is also a slice of the city’s history. It’s “the Wellington you didn’t know you didn’t know” as aptly put by John Lake in the Pledgeme fundraising campaign. The minor stories told here reveal the material culture of life in Wellington as told by the people themselves. It is also relevant for the story of independent music in New Zealand. These stories are our history and it’s a history to be shared by all.

 

 

A Pledgeme campaign to fund UP THE PUNKS 2012 has just started. Come along and check it out if you like!

UP THE PUNKS 2012 exhibition and celebrations: November 6-10

 

Exhibition Opening Night: November 6, 2012, 6PM, Thistle Hall
Gettin’ Worse: Punx Still Angry, November 7, San Fran Bathhouse. Check out the new breed with Numbskull, DILFS, Influence and more…

 

Closing Night Party, November 10, Thistle Hall Upstairs
All ages gig expanding the definition of punk with So So Modern, Rogernomix, All Seeing Hand, Mr Sterile Assembly, Johnny and The Felchers and more…

 

www.upthepunks.co.nz
www.facebook.com/upthepunks.wellington

Future City: London’s Olympic legacy

Now that the Olympics have been over for almost three weeks, I think I’m FINALLY over the severe depression that comes after one hell of a party. For two magical weeks, London wasn’t London: People were friendly! The tubes ran on time! Even the weather behaved! Well mostly….

And what a show the city put on – from Team GB smashing the medal tally to permanently high excitement levels and endless cultural activities this was an amazing time to live in the capital of Old Blighty. In short – London delivered. Greg Baum of the Sydney Morning Herald even conceded that London trumped Sydney in 2000 saying, ‘[London’s] Olympics had Sydney’s vibrancy, Athen’s panache, Beijing’s efficiency and added British know-how and drollery.” Jon Stewart dryly noted that London managed to put into the Opening Ceremony the only thing Beijing left out – actual humans.

But taking a step back from the Games, the real dividend gained by London was the culmination of all the capital investment and urban transformation that has taken place in preparation. To look at the London of 2012, is a very different picture to the London of 30 years ago. In the space of my lifetime, this city has become a place people actually want to visit and live in as opposed to a place people feel beholden to come to due to colonial apron strings, financial concerns or because it’s the ‘gateway to Europe’.

Don’t get me wrong, London is still far from perfect. The anger that boiled over in the London Riots last year is a case in point, as are the continued difficulties navigating such a labyrinthine city structure, steep transport costs and high rates of petty crime. And let’s not talk about the weather.

These problems weren’t magically washed away because of two weeks of sporting glory but London managed to leverage the Olympics to not only push through vast new infrastructure with long-term benefits but to also challenge perceptions about how the city functions.

While London is one of the world’s most developed cities, it hasn’t always been one of the most enjoyable. As Pritiker Prize winning architect Richard Rogers’ says, ‘It’s hard to remember how depressing London was in the seventies and eighties.’ He argues that London has returned with a vengeance since the bleak days of Thatcher and if the Olympics represents London coming into its own in the 21st Century, the Tate Modern’s opening in 2000, marked the inception of this new era.*

We all know the amazing story of Tate Modern – How Sir Nicholas Serota took the almost recklessly bold decision to use the location of an old Power Station, in a disused part of town with no tourist amenities nearby. But nobody envisaged just how successful it would be – the Southwark area around Tate Modern has subsequently been completely regenerated and the gallery is set to expand in the future to deal with high visitor demand.

If Tate represents the beginnings of London forging a modern identity, areas such as Kings Cross and Hackney further illustrate the city’s growth and adaptability. 20 years ago, the inner-East suburb of Kings Cross was a rough transport hub notorious for rampant prostitution and drug abuse. Now the Eurostar departs from here, Kings Cross station has been impressively extended, the trendy Central St Martin’s College has moved into a purpose built space and there is still over £10 billion worth of redevelopment slated to take place (such as Google’s new London headquarters).

While the suburb has resembled a large construction yard for the past five years, many of the projects were pushed through to finish in time for The Olympics, and what a difference the lack of cranes makes. Beyond the immediate area of the station are still your manky chicken shops and council flats, but there are now smart urban pathways, chic bars, galleries and gastro pubs making this a place to actively visit, instead of purposely avoid.

In the bidding process for the 2012 Olympics, London had a firm focus on legacy, of putting in a sustainable long-term development plan that would see the Eastern suburbs continue to grow after Olympic fanfare had died down.

The 1992 Barcelona Games provided the model for London. Spanish architect Josep Acebillo, who led the Barcelona Olympic project said: “We were the first Olympics conceived primarily for the transformation of the city. London was influenced by our philosophy.” Of the £10 billion public funds pledged for the Olympics, only 10% went towards new sporting venues, while the bulk was used for improvements to transport, housing and re-shaping Barcelona’s seafront. According to Mayor Jordi Hereu, the Games “were the start of Barcelona going from a local to a global city.”**

London was already a global city, but the pitch here was to go from malfunctioning to modern, to transform the deprived East into a relevant part of the larger city. Unlike post-Olympics Athens and Beijing where the sporting venues have been underutilised or left to gather dust, London has ensured there is a purpose for each venue. West Ham football club will take over the main stadium; the Athletes Village will be transformed into residential apartments. Other venues will be dismantled and sold after the Paralympics end – Rio has already expressed an interest in the de-mountable basketball stand for 2016 but there is no information yet as to what will become of the world’s largest McDonalds….

London also pushed through a huge piece of infrastructure in the form of the gleaming new Overground rail system. This massive commitment to join East to West and provide transport options beyond the beleaguered tube, has opened up whole swathes of the city and made them accessible in a way that was inconceivable ten years ago.

How the Olympic park will knit into the East London community will be the ultimate answer to the Games legacy but the city has already proven that leveraging deadlines based on a global event is the most effective way to raise money, sort out approvals and deliver large scale projects on the ground. The calibre of the delivery is directly related to the vision that has accompanied the project. London has envisioned well and delivered much to be proud of and grow from as it enters a new phase of modernity. In the post-Olympics world, London as a city has a great deal to look forward to.

* For a thorough evaluation of Tate Modern’s place in London – and Sir Nicolas Serota’s role within this –see Calvin Tomkins, Profiles, “The Modern Man,”in The New Yorker
** All quotes about Barcelona taken from The Standard

Beyond 2000

You can fight progress 

If you had told the makers of Beyond 2000 that by 2012, we would be carrying large phones around in the pockets of our skinny jeans, they would have laughed in your face.
“By 2012,” they would have replied, “cellphones will be invisible and weightless.”
“And as for skinny jeans, what normal person can look good in those?”

WELL UP YOURS BEYOND 2000, BECAUSE THIS IS OUR REALITY NOW.

In the short(ish) time since I finished high school, cellphones have gone from very large, to very small, and back to quite large again.  Meanwhile, trouser legs have tapered away at such an alarming rate that new vocabulary has had to be invented (cue the “jeggings”).  It’s a cruel twist of fate that one can barely fit a foot in a pair of jeans these days, let alone a smart phone.

Is this progress?  Is this the brave new world that scientists of the 90s promised me?  Because when I watched Beyond 2000 as a child, I saw (somewhat pixelated) images of a futuristic utopia, filled with hovercrafts, solar-powered cars, and robots that could cook you breakfast with a single thought.  Like Darth Vader – but nice, and helpful around the house.


I did not see images of my future self dangling my (ex-) boyfriend’s cellphone out the window after one too many ‘technological mini-breaks’.  I did not see myself shaking my fist at the sky as yet another friend textually cancelled our plans at the last minute (yes, I just used the word “textually.”  THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT).  I could not have fathomed the technology-induced rage my future self would experience, all in the name of progress.

Now, I don’t consider myself an angry person.  But I am not above a good old progress-induced rant.  And if I had to order and number my rants of late, they would probably look a little bit like this:

1. Facebook status updates.  
I don’t want to know what my more popular, happy and successful acquaintances are having for dinner, or whose perfect boyfriend has cooked them pancakes and found the cure for cancer in the last ten minutes.
GET OFF THE COMPUTER AND GO EAT YOUR FRIGGIN’ PANCAKES.

2. Text language
OMG. WTF is up with TXT language?  Trying to read it pains me.  Hearing it spoken aloud makes we want to sit in a corner and rock gently.
As I understand it, abbreviations were created to shorten words and make life easier, so saying them aloud is in direct opposition with that intent.  For instance, the letter ‘W’ is three syllables when spoken.  The word ‘what’ is only one.
WHY ARE YOU MAKING IT HARDER FOR YOURSELVES?  And also, WHAT ARE YOU SAYING???

3. Flakiness.
In times BC, (before cellphones), you made plans to do things and then you went and did those things.  You simply didn’t have the option of flaking out on someone, because that would make you the arsehole who left your friend waiting in the rain.  And nobody wants to be the arsehole who left their friend waiting in the rain…right?
The gift of cellphones has also given us the blessed gift of an escape clause; from any event, for any reason, or hell – for no reason at all!  Tired?  Got a better offer?  Just throw a few words into cyberspace, and you’re off the hook!  LOL.

4.  Technological slavery
Our forefathers worked damn hard to abolish slavery.  We owe it to William Wilberforce and his compatriots, and to the slavesthemselves, to resist the new and oppressive force of technological slavery.
JUST BECAUSE YOUR PHONE BEEPED, DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT IT.  Friends must be liberated from the perceived need to interrupt our very WITTY AND FASCINATING conversations, in order to read a message that is probably just their cellphone provider reminding them to top up.  It is WRONG and UNJUST, and also, it is ANNOYING ME.

5.  Divided attention
Buddha must be rolling in his grave, because never before has there been a society less present to the given moment.  Case in point, between starting and finishing that last sentence, I replied to an email, wrote a text message, checked facebook, and asked my flatmate if he wouldn’t mind picking up some milk on the way home.
I’M SORRY BUDDHA.  I’M SO SORRY.

6.  Conflict resolution
In the past, the art of healthy debate was alive and well.  I spent hours, weeks, of my teenage life debating petty and irrelevant details with my friends, without anyone conducting a google search and spoiling the fun.  I recall a particularly heated argument over how many times the word “gonna” featured in the N’Sync song “It’s Gonna Be Me”, and then another about whether it was the air or thetension we were proverbially cutting with a knife.  That debate ended, not with a conclusive google search, but with a lunchbox hurtling through the air.
And life seemed the richer for it.

I know, I know, it’s not all bad.  Technology has given us real gifts too.  Like the ability to watch videos of cats from all over the world; to skype friends and family; and to watch little videos of ourselves in the corner of the screen while we are skyping friends and family.
What did they just say?  I DON’T KNOW BECAUSE I WAS CHECKING MYSELF OUT.

I know we can’t go back.  If I’m being honest, I wouldn’t even want that.  I came to that sudden and unexpected realisation when, halfway through writing this, my laptop was stolen from my flat.  My first reaction was to wonder if the technology gods were smiting me for my ingratitude.  I tried to see the funny side for a while, but then I gave up and just cried instead.
It was like Janet Jackson said: I didn’t know what I had until it was gone.  I didn’t realise how much I loved my laptop until it had been wrenched out of the wall and carried away out my flatmate’s window.

My laptop wasn’t just a piece of technology that froze at the worst times and crashed without saving.  It let me watch Downton Abbey in bed.  It let me work from home when it was raining outside.  It let me email my insurance company, and order a new laptop.
And when it was suddenly gone, I had to find other things to do, like play the guitar and talk to my flatmates and not get jealous of events I was missing out on.

And to think.  I had so much time to think.  During that surreal THREE DAY technology hiatus between losing my laptop and acquiring a new one, I came to a decision.  I decided to stop ranting about technology so much, and to stop writing my rants down and publishing them in places for other people to read them too.  I decided, instead, to be the change I wanted to see in the world.
(SEE WHAT HAPPENS WITHOUT A LAPTOP?  GANDHI HAPPENS.  GANDHI.)

I would not pike on invitations that I had previously accepted.  I would only check my phone during a coffee date if someone’s life depended on it  (or perhaps while the other person was in the toilet).  I would only start petty arguments about things that could never be proven by a google search.  And I would stop inwardly berating people who posted excessively happy status updates on facebook.
God bless you, perfect pancake-eating couples.

Maybe you can’t fight progress.  But you can point and laugh at it a little bit.

Everyone should go to church once in a while.

Tadao Ando’s Church of Light in Ibaraki, Japan.

I have had this experience twice before, when you walk into a place and have an overwhelming feeling of enlightenment. Once at the small temple located within Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia and once when I walked into the completely empty, decaying Athens Olympic stadium.

These are the moments in life you don’t expect to be great, however there are many you walk into with great expectations and these are the places, people, experiences which we are often disappointed by. I walked into Tadao Ando’s Church of Light in Ibaraki Japan with 9 years of architectural educational and practice worth of expectation and it did not disappoint.

Even my arrival was some sort of achievement; the church is located in a typical Japanese suburb, a cram of tradition and modernism on the outskirts of Osaka, that I had navigated the local train and bus to the point of suburban obscurity was the achievement. Then I had to hunt for the church. The siting and surrounds of the church is not a secret, it is described often in writings however I had chosen to ignore this and found myself surprised that the church wasn’t sitting alone on top a hill surrounded by beautifully manicured Japanese gardens.

The building is unassuming, it is not trying to be a great piece of modern architecture, it is just being a small church for a local congregation. That Ando was able to create the sense of escape this building has in its setting is testament to how Ando has resolved and refined the idea. The contrast between the haphazard suburban setting and the beautiful simplicity of the interior only heightens the experience of visiting this church.


I recently heard a talk by Kjetil Thorsen of Norwegian architectural firm Snohettta in which he discussed a principle of materiality where by you do not let more than three materials come into contact at one time, this building is an exemplar of this idea; Ando uses only concrete, glass and black painted timber. There is no symbolism or iconography so common to traditional churches, save the voided cross, this allows your own understanding of spirituality of the place to be the focus of attention.

As I sat and drew the light changed its position and intensity, there was no denying the outer world feeling this place has, regardless of religion, as the light streams in through the cross and onto the beautiful, yes beautiful, concrete.

When I am there it is late on a Saturday afternoon and predominantly the church is filled with architecture students taking photos and mucking around, as they leave I am left in this place on my own and I am struck by how quiet and sanctuary like the place is.


I visit the Sunday school built years later and imagine what it would be like filled with children- I can’t, it fells like these buildings were meant to be experienced in solitude, so that each of us can have whatever type of experience suits us, it doesn’t have to be spiritual- I can imagine it would be a great place to read a book or spend a day trying to capture sunlight on the concrete in a photograph. I can only guess as to how someone else would react, but I hope it does get added to the list of place to visit.

35m2 pas plus…

It is the thin strip of light piecing through the barely opened shutters that wakes me just before 10am. It’s Sunday, traditional day for the grasse matinée, French for ‘sleep-in’, but literally translated as ‘fat morning’ and what I have ingeniously termed as having a “Fat Martin”.

Next to me Nicolas is reluctant to wake, odd seeing as he is generally always the first to rise. I quietly jump at the opportunity to grab the first shower and enjoy breakfast in the kitchen undisturbed before he plonks his large, lovely, French feet on the floor and proceeds to wake himself up. I haven’t felt the morning time boost since I moved in with him and I realise that it has a lot to do with our living space.

Come in Space Control…

Nicolas and I live in a 35m² apartment in the south-west of France in an equally smallish sized town, oddly named Pau. Before moving here I lived in a 37m² 4th floor apartment of my own with a view of the Pyrenees mountains and the grey tiled roofs of the town, their terracotta chimney pots dotted in sporadic lines. Being high up has it’s advantages in adding a rare sense of space as you look out over the pointy a-frames and shadowy eaves of the buildings below. The vide from the balcony also gives you a sense of free-falling, which is fine as long as you don’t suffer from vertigo that is.

Living in such a small space takes a lot of self control and discipline, plus order, and if you’re sharing then add to that a great deal of mutual respect and self-ease. Most importantly is being sure to constantly clean up after yourself, for as the mess grows larger, the space you have to hide grows smaller. Over three days leading up to my moving in here, Nico took on an epic ‘remodelling’ of his apartment, in order to offer me some space of my own and to make things easier on both of us with regards to those stock standard daily gests such as moving, sitting, standing, eating and of course, breathing…

Feng-enuity

Battered from jetlag after a trip home to Oz, I arrived to find Nico’s one-room 35m² apartment had been split in four designated “areas” segmented by a small crossroads! There was the sleeping area (bed on the floor with bookshelves proffering the tell-tale classics… notably in comic form), the working area (a desk in the corner with vintage leather one-seater cornered off by mid-waist open-backed shelves creating a ‘bordered space’), the dining/entertainment area ( large, low, square coffee table with bamboo poofs, cd player and speakers and Nico’s guitars) and finally… would you believe it.. a walk-in wardrobe and dressing area, ingeniously created by taking the doors off the existing inset wardrobe and surrounding the space exterior with easy build shelves where we store out clothes.

Sadly, as much as I appreciate the “feng-enuity” of Nicolas in creating a more habitable abode for us and his clever ideas to create a more user-friendly room, never in my life had I imagined myself living in such an elfin space, not to mention sharing it with an Ent. Australian houses are enormous in comparison to 1-2 room French apartments in which around 45% of the country’s population live; my family home would have covered at least 200m²!* I can’t say I didn’t profit from every fresh-aired opportunity, as I fiercely appreciated that wide open space. Having grown up in country Victoria, I was left to run wild with an innumerable count of bugs, birds and beasts as my companions across 5 hectares of land, and so I live evermore intensely the claustrophobia from being in such a small residence now. You can no more stretch 5 hectares from 35m², than you can stretch 36m², and the absence of my never-ending green horizon, the field attached to my backdoor, haunts me slightly with the feeling that I know longer have a parcel of my own.
* family home : http://www.homehound.com.au/listing/details-popup.php?id=3560581&pos=3560581_02As

Jaunty Suprises

To deal with this claustrophobia, Sunday mornings are not often filled with “fat martins” for Nicolas and I, as we go in search of hill pastures and hiking trails to expire our town legs and expel our cooped up apartment ambitions. The French countryside is always full of little surprises and today is no exception. Despite the showers predicted for the afternoon, we grabbed our jackets, jumped in the car and headed out to find Le Chappelle de Rousse and a vineyard trail we had noted a few months back.

Arriving at the Chappelle after dodging several cows coming back from pasture and stopping off to say hello to some baby donkeys, we got lost (a French pastime) within the first five minutes of stepping out of the car. We had of course ignored any sign of direction in our haste to move and took the first muddy path that presented itself to us. After taking the steep turn down the hill and struggling back up again, we re-examined the placard, actually read the directions and set off between the vines.

At the domain Lapeyre, a small vineyard falling inside the Jurançon appellation, the Larrieu family has been cultivating wine for three generations, with the most recent generation taking the farm down the path of organic viticulture. They have opened up their land so that people like us who lack field exposure can wander through their property and learn a little about the cultivation of the grape at the same time. We set off taking our time to wander through the vines and read the panels of information informing us of the history of this quaint little cepage, hoping the rain would hold off long enough to walk the hour long trail. We regrouped at the bottom of the hill and followed the arrows around, climbing back up the other side. With the air warm and humid and the dirt soft underfoot, you could almost mistake yourself for being in a plantation in Africa, the noise of crickets in the grass and the smell of clean earth.

Following the arrows, we rose midway up the hill and admired the hawks circling in the mottled grey sky, sporadic drops of rain glancing off our cheeks. We looked up the hill to survey the climb and notice a small wooden bank with a blue box underneath it… Qu’est-ce que c’est?

Practical Work
1/ Take the bottle of wine from the icebox
2/ Serve yourself 5cl of wine (and not 7!)
3/Look
4/Smell
5/Taste
PS : Even if the best wine is always that which we want to repour ourselves,
don’t fall into the temptation, rather… take yourself off to the cellar!
Salute!

As we sat back, chinked our glasses and looked out over the sloping hill covered in lines of sprawling spring vines, my thoughts trailed back to my own adventures in paddocks, crouched down in long yellowing grasses, enjoying goodies I’d pilfered from the kitchen. These thoughts lay far from the cramped conditions of our apartment as we giggled and raised our glasses, cheekily pouring out even more than 7cl each and praising our luck for having passed by on this day. In hindsight however, it was not so much luck that aided us to happen upon the bottle of fine dry white, but more so our apartment and our need to stretch our bended limbs; to seek out new horizons which traverse the space of others and cultivate territories softly with our feet, as they cultivate our minds with the memories they replant.

Nicolas : the evolutionary chain, from grape to man

Ranting about the love of God

Damien Hirst’s retrospective opened at London’s Tate Modern on April 4th and I didn’t want to write about it. In fact I didn’t even want to acknowledge its existence. But having attended a range of exhibitions lately where the gallery spaces resemble more of an amusement park than places of culture and learning, I had to see the Hirst show and wonder for myself if his show represents the place  where public spaces are heading?

I don’t mean this in a grumpy, ‘everything must be serious all the time’ kind of way. It just seems that more and more galleries are relenting curatorial rigour to making galleries all play, no consideration in order to draw the crowds.

Reading about Christian Marclay, another artist on the White Cube rota, put these suspicions to light.  Marclay spoke with The New Yorker about his work The Clock and exhibiting it in public spaces. This seminal 2010 video work is a 24-hour montage of thousands of film and television clips all showing glimpses of time as captured on celluloid. The work was created to be shown in real time so as well as providing an ambitious montage of time-specificity, the work acts as fantastic, impractical clock. Exhibited to huge critical acclaim, Marclay found himself embroiled in an intense bidding war over the six copies available of the work.

For Marclay, he felt that the museum curators involved in the bidding, didn’t think through the subtleties of showing his video. With the lengthy real time aspect and a carefully orchestrated score, The Clock requires specific viewing conditions of simultaneous comfort and concentration. Marclay said of the process, “Venerable museums are acting like greedy kids. There’s a lack of scholarship. It’s all about how many people they can get through the doors.… They just want a hit.”

Well if a gallery wants a crowd drawing hit, with easy to digest surface scholarship, retrospectives are an easy option, and Damien Hirst is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. The debates surrounding his work have never centred on any notions of aesthetics (he’s a repackager), method (assistants make everything) or what lasting importance his work will have. Rather, to talk of Hirst is talk about publicity, money, of how that skull sold for £50 million.

But unfortunately, it’s a no-brainer that galleries are susceptible to market forces. Ben Eltham wrote an excellent piece recently on  how museum directors being susceptible to market forces and in a similar vein, Robert Storr talks about the reality that contemporary museums are increasingly business-oriented in their approach to every aspect of operation, often at the expense of artistic vision.

But if these are the facts, why get so caught up in the fact that one of the world’s most renowned artists is enjoying a retrospective? At the time of writing, two other major career artists are enjoying sold out London shows (David Hockney and Lucien Freud) so why not feel so vitriolic against them?

The difference is that Damien Hirst represents the way the art world has gone and holding a retrospective for an artist who is known more for his publicity skills and commercial acumen than his art represents a huge leap from his forebears. In The Mona Lisa Curse (2008), Robert Hughes argues the traditional values that judge art by its quality have been overridden by marketing and hype, and that in the present consumer culture, the only meaning left for art is a financial one. Hirst defines this rule and of the artist, Hughes says “The idea that there is some special magic attached to Hirst’s work that shoves it into the multimillion pound realm is ludicrous. [The price] has to do with promotion and publicity and not with the quality of the works themselves.”

Showing an artist such as Hirst is a very public confirmation that galleries are curating shows that will guarantee crowds, but not necessarily critical acclaim. Perhaps I am degenerating into an irrelevant rant. In this era of smart phones and sensationalist TV, most people don’t want ‘high culture’ rammed down their throats and being sensationalist is perhaps the only way to get people to pay attention.

But ranting is important. Galleries at the end of the day were founded on vision and art has always existed to reflect and question our condition. Damien Hirst might regurgitate aspects of our world, but he doesn’t really manipulate them and he certainly doesn’t make make much of a comment beyond the monetary factor. The Guardian’s Adrian Searle says at the end of the day, his retrospective is repetitive. “My problem with Hirst is not the money (Picasso made lots, and nobody cares), nor the vulgarity he has opted for, but his capitulation as an artist. He could have been so much better. It is an enormous disappointment.”

If you need any more convincing, check out Hennesy Youngman’s thoughtz on Damien Hirst. He’s hilarious and he’s spot on.

 

Rozzy Middleton is on occasional arts and music blogger. 

Looking forward to nostalgia

I like nostalgia.  I really do.
I like it so much I get nostalgic for nostalgia.  I long for the good old days in the 90s, that I spent reminiscing about the good old days in the 80s.  I spend precious moments imagining my future self, looking fondly back on the moment I’m currently experiencing.  Such is my love for dreaming about the past, that I often make important life decisions based not on logic or aspiration, but rather on the opportunity for future nostalgia.  I went backpacking for a year in Asia, not simply because I wanted to go backpacking for a year in Asia, but because I wanted to have gone backpacking for a year in Asia.  I couldn’t wait to come home and reflect nostalgically on my year abroad.

And then there are the eras I’ve never even lived through!  The roaring 20s.  The swinging 60s.  You name it, I’ve probably highly idealized it.
In a recent fit of 80s nostalgia (a decade that finished when I was merely eight, but no matter, I remember it like it was yesterday), I watched The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink.  Within five minutes I was longing to live in the 80s again, but this time as a teenager, and ideally, as Molly Ringwald herself.   Then I did what anyone in my present day position would have done: I googled her to see where she had ended up.

What did I really expect?   That she would still be driving around in a pink car, sewing her own prom dresses, and applying lipstick from her cleavage?
(Yes, I did).

To my profound disappointment, I found that she was now…in 2012.  Or rather, she was no longer living in the 80s.   We were living in the same time, at the same time.  She looked normal.  She seemed to have thoroughly adapted to the new millennium.  There was not a visible trace of 80s nostalgia in her.

It made me stop and wonder: where was all my nostalgia really coming from, and why?  Was it a problem I needed to fix, or just a natural and healthy way of cherishing the past?

When I looked a little deeper, I found that up until a few centuries ago, nostalgia – that warm, bittersweet feeling we all know so well – was actually considered a form of melancholy.  It was considered a precursor to suicide, and a diagnosis for soldiers that deserted their posts.
The word “nostalgia,” based on the greek words nóstos (“homecoming”) and álgos (“ache”), was originally coined in 1688, by Johannes Hofer, a Swiss doctor working with mercenaries longing for their homeland.  At that time nostalgia was a medical condition, linked to illness, and even death.[1]

But (thankfully) more recent studies have found nostalgia to actually have psychological benefits.  Nostalgia expert Dr Krystine Bacho says that nostalgia can improve mood, increase self-esteem, and infuse our lives with a sense of meaning.
“Nostalgic reminiscence helps a person maintain a sense of continuity despite the constant flow of change over time,” she says.  It can also help us cope with loneliness, and strengthen our sense of social connectedness.[2]

So, perhaps my highly idealized view of the past is not such a concern after all.  Perhaps it actually displays how sickeningly well adjusted I am.  But can that explain my intense nostalgia for eras I’ve never even experienced?

Dr Batcho distinguishes this as a different form of nostalgia; what she calls “historical or social nostalgia.”  She says that  “individuals who feel nostalgia for a past era are more likely to feel dissatisfied with the present and/or perceive a past time period as better than the present.”  (Which, I would infer, is bad.)

Bugger.  It is true that I spent the days following my 80s movie marathon strangely longing for shoulder pads, and resenting the presence of smart phones and non- synthesised music in my life.

If I had lived back in the days when nostalgia was a medical condition, doctors might have prescribed me a variety of remedies, including purging (no thanks), leeches (no thanks) or opium (hmm..).  In 1733, a nostalgic Russian soldier was allegedly buried alive by his army officer [3] (I think I’ll stick with the nostalgia, if you don’t mind).

These days it’s a little trickier.  How do you cure something that’s no longer considered a medical ailment?  Svetlana Boym, author of The Future of Nostalgia, calls modern day nostalgia “the incurable modern condition.”
“The twentieth century began with a futuristic utopia,” Boym writes, “and ended with nostalgia.”  She hypothesizes that globalization and the accelerated pace of modern life have deepened nostalgic longings.
“Nostalgia tries to slow down time,” she says. [4]

Hmm.   Could my nostalgia be in some way connected to the recurrent impulses I feel to hurl cellphones, computers, photocopiers, and other technological paraphernalia off of tall buildings?  Could my longing for the 80s be not simply due to the outrageously fabulous fashion, music, and dance montage scenes; but also due to the fact they were so gloriously free of technology?
Pac Man was the pinnacle of computerised fun.  Cellphones were so outlandishly huge nobody could fit them in their handbags.  Life was simpler.

But hey, you can’t fight progress.  So I guess I’ll just cash in my nostalgic psychological benefits and console myself with the fact that in twenty years, I’ll look back on this decade as the prime of my life.   These will be the good old days.

Ahh, future nostalgia.  There’s so much to look forward to.

 



[1] Nostalgia (2012).  Retrieved February 9, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nostalgia

[2] ‘Tis the Season for Nostalgia: Holiday Reminiscing Can Have Psychological Benefits (2011). Retrieved February 9, 2012, from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2011/12/nostalgia.aspx

[3] Nostalgia (2012).  Retrieved February 9, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nostalgia

[4] The Future of Nostalgia (2002, Basic Books), as cited by Lambert, Craig; Hypochondria of the Heart (2001).  Retrieved February 9, 2012, from http://harvardmagazine.com/2001/09/hypochondria-of-the-hear.html

 

 

The problem with books…

So we run a small publishing company here at Freerange, which loosely means we try to marry author and creators of work with an audience via some sort of printing process, digital or physical.  I am also a student who needs to read and study books for the phd I am undertaking.  Both these activities have got me thinking about books, and the logic of books, at least the process where “something interesting that someone has written” gets “into my brain through my eyes“.

Traditionally this process would have gone through quite a few layers of industrialised systems: negotiating contracts, setting out a book, raising funds, printing several thousand copies, distributing to book wholesalers, selling to book stores, and then we’d find a lovely book sitting their innocently waiting for us to buy.    This process favoured safe publishing as large quantities were needed to make the economic logic work, but we did know where to get the books we wanted into our hands.

Two new technologies have transformed this process and made it much more free and confusing.  The first is that we can now read things on screens without printing.  I know I know, people love books. I do too, but to assert that as the main point is to miss the fact that reading on the screen enables us to read peoples work without the massive systems needed to get a book to print in a store.  This freedom of publishing that is the internet definately has its downsides with common lack of editorial oversite and quality control, but hey, this is a good problem, it also has its upside with the consumption of less resources. (less physical resource anyway, still uses energy).  The second new technology is newer faster smaller printing devices that break down the old need to print large expensive runs of books.  The printing of Freerange Journal is made possible by the invention of TruePress printers of which there are only 2 in Australasia that enable us to print small runs of our journal reasonably affordable.

What is frustrating me is that in NZ and Aus we are in an annoying between the old models of beautiful bookstores and some future of beautiful digital efficiency, and this space between seems to be worse than either.  So today I wanted to get my hands on two books. 1. Hannah Arendts “The Human Condition” and 2. “The Resilient City”. Neither are particularly popular books, but both are in print.

It would be nice to visit a bookstore and buy them, but because of the changed economy of books there are not many stores with large collections now and I don’t want to waste half a day visiting them to walk away empty handed, and sadly in NZ the 2nd hand bookstores and good bookstores don’t seem to have their catalogues accesible.

I wouldn’t mind buying them digitally to have as high quality files that are readable and searchable on the computer either, but for some insane reason the e-versions are more expensive than printing, wharehousing and shipping them halfway across the planet.

So I can buy online, and spend 3/4 of the cost of them book on shipping them to NZ.  I can’t understand why all the books in the world need to come from the UK or the States when surely most of them are printed in China now.   Why can these companies not have big warehouses in different locations to cut on shipping?  Either that our get Print on Demand working better so books are printed locally.

Every time I try to find NZ or Aus places to buy these books all they seem to be doing is ordering them from overseas and putting a mark up on them for that.  As much as I like to support local business that is just wasting money.

The cost breakdown of the books was:

1 The Human Condition

via Amazon:  $US10 to buy $18 to ship to NZ

via Book depository: $NZ23 including postage.

Not available as an e-book.

2. The Resilient City

Via Amazon: $US23 to buy $US18 to ship.

Via Book depository: $NZ42 including postage.

E-b00k. $NZ60!

The end of this rant is:

1. The stores in smaller places need to digitise their collections so I can know what they have in their store and visit it to buy it, and enjoy the beauty of a proper bookstore.

2. The big international online suppliers need to sort their shit out so the supply chains are more sensible, when oil starts hitting 3 then 4 then 5 then 6 dollars a litre they are going to have to anyway.

3. Finally the big e-battle between Apple via i-pad, Amazon via kindle and Google via their opensource system is making the whole online thing confusing and difficult, as a reader why should I pay more for a digital version, and as a publisher why should I have to reformat a book 8 times and make lots of separate contracts with different suppliers for them to make all the money off.

 

 

 

 

 

New Book: 10.98 Seconds Of Wellington Artists

Freerange Press is now selling copies of Lennart Maschmeyer’s fabulous new book 10.98 Seconds of Wellington Artists. 

$NZ50.

Click Here to go the Freerange shop to buy it. 

Over the past two years, German-born photographer Lennart Maschmeyer has been working on a Portrait of Wellington’s thriving art community. The resulting book titled “10.98 seconds of Wellington Artists” is the first work of its kind in Wellington. Its aim is to capture an authentic impression of the people creating and carrying the spirit of the city.

Read more

Official Statement from Occupy Wall Street

Below is a copy and paste of an Official statement from the Occupy Wall Street Protest   We at Freerange Press whole heartily endorse the messages below , the cause, and the enthusiastic use of their right to protest in public space.

Official Statement from Occupy Wall Street – this statement was voted on and approved by the general assembly of protesters at Liberty Square: Declaration of the Occupation of New York City

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.

They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.

They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.

They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.

They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.

They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.

They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.

They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.

They have sold our privacy as a commodity.

They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.

They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.

They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.

They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them.

They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.

They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.

They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.

They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.

They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.

They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.

They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!