31 July 2005

Back to blithering about art

I've been a bit worried that I'd headed up a blind alley and needed to do some backtracking, but I think the solution is to simply give the painting a rest for a while (well, painting in the sense of applying pigment to a canvas anyway). The paintings weren't working, but the preparatory and off-the-cuff stuff have been. I think I might concentrate more on drawing (ink on paper) than painting. It's really simple and direct, stripped back. I want to resolve the inchoate ideas sloshing round my head, not worry about technical bullshit.

In between experimental films at the City Gallery, Rose and I checked out the show of contemporary art from Te Papa they've got there. I've been getting back into situationism and subtitled my thing for the Mary Newton show a psychogeographical coastal view, so I was pleased to see Mladen Bizumic's work. The curator's blurb next to it was strange. It said his work deals with 'what he calls psychogeographies'. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it seems awfully like the curator isn't aware of the history of the term.

I've also been thinking of resurrecting an old idea of doing an alternate history of New Zealand (Henry Darger's fictional world reminded me of it). When I was younger I thought I'd be a science fiction writer, and so I studied art theory towards that (as part of a mad theory I had that the science fiction story was the only valid art form of the late 20th and early 21st centuries - something, needless to say, I no longer ascribe to), so it would be a nice nod to that. The coastal view could be considered the first part of it. I'm not so sure about this though. I did see, in another nice synchronistic moment, that one of the talks for this show is about the construction of fictional worlds, so I might go along to that.

I want to pull the various strands together, and ideally integrate everything into a single unified grand scheme. I've made a preliminary stab at documenting and developing a personal mythology (the skeleton guy represents the subject alone in a pointless and absurd universe, the illuminati guy represents the cybernetic control society, etc, etc - that kind of thing). We'll see how we go.

And that's it for another year

Friday was Czech Dream, about two film students who use a Mininstry of Culture grant to stage a huge advertising campaign for a fictitious supermarket. As a couple of thousand people gathered in a meadow for the opening you wonder how they'll react when they discover the deception. Lots of them made the link with the advertising campaign the government were running for a yes vote to joining the EU - trying to sell a product that doesn't exist. Given the current election campaign, it was a very timely film indeed.

Saturday was Kekexili: Mountain Patrol, which was preceded by Tama Tu. This was another film with no dialogue (except for a karakia in te reo) that worked really well. We also had Occupation: Dreamland.

And then, finally, today we had some short films by Bill Morrison (some hits and some misses - the misses were ones that had originally been made to be part of a larger production), another programme of experimental films called Inside/Out (mostly hits), and Jim Jarmusch's latest Broken Flowers - the perfect end to another bloody good festival.

29 July 2005

Yet more bloody films

Monday night was Sorceress of the New Piano, about avant-garde pianist Margaret Leng Tan, who was a protege of sorts of John Cage. Before the film we were treated to a toy piano performance by her, which was truly amazing. There was a Q and A afterwards as well. She's really engaging, and her enthusiasm for what she does is really infectious.

On Tuesday we had Werner Herzog's The White Diamond, another documentary about another obsessive (again with a death at the centre of it). Mark Anthony, a local Rasta guy who helped them out, stole the show. At one point Werner asks him if he sees the universe in a raindrop (it makes sense in context), and Mark Anthony turns to him and says, 'I cannot hear the words you say for the thunder that you are.'

On Wednesday was The Devil and Daniel Johnston (also check out the film's website and this Daniel Johnston website), which is the film I was really hanging out to see. I've been a big fan of Dan's since the late 80s, so this was a real treat.

Last night we went to The Wayward Cloud, which was vile.

Something else to look at

If you haven't checked out Andrew McLeod's website recently, I strongly urge you to do so now. There's some stonkingly good new stuff on there.

27 July 2005

25 July 2005

And yet more films

Okay, quick run down on last week's other films. There was 3-Iron, which had virtually no dialogue. All the main characters' interactions were conveyed visually. It was really effective and a very nice film. No surprise the director's a painter. There was Pin Boy, which I pretty much entirely slept through. Then there was Late Bloomer, which was about a disabled guy turned serial killer and was brilliant. It kind of reminded me of Tetsuo: The Ironman in style. The director came out for that one, and there was a good Q and A afterwards. The reaction to Rose's question as to what the main actor thought of the film was interesting. On Saturday I went to Fiction Artists, which is easily my favourite so far and a bloody funny exposure of romantic artist cliches, and Godzilla Final Wars. Then on Sunday there was Grizzly Man and In the Realms of the Unreal. The last two were both documentaries about people who retreated from the modern world in their own way. The Werner Herzog one on Timothy Treadwell was a stunningly well made doco, but the Henry Darger one on the other hand only had the intrinsic interest of its subject matter - the actual work - going for it.

19 July 2005

Leonardo da Vinci quote

How many people there are who could be described as mere channels for food, producers of excrement, fillers of latrines, for they have no other purpose in this world; they practice no virtue whatsoever; all that remains after them is a full latrine.

[I reckon 'a full latrine' should probably be translated as 'a load of shit'.]

A couple more films

At midday on Sunday we went to Delamu, which is a serious rival for best so far. Then, for a nice bit of contrast, that evening we had The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse.

I didn't go to anything last night, even though I had ticket, cos I was in a really horribly foul mood (I hate my job, and the painting has been going particularly badly). Tonight, however, we went to World Mirror Cinema. This was a nice idea that was badly executed. It probably should have been much shorter. Five minutes after it started you realised what you were in for for the next hour and a half - a street scene outside a cinema, then it repeats and zooms in on various people, each time cutting to some other film where someone bears a (sometimes highly) superficial similarity or tenuous visual connection to the person zoomed in on before returning to the street to zoom in on someone else. It did this for three different street scenes. It was too long and too loose. Some of the footage was intrinsically interesting, but it being decontextualised to construct a fiction detracted from that somewhat.

I also thought it raised some ethical problems. It's using actual footage of actual people and constructing fictional lives for them using actual footage of other actual people, which strikes me as really dodgy.

16 July 2005

Film fest madness once more

The film fest has descended on us once more. The gala opening one on Thursday was Howl's Moving Castle. Some wank lawyer outfit in town put on the booze so get to pick the film - and of course pick a safe one that won't offend their wank corporate clients. They made a big deal of defending Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs against the depredations of David Lane. I reckon they should've showed that instead.

Last night was Hidden, which was okay but I don't think I was in the right mood or frame of mind for it or something. At midday today we went to Cinevardaphoto, which was bloody brilliant and'll be hard to top. It was made up of three films she'd chosen to go together, all based round photos. The first was from 2004, the second 1982, the last 1963. The stylistic consistency and the different kinds of links between the films made it a really satisfying whole.

This evening Rose, my mum, and I went to Delamu, which was also really good - unremittingly grim tales of the hard lives people lead interspersed with this amazing journey. Rose and Chloe are off at something else at the moment, and I'm taking the opportunity to do some painting.

05 July 2005

Where I live

This is for any out-of-towners (and others) who want to check out what Wellers looks like from space.


This is the artist statement that accompanied my entry for the TWNCAA:

The Painting language deck of cards is part of a series of works investigating the concept of visual language. Paintings are often referred to as texts and analysed using literary concepts such as metonym and synecdoche, but is this really appropriate? Is painting a visual language? For that matter, is there any such thing as visual language at all?

A language has two components: a set of words, and rules for combining those words into meaningful sentences. Those rules are the language’s grammar. They allow a finite set of words to form an infinite number of sentences.

We are surrounded by visual signs that function as words – signs that tell us where and how fast to drive, which toilets to use, where not to smoke, etc. Some of these signs combine conventional symbols to form simple declarative sentences (for example a circle with a bar through combined with a picture of something to form a sentence such as ‘No dogs allowed’). I am interested in developing a set of visual signs that can be combined to form a large range of complex sentences.

According to art theory, the meaning of a particular work resides in the intertextual space between the viewer and a given work (text). In Painting language, the viewer constructs not only the meaning of the text but also the text itself. They decide which cards make up the text. They decide what words are represented by the glyphs on the cards. They decide on the rules governing the relationships between the cards. Not only the meaning but the work itself is created through the interaction of viewer and object.

04 July 2005

More on Mrs Peel and something on Sartre

Rusty left a comment on the previous post about fond childhood and even adult memories of Mrs Peel. That reminded me of when I was on study leave in the seventh form and they played the Avengers on the telly late at night. Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale and Diana Rigg as Emma Peel were the first feminist (it could even be argued post-feminist) characters on the telly. There were a couple of examples in episodes I watched yesterday. In 'The Correct Way to Kill' we see the Russians files on Steed and Mrs Peel. For Steed they say 'Dangerous - handle with care', but for Mrs Peel they say 'Highly dangerous - do not handle at all'. And that's the state of it. The other one I watched yesterday - 'The Superlative Seven' (guest starring Donald Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, and Brian Blessed no less) - was one of many in which she rescues Steed.

That's just one of the attractions. There's many others, but I won't bore you with them now.

I haven't been watching 'em today though. I drew up a couple more ink drawings to go with the other one (the one Stephen liked). I think three in a row will be the go.

I spent most of the day reading Philosophers Behaving Badly, which I'm afraid is patchy. It did get me quite keen to do some more reading and thinking about existentialism. I think it has quite a bit of relevance for today, what with the American Right trying to redefine the term 'freedom' to suit its purposes. From the chapter on Sartre:

'Faced with a life that is contingent (in the sense of being limited, always liable to change and vulnerable to the actions of others) and futile, there can be no ultimate justification of anything: no absolute right or wrong to be read from a rule book. Through fear we may be tempted to refuse to accept responsibility for our actions and choices - and to fall back on an explanation of them in terms of outside influences, to accept a role that others would give us. And that ... is ... bad faith ... In particular, bad faith is acting a part, not being true to oneself ...

'Central to his thinking is the contrast between two types of being: the active, self-aware, thinking questioning for-itself and the impersonal material in-itself of encountered objects ... We have responsibility for thinking and choosing - that is what makes our being for-itself. But that can be threatening, because the for-itself is also a nothingness: it does not have the solid, physical reality of the objective in-itself world. There is therefore always a temptation to escape from the threat of nothingness by accepting an impersonal, stereotypical image of the self, making it an object rather than a thinking subject [this bit reminds me of Philip K Dick, who reckoned some people turn themselves into objects - 'reflex machines' he calls them]. To understand oneself simply as trying to be 'a waiter' or even 'a philosopher' [or 'an artist'] is to deny one's individual, thinking, choosing self. This is what Sartre calls acting in bad faith, the opposite of his existentialist ideal of acting authentically.'

And on that note I suppose I should go to bed, ready to play my inauthentic and bad faith role as senior editor tomorrow. Might have a cigarette first but.

03 July 2005

This and that

I sent off my entry for the Trust Waikato National Contemporary Art Awards last week. I decided to put the cards in, being the only thing I've done recently that I'm happy with. We'll see how we go.

I haven't had a very productive week apart from that though. This weekend's been a bit of a write off. I've been watching lots of classic Emma Peel-era Avengers episodes and really getting into that.

At the moment I'm sitting in front of the fire and wondering what to do about the horrible smell. I wasn't very on to it just before and put the coffee pot on the stove without any water in it, so have managed to comprehensively fuck the coffee pot and stink out the house in one fell swoop - and I've got to put up with a crap plunger coffee to boot.
visitors since 29 March 2004.