New Zealand

States of the Arts


in Pursuit of Venus [infected]

by Lisa Reihana
Video art

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A verdant coastline stretches across a wall twenty-five metres long. It moves from right to left, as if a narrative revealed by an unfurling scroll. There is no start or end; the image shifts constantly, with each loop taking around half an hour. The background is a CGI rendering of a work of nineteenth-century wallpaper, albeit with a host of figures added through an act of ‘digital gardening’. The people who populate the panorama are performers, acting out anecdotes from Captain Cook’s journals. For the most part, they face away from us, oblivious to our voyeuristic gaze.

Words by John Wadsworth

Heavenly Creatures

directed by Peter Jackson
Feature film

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Pauline and Juliet are consumed by a fantasy world, carefully constructed and recorded in a novel of their invention. They hope that the work of fiction will one day be accepted by a New York publisher; until then, it is theirs alone to enjoy. As the young women bond over painting, modelling clay, and the records of Mario Lanza, we watch their intense relationship unfold. At times, we observe their obsessive creation at a distance; at others, we are helplessly dragged in with them. As music and tonal shifts slip the action into the realm of make-believe, humour is paired with horror.

Words by Sophia Martin-Pavlou

Octopus Auckland: 8 Suburbs

by Karlo Mila

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We are gifted a set of eight poetic postcards, each portraying a different Auckland suburb. In Mission Bay, the tide is prone to stealing ‘recycled treasure from the shoreline’, sneaking up the sand before retreating once more. In Ponsonby, ‘A smeared oil rainbow licks the gutter / glittering fat / reflecting colour’, as inhabitants sip coffee and take to the wheels of their four-wheel drives. When the narrator breaks from the suburb-per-stanza structure, we are informed that the city is not their hometown. It has wrapped its tentacles around their skin, leaving ‘welts and bites / of place and location’.

Words by John Wadsworth

Inner City Pressure

by Flight of the Conchords

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As a self-consciously serious chart-topper influenced by T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’, the Pet Shop Boys’ ‘West End Girls’ seems to invite spoof. Step up, ‘New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk parody duo’, to rib Neil Tennant’s po-faced description of urban strife. The metallic synths and vocoder vocals are matched by contrived rhymes: in a typical couplet, pressure leads us to lose perspective, ‘like a picture by Escher’. Like Tennant, Flight of the Conchords play at being inner-city tour guides, but are less concerned about hiding the fact that they, too, are tourists.

Words by John Wadsworth

More to discover

in Pursuit of Venus [infected]: Read more here. Mark Amery has interviewed Lisa Reihana for Circuit Cast, as has Kate Brettkelly-Chalmers for Ocula. Judith Ryan has written about the work for the National Gallery of Victoria site.

Heavenly Creatures: Watch the re-release trailer here. See an excerpt from the film here. Rachel Vorona Cote has written about the film's protagonists for The Muse, and Scott Tobias has written about the film for The A.V. Club

Octopus Auckland: 8 Suburbs: Read the poem here.

Inner City Pressure: Listen to the song here, beginning at 00:51. Sam Adams has interviewed Flight of the Conchords for The A.V. Club.

Question of the day

Which New Zealand artworks would you recommend, and why? Let us know on Facebook, Patreon, or Twitter.

The Piano, a film directed by Jane Campion. It captures so much about that colonial fantasy of civilising the wilderness, and makes something truly strange. (→)

– Emma Donoghue, author (The Wonder, Room) (via The Brief →)

The Luminaries, a novel by Eleanor Catton. It transports you completely to gold-mining, colonial West Coast New Zealand. (→)

– Lauren Spiceley, Silent Frame reader (via Facebook →)

Read more: Oceanian artworks