Archive for the Unwarranted criticism Category

Local Knowledge & Bedazzled at the Dowse

Posted in Grown-up Art, Unwarranted criticism on February 11, 2012 by brunswick

Local Knowledge: Dan Arps, Simon Faithfull, Veranoa Hetet, Mike Heynes, Julian Priest, Andrew Ross, Joe Sheehan, Ans Westra, Zheng Guogu and Fiona Jack
17th December 2011 – 23rd April 2012

Bedazzled: Royal NZ Ballet costumes designed by Kristian Fredrikson
26th November 2011 – 4th March 2012

Lots on at the Dowse. Their latest pamphlet covers 28 events until April. The big ground floor exhibition at the moment is Local Knowledge, a collection of material loosely grouped under the subject of “place, time and what it means to be at home”. To be honest, most of this stuff is fairly unspectacular. There’s a display by Julian Priest of a new time zone created for the Dowse which is calculated by how busy things are inside, but the equipment was broken when I saw it. Zheng Guogu has created a personal world in Age of Empires, represented by a ten minute video which doesn’t move much. There’s an elaborate installation by Dan Arps constructed from junk brought in by the Dowse staff which you can walk through, but it just looks like recycling day. The one video installation which is interesting and actually works is UK artist Simon Faithfull’s 0˚00 Navigation film, which shows him doggedly walking along the Greenwich Meridian, no matter what gets in his way. There’s the usual tasteful Ans Westra photos, a selection taken in Lower Hutt, Petone and Naenae showing ordinary people from previous decades. As a whole it’s all a bit antiseptic with rare flashes of humour – a cassette tape carved out of jade, and a selection of Fiona Jack’s collection of amateur paintings of local war memorials.

Upstairs is Bedazzled, a large collection of the Royal NZ ballet costumes designed by Kristian Fredrikson from the 1960s to the 1990s. The costumes are from crowdpleasing productions (A Christmas Carol, Swan Lake, Cinderella) but the costumes are detailed and subversive – seemingly fragile assemblages of fine fabrics which had to look good from a distance and withstand the rigours of performance. There’s also an interesting selection of his sketches and colour tests.





The energy drink you have when you’ve bought the T-shirt

Posted in Unwarranted criticism on February 8, 2012 by brunswick

Seize Power

At last, an energy drink for political science majors! The main attraction of this attractively-designed can is a picture (well, that picture, really) of Che Guevara’s puss. On the back it says “All people should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why”, which is not a quote from Che, or even Jesse Owens, but a misquote from James Thurber. How can I disapprove of a drink which quotes a cartoonist on the back?

Designed, developed & delivered to revolutionise your performance, stimulate metabolism, increase concentration & reaction speed during periods of mental & physical effort. Overcomes tiredness & stress for drivers, athletes, students and Revolutionaries.

I wonder if they’d consider sponsoring the Arab Spring? It also urges you to “Seize Power with Taurine & Multi B Vitamins”, which is not advice you’d give to the Occupy movement, but a fine example of how revolution can be packaged and commodified to sell anything from T-shirts to running shoes.

On the plus side, it tastes quite nice.

Imaginary Geographies submission

Posted in Grown-up Art, Lovely pictures, Unwarranted criticism on January 31, 2012 by brunswick

I managed to rouse myself sufficiently to send a photo to the Imaginary Geographies lightbox exhibition:

The full-sized print is three metres tall! Towards the bottom, barely visible at this size, is an extremely game Anita photographing Neil Dawson’s ‘Ferns’:

The additional submissions they’ve received and the design brief are viewable here. Looking at the other entries, I think we have just a good a chance as anyone else at getting one of the four spaces. At least we’ve read the brief and our entry is the correct proportions, not just plucked from a portfolio. What do you think, dear reader?

Like many creative fields in New Zealand (and as opposed to, say, brain surgery), if you say you’re an artist, you’re an artist. I don’t have much to do with Wellington’s fine arts scene – it’s interesting to see that while there’s a large number of very talented people out there, there’s also one or two whose close friends have apparently never had the balls to tell them that they’re utterly, utterly dreadful at art, and they should give up and do something more constructive with their evident talent for self-promotion.

The strongest energy drink in the world, apparently

Posted in Unwarranted criticism on January 10, 2012 by brunswick


Intriguing, this one. Advertised as “the world’s strongest energy drink” and expensive at $5 for a 250ml can, Ammo is a berry-flavoured drink with a strong, slightly unpleasant aftertaste. If you drink it from the can, it gives you an unnerving red Joker smile. It contains 80mg of caffeine (about the same as a can of Red Bull or V) and originally contained BZP – but Coke used to contain 9mg of cocaine, so there!

I’m not sure in what sense it’s the “strongest” energy drink – maybe it’s the 605 kilojoules of energy, 10g of panthothenic acid, or 1200mg of glucuronolactone? To its credit, apart from the “world’s strongest” claim, the ad copy isn’t too belligerent, apart from claiming that it “will make other energy drinks seem like a weak cup of tea”. And the (legally unenforceable) R18 rating. And the demand that it be served ice cold. And the name. And the bullet holes printed on the packaging. Oh, dear…

Recent updates

Posted in Graphic Novel review, Unwarranted criticism, Utter Trivia on January 6, 2012 by brunswick

Scarlet by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

Green River Killer: A True Detective Story by Jeff Jensen & Jonathan Case

Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales adapted by Seymour Chwast

The Armed Garden and Other Stories by David B.

Baaa humbug

Life with Mr. Dangerous by Paul Hornschemeier

The authentic voice of the streets

Mr. Murder is Dead by Victor Quinaz & Brent Schoonover

Zombies Vs. Robots: Undercity by Chris Ryall & Mark Torres

Seven things I hate about Auckland

Auckland Art Gallery

Auckland Art Gallery

Posted in Bloody brilliant observations, Lovely pictures, Unwarranted criticism on December 31, 2011 by brunswick

Okay, here’s the problem, see? Te Papa has a huge collection of valuable art, and no permanent place to display it. Most of their collection is in storage, which is either a huge shame or a minor crime, depending on how you feel about New Zealand’s cultural heritage. The City Gallery holds several fine exhibitions a year, but it isn’t large enough for permanent exhibitions. Wellington has contended for years that it deserves a large and costly national art gallery to display the nation’s treasures properly.

The new Auckland Art Gallery is the art gallery that Wellington has always thought it deserved.

The renovated galleries are beautiful and airy with wooden vaulted ceilings. The expansions marry to the historic older building sympathetically, with a detailed history of the renovations in one of the long galleries, and the occasional transparent section allowing you to see an original fixture.

The North Atrium is currently occupied by Choi Jeong Hwa’s Flower Chandelier, a fun inflatable monstrosity that even Jeff Koons would find kitsch. Although this space is huge, they seem to have missed a trick by not extending it down another level – the street entrance underneath is cramped and low-ceilinged, with an awkward bag check, and a floor slick from the inevitable Auckland rain.

Also unfortunate is the contents of the first gallery you walk into from the entrance, the contemporary art section of Toi Aotearoa, a major exhibition of New Zealand art from its beginnings to the present which fills six huge rooms. Colin McCahon, Gordon Walters, Rita Angus, there’s something from each of the greats. The new stuff is very poor compared to the rest, and suggests that contemporary art is threadbare of craft and inspiration, which isn’t a good first impression.

Best to start at the very top, with an exceptional exhibition of the work of John Pule. His huge unframed canvases can be inspected closely (rather too closely, I thought, when I noticed some small children leaning against them) and his prints examined in detail.

They’re prints! Not comics! 18 pages of illustrations accompanied by text has nothing to do with comics! Don’t even suggest it!

Downstairs in the international historic art galleries there’s a exhibition called British and French Modernism: Defying Conventions which contains minor but fascinating works by Picasso, Henry Moore and Dali. This leads to a collection of recently discovered work by Frances Hodgkins. The same level has a pop art exhibition (called, annoyingly, Whiz Bang Pop) with work by Bridget Riley and Luc Peire. There’s a Len Lye kinetic sculpture down the hall. This place is an embarrassment of riches. I was particularly pleased to be able to examine Pieter Brueghel’s A Village Fair up close, as well as James Tissot’s intricate etching Octobre.

After spending six hours over three days I’d only seen about three-quarters of the collection, but there’s lots of guides available so you can skip the bits you’re not interested in. These are written in a breathlessly enthusiastic style which might make you wince if you’re already an art lover whose enthusiasm doesn’t need to be engaged – it points out that Jacob Epstein’s Torso in Metal from the ‘Rock Drill’ (1913-16) “predates Star Wars’ battle droids and was created long before Sigourney Weaver was chased around her spaceship in the Alien series”, which is good to know if you were worried that Epstein had spooky precognitive powers, or that there was anything original about The Phantom Menace.

The marketing squad, after an intensive brainstorming session, discovered that the word “art” has three letters in it, and by massive coincidence also appeared in the name of the gallery (after the “Auckland” and before the “Gallery”), and as a result all signage and promotional material is emblazoned with labels incorporating three words which have a red A, R and T buried in them – the sculpture terrace is promoted as A Sculpture Terrace, the What’s On pamphlet is subtitled A Curious Visit and undoubtedly the toilets would’ve been labelled Anus Relief Time if the Fanta hadn’t worn off at that point and common sense kicked back in.

Overall this is a magnificent set of buildings, and I hope that eventually Aucklanders realize what a gem it is and start visiting, and Wellington doesn’t squeal too loudly when it realizes what it’s missed.

The drink for when you feel like 3000 ORAC units

Posted in Unwarranted criticism on December 20, 2011 by brunswick

Ti Tonics: Blueberry, Grapeseed & White Tea

A pleasant blueberry drink which is 92% spring water, with “natural cane sugar” the next listed ingredient, which isn’t very encouraging. It’s certainly very sweet. The big health draw is 3000 ORAC units, which it claims is equivalent to “5 plus servings of fruit or vegetables”.

It turns out an ORAC is not a ground-up LOTR villain or the supercomputer from Blakes 7, but stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, a way of measuring antioxidant strengths. Wikipedia has a handy entry on ORACs which inconveniently points out “the relationship between ORAC values and a health benefit has not been established” and they “cannot currently be interpreted as relevant to human diets or biology.” Ouch!

Instead of the “THIS WILL MAKE YOU A BIG STRONG MANLY MAN” approach of many energy drinks, the packaging blurb appeals to your love of science with numbers and two footnotes*, and a reproduction of the signature of the founder, who is a doctor. Of health psychology. Of course.

*Unfortunately one of them isn’t “the science around ORACs is a bit iffy, so don’t drink one of these as a substitute for five servings of fruit and vegetables”.

The Adventures of Tintin

Posted in Sound & Vision, Unwarranted criticism on December 19, 2011 by brunswick

The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

What a curious piece of entertainment this is. A project doubtless born of sincerity appears to have been swallowed up whole by the blockbuster machine, birthing a film which will please American filmgoers who have never heard of Tintin before, and annoying pretty much everyone else, especially the serious fans. There’s a great beginning with a 2D animated title sequence (if only the rest of the film had been like that!) and a fun opening scene paying homage to Hergé, but soon the action film cliches are being layered on with a digital shovel.

Many things about the plot make absolutely no sense, the result of stitching together The Secret of the Unicorn, bits of The Crab with the Golden Claws and the ending of Red Rackham’s Treasure, and then stamping up and down on the lino to force out the air bubbles. Spielberg seems determined to atone for Indiana Jones 4 by constantly referencing classic Indy, adding gratuitous firearms, a blizzard of action, exotic locations and nausea-inducing swoops through Weta’s gorgeous but over-detailed universe, to the thudding accompaniment of a John Williams score. No corner of the screen is left unstuffed, no moment left silent. The actors do their best (notably Jamie Bell filling out Tintin’s cipher of a character) but they might as well have hired nobodies and saved themselves a few bucks. Really? The pilot was played by Cary Elwes? DID NOT NOTICE.

Hergé’s style was all about simplification. All unnecessary detail was stripped out of his influential artwork; no shadows, shading, or women*. Weta’s heroic craftsmanship has resulted in an overstuffed mise-en-scene, a world full of grotesque faces and cartoon physics. It looks so realistic, why bother with motion capture at all? Yes, there’s slapstick in the original, but just because you can do an incredible one-shot set piece involving a city, an opened dam, hundreds of Moroccans, a tank, a motorbike and a falcon DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO.

*You know it’s true. Bianca Castafiore turns up briefly as an anti-Bond girl, she and Tintin’s landlady Mrs Finch are the only named female characters.

Imaginary Geographies

Posted in Unwarranted criticism on December 13, 2011 by brunswick

Imaginary Geographies
A Light Box Project
Courtenay Place, December 8th 2011 – April 2012

Great title, strong concept, iffy execution, like so many of the previous Light Box projects. I’m not saying that all the work in an art exhibition should be produced especially for that exhibition, it’s just when there’s pre-made art and a very specific manifesto, you have to wonder if the artist just looked through their existing portfolio and thought “What can I bung in?” The photos of waves crashing on Piha Beach by Korean artist Jae Hoon Lee are magnificent (and impressively crisp for such a huge digital image), it’s just I’ve seen them before, uncropped, hanging on a doctor’s office wall to give an impression of calm.

Alex Dorfsman has also gone for the default Light Box option of huge landscape photos, this time presented as slides, taken all over Mexico but labelled as places such as Thailand and Ireland. This reminds us that New Zealand is valued by film crews for the versatility of our landscapes, and also emphasizes that there are rather a lot of places around the world that look like parts of Mexico.

Kate Woods has cleverly overlaid photos of Wellington with vines and trees in her Futureworld series, although with the same Control-V vine pattern used everywhere, this is done more for artistic effect, not a photorealistic effect to scientifically show long-term building decay, which also would’ve been interesting. Or maybe it’s just me.

I liked Australian Elaine Campaner’s photos best, shots of epic landscapes and oceans which are actually tabletop model shots, with tiny railway-model scale figures in the foreground for an audience, and commemorative china expanding on the scenes.

Two of the lightboxes are empty, to encourage four more contributions, although I don’t know if the additional artists are paid. Details for submissions are here, there’s already a few photos that people just had lying around. I’d like to try this, except I think I might produce something new.

The Mad Square: Modernity in German Art 1910-1937

Posted in Unwarranted criticism on December 4, 2011 by brunswick

The Mad Square: Modernity in German Art 1910-1937
NGV International, Melbourne
25th November – 4th March

A world-class exhibition of artwork reflecting modern Germany’s second most fucked-up period. A huge timeline on a corridor connecting one of the three enormous rooms details the disintegration of German society and the buildup to the Third Reich, and a pleasant tale it is not. Australia was a popular destination for the “degenerate” artists fortunate enough to be kicked out of Germany before things really got nasty, even though it must’ve been a mixed blessing for someone like Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack to go from being a star of the Bauhaus to teaching art at Geelong Grammar School.

The arrangement of the exhibition is curious. It starts with a projection of Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari (1920) and then displays some fascinatingly wretched prints and paintings documenting the fraying of post-WWI German society by the likes of George Grosz, Max Beckmann and Otto Dix. It then moves on to propaganda posters and the fun parts of Dada, including Kurt Schwitters and a large collection of work by photomontage pioneer Hannah Höch.

Then there’s some informal photographs from daily life at the Bauhaus schools (which, being Bauhaus, manage to be surprisingly formal) and some fine examples of furniture, imported to Australia (and in many cases well-used for generations before being donated to museums). There’s an honest-to-God Wassily chair. You know, the one everyone thinks of when they think of modern furniture. Then there’s some impressive geometric work from El Lissitzky and that crowd.

Near the end it becomes a bit random, as though they were trying to fit in stuff they couldn’t find room for before. There’s more Grosz and Beckmann and New Objectivists, jumbled together in a long corridor and leading to some fantastic film posters for Metropolis (1927), then a video loop of that famous film, and finally some iconic photomontages from John Heartfield and a selection from the first Degenerate Art exhibition, including an unpleasantly antisemetic poster.

We spent about two hours examining this treasury of mental disintegration, and when it was announced the gallery was closing, there was barely time to visit the gift shop. Surprisingly, although it had a huge collection of art books, they don’t seem to have capitalized on this exhibition to the same extent that, say, Te Papa did with their European Masters exhibition at the start of the year, featuring several of the same artists. There was just a few postcards and a set of fridge magnets. I suppose it’s not all about the merchandise.