Saturday, February 27, 2010

Raiding Act's art farm



One of New Zealand's richest men is opening his property to visitors this weekend - though entry comes at a price. Alan Gibbs' farm near Kaukapakapa, in the southern part of the Kaipara harbour region, is famous for its sculpture park and its strange animals, but few Kiwis have had the opportunity to visit it. Now, for a mere two hundred and fifty dollars, 'standard' visitors can wander about Gibbs' place on foot. 'Premium' guests, who will have forked out a cool grand, get a guided tour by jeep. Both sets of visitors will be free to examine the series of massive sculptures which Gibbs has commissioned for his property over the past decade. Guests will also get to hear Gibbs and Roger Douglas give talks on the topic 'What I would do if I were dictator of New Zealand for a year'.

Gibbs made his fortune in the eighties and early nineties, when he was intimately involved in the privatisation of assets like Telecom and New Zealand's exotic forests, and he remains an enthusiastic advocate of the neo-liberal economics that made him wealthy. He has had a close association with the Act Party, and in the lead-up to the 2008 election he donated two hundred thousand dollars to the organisation, helping it scrape back into parliament. The money raised by the 'open day' at Gibbs' property will be thrown at two right-wing websites, the New Zealand Centre for Political Research, which is run by former Act MP Muriel Newman, and the Centre for Resource Management Studies, which is headed by climate change 'sceptic' Owen McShane.

Fortunately, readers of this blog don't need to hand over large sums of money to the far right to enter Gibbs' secret kingdom - two of our regular readers, Maxine and Muzzlehatch, recently raided the place, and returned with images and analysis. I've interviewed them, and reproduced a few of their pictures.

Maxine: You can call it an art raid.

Muzzlehatch: But we weren't armed.

Maxine: No. Only with a camera.

Maps: Was it hard to get in?

Muzzlehatch: I think that Alan Gibbs as a principled capitalist believes in paying minimum wage to as many of his employees as possible. The security guards who are supposed to patrol the edges of his domain aren't exactly, y'know -

Maxine: Motivated. Imagine a fat guy with a walrus moustache slumped snoring over a half-eaten pie...

Maps: Falling asleep on sentry duty? That could get you shot in wartime...

Maxine: We just wanted to have a look. It's a big property. Four square kilometres. Hills rolling gently down to the harbour, their grass mown and manicured, occasional herds of strange animals like alpacas and zebras, and these huge sculptures, most of them in a minimalist style - well, minimalist but monumental, simple forms and immense size...

Muzzlehatch: Gibbs likes to boast that he only wants the biggest work an artist has ever produced -

Maxine: The sculptures are distributed quite evenly across the property, from the hills down to the sea. The work which particularly interested us, Richard Serra's Tuhirangi Contour - a subtly curving two hundred and fifty-seven metre wall made of carefully rusted steel - is visible from the road that runs south beside the Kaipara harbour on the way to Auckland. Once you sight that strip of deep red unfurling itself over the low hills to your right - well, if you're an aesthete, you're going to be tempted to stop...but then you park the car, you get out, and you find a high fence, and signs warning you away -

Muzzlehatch: Gibbs is sending out mixed messages -

Maps: But isn't that the nature of prestige objects, like luxury cars or expensive artworks? In order for these things to function as status symbols, they have to be displayed and protected at the same time. They have to be obtrusive, and they have to be exclusive. You get them flashed in your face, so that you know you can't have them.

Maxine: Alan Gibbs is a tease!

Maps: He's a tease. He wants you to know that he has this collection of massive, expensive artworks, and he wants you to know that he won't share his toys with you -

Muzzlehatch: Unless you want to fork out to his favourite charities...

Maxine: And that is what is disappointing about his so-called 'open day'. He's using the artworks he has commissioned and bought to support a narrow political agenda.

Muzzlehatch: Less than four percent of Kiwis voted for Act. They shouldn't even be in parliament. They're not exactly popular in the arts community, which tends to vote left.

Maps: I would say that even some Act members would have worries about some of the stuff that the New Zealand Centre for Political Research and the Centre for Resource Management Studies - what absurdly anodyne names they are! - turn out. The NZCPR promotes an extremely conservative line on moral and social questions - a family equals Mum, Dad and two and a half kids, New Zealand is a Christian nation, feminism, secularism and atheism are mortal threats - and also advances bizarre conspiracy theories about New Zealand history.

Muriel Newman, for instance, has published stuff on the site defending the theories of Martin Doutre, the Holocaust denier and 9/11 Truther who claims that historians and archaeologists and of course 'radical Maori' are working together to suppress evidence that New Zealand was settled thousands of years ago by peaceful white people who created an advanced civilisation but were subsequently wiped out by brutal and bestial Maori. Newman has also gone into bat for Gavin Menzies, the pseudo-historian who thinks that Chinese discovered New Zealand, and who claims that Maori are the descendants of Melanesian slaves who escaped from their Chinese masters and took their masters' Chinese concubines as wives. Newman is the editor of the site, so her defence of this sort of racist pseudo-history has to be taken seriously.

The NZCPR forum is infected with paranoid anti-semites like Clare Swinney, who thinks 9/11 was an inside job, and Sid Wilson, the leader of the neo-Nazi National Front. Swinney alone has made hundreds of posts to the forum advertising her views and various anti-semitic events. I see no sign she's ever been restrained by Newman...

Muzzlehatch: The site sounds like a dating agency for right-wing oddballs...

Maps: Act still bills itself as the 'liberal party', even though it's been making attempts to appeal to the redneck vote for years, and I think its remaining liberal members - I mean the people in Epsom and Karori who think that the free market is great, but don't have a problem with civil unions or the Treaty of Waitangi - would feel pretty uncomfortable with a lot of the stuff on NZCPR. And then there's the Centre for Resource Management Studies, the other outfit Gibbs is raising money for, which claims that global warming is a huge commie conspiracy! But I wanted to get back to the art. As you two know from first-hand experience, Gibbs' farm contains one of New Zealand's largest and most expensive collections of sculptures. There is work by leading Kiwi artists like Ralph Hotere, as well as big international names like Richard Serra. Maxine: Excuse me. You shouldn't talk about big New Zealand names and big international names as though they're mutually exclusive categories. I consider that Ralph is a major international name, as well as one of New Zealand's greatest living artists -

Maps: Sorry. I was going to point out that, even though it is as important and as substantial as some of collections of our larger galleries and museums, the Gibbs hoard exists beyond the reach of trust boards, and curators, and art critics, and even the vast majority of the art-loving public. It can only be accessed at Gibbs' pleasure. Does Gibbs' decision to use his collection to promote his own ideology, which we can perhaps charitably call eccentric, raise questions about the fundamental rights of artists, and perhaps also of everyone who loves art? Do the creators of the work at Gibbs' farm have any right - I'm talking about moral rights, rather than legal ones, here - to object to the way it is being used? What about the wider public? Or can Gibbs do as he pleases? Maxine: I'm sure he'd say he can do as he pleases. But I can acknowledge he can do as he pleases and still disapprove of what he does...

Maps: I wonder, though, what some of the creators of the work which adorns Gibbs' property would think of the purposes to which it is being put? I mean, here we have people paying money to what can fairly be described as a Maori-bashing site like NZCPR for the privilege of seeing, amongst other things, a sculpture by Ralph Hotere, a man whose work is filled with tributes to his whakapapa and to the struggles of Maori against discrimination and marginalisation. Maxine: Well, Ralph Hotere has always had a slightly ambiguous attitude to his Maori identity. He moved far away from his place of birth in Maori Northland. He has often worked in a very abstract style, and he has said at least once that he doesn't want to be considered a Maori artist, as that label is somewhat limiting. As I said earlier, he really is an international figure. On the other hand there is no sign he is ashamed of his Maori ancestry, and I doubt whether he would appreciate the ravings of rednecks who think that the Maori seats in parliament are a threat to democracy...

Maps: But I think that works like the Black Phoenix installation, where Hotere took the remains of a wrecked and burnt ship and constructed a sort of marae out of them, alluding in the process to events in the history of the people of the far north, show that he is engaged with Maori experience and history. Many people saw Black Phoenix as a commentary on Maori experience in the nineteenth and twentieth century - despite the destruction brought by colonisation something new has emerged...Moving on, though, I wanted to discuss the case of Richard Serra, whose Tuhirangi Contour obviously impressed you when you visited Gibbs' farm.

Maxine: It was the only work that impressed us, and it impressed us very much.

Maps: Serra has strongly left-wing political views. He has criticised the 'greed' which he thinks characterises modern American society, and in 2004 he produced a crayon drawing of an inmate of Abu Ghraib prison along with the words STOP BUSH. I think it'd be fair to say that Serra's politics are inimical to those of Act, which calls for a flat tax rate and wanted New Zealand to join the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Is it a problem that this man's work is being used to raise money for the extreme right?

Muzzlehatch: That's a pretty vague question. What sort of problem are you talking about, and who do you think has it?

Maps: Well I think it might be a problem for Serra's approach to art - I'll come to that later - but I also think it raises ethical questions relating to the treatment of commissioned artworks.

Muzzlehatch: I've been meaning to ask: how many conservatives are going to want to see the modernist and postmodernist sculptures on this farm? Serra is a very uncompromising modernist. He doesn't make any concessions to old-fashioned ideas of beauty. In my experience, people with conservative views of the world also have conservative views of art. They still haven't caught up with modernism, let alone postmodernism. They think that Picasso was a fraud, they think that poetry should rhyme -

Maps: I was googling up some stuff on Gibbs' farm, and I ran into a blog post by Peter Cresswell, who runs the libertarian Not PC site. Cresswell had seen some images of the works on Gibbs' property and become upset that his hero had wasted so much money on these things that weren't 'real art'...

Maxine: And the people who would appreciate the work on the farm are not likely to be in a position to pay a thousand bucks to see it. Let's face it - artists live on the bones of their arses...

Maps: I don't know of too many artists or writers who would fall over themselves to hear Roger Douglas fantasise about what he'd do if he were dictator of New Zealand, either -

Muzzlehatch: Cruel and unusual punishment! The people with the money and desire to attend the event will probably be Act supporters. Hardcore Act supporters. Libertarians, too, I guess. And they'll probably cough politely when they see those huge sculptures that don't look much like Laocoon or David, and wait impatiently for the Douglas speech...

Maps: I still think it's worth raising the question of the rights of an artwork's creators, and of the wider community, over that artwork, even after it has disappeared into the clutches of a private collector. Would it be acceptable for Alan Gibbs to charge money to see 'his' sculptures, if the money went to, say, a neo-Nazi group? Would it be acceptable for Gibbs to destroy 'his' collection, if he got bored with it? I think that if there's a possibility that an important artwork held in private hands will be either egregiously misused or destroyed, then the state has not only the right but the responsibility to step in.

Muzzlehatch: I don't think a libertarian would agree with you.

Maps: But there are only a few of those strange creatures in the whole country. And we regularly see the state intervening to protect pieces of land - urupa, other historic sites, places of beauty, and so on - from desecration or outright destruction at the hands of developers. Often these interventions occur as a result of public pressure. Can't an analogy be made with art?

Maxine: Alas, the public doesn't have the same affection for avant-garde art that it has for pohutakawa-shaded glades... Maps: I wanted to ask you two a little more about your view of what we might call the social function of Richard Serra's art. Despite his politics, Serra has often been perceived as a sculptor who is indifferent, or even hostile, to the people who have to live and work amidst his creations. In 1981 he created a huge black wall called Tilted Arc and installed it in New York City's Federal Plaza. This piece upset the office workers who liked to eat their lunches in the plaza, because it created shadows, and because it cut up their precious open space. Despite many complaints, Serra refused to relocate Tilted Arc. In interviews he talked of wanting to create 'anti-environments' in places like Federal Plaza, and attacked people like the office workers for thinking that they have 'proprietory rights' over the landscapes they inhabit. In 1989, Tilted Arc was pulled out of the Federal Plaza and turned to scrap metal.

Other works by Serra have created controversies similar to the one ignited by the wall in Federal Plaza. By its very nature, minimalist art is devoid of explicit reference to social and political realities. It is perhaps the most abstract form of abstract art. Some detractors of minimalism have argued that, because of its lack of reference to anything outside itself, it is liable to be co-opted by wealthy individuals and big corporations who might be disturbed by other types of contemporary art. 'Corporate minimalism' has become a derogatory term for a certain type of artwork that adorns many office interiors around the world. Is there a sense in which Serra's career bears out the critique of miniamlism I've been describing? Is the appropriation of Tuhirangi Contour by Gibbs another example of the dangers of minimalist art? Maxine: The trouble with your question is that it assumes all of Serra's work is cut from the same cloth, and - more seriously - that the uses to which an artwork is put define the essence of that artwork. Artists change and develop - even minimalists like Serra! As an aside, I don't think Serra would say his work had no reference to the 'real world'. I think he is trying to use very simple shapes and very strong materials - walls made of steel, for example - to express some of the primal qualities, some of the most basic and yet most elsuive qualities, of the natural world. A lot of minimalists have a mystical edge. Serra is probably more like a mystical Abstract Expressionist painter like Mark Rothko than a postmodernist jokester like Andy Warhol.

Maps: So you think it's unfair to try to connect Tuhirangi Contour with Tilted Arc?

Maxine: Tuhirangi Contour may be a step sideways. It may be step away from the uncompromising, unfriendly nature of that early work. But you have to disassociate Tuhirangi Contour from Alan Gibbs. Gibbs commissioned the work, he is using the work for politcal ends - but he does not define the work. The work transcends him. Gibbs does not understand art. Gibbs likes Tuhirangi Contour because it is a) really big and b) a little bit cryptic. It gives him a sense of power and exclusivity to own such a work. But artists have always needed a pay cheque. Don't assume Serra was serving Gibbs' agenda when he created the work.

Muzzlehatch: This size thing does make you wonder. Is Gibbs trying to compensate for something...

Maxine: Serra's work is powerful enough to transcend its origins and its misuse. It will live on long after Gibbs is dead and forgotten. Not only is it beautiful - it is super-durable! We're talking about two hundred and fifty-seven metres of steel. It's strong. It's ballsy, and not in the empty macho way that Gibbs probably likes to think he's ballsy. It defies the manicured lawns and careful partitions of Gibbs' farm. It follows the ancient contours of the landscape, of the Kaipara hills, and not the artificial order of the farm. It is like the wrecks you see sticking out of the sand at the north head of the Kaipara harbour - it is already ancient and ruined and eternal, even though it has only existed for a decade or so. It doesn't create an 'anti-environment', like Serra's American work supposedly did - it fuses itself with the environment, with the landscape. You put your hand on it and you can feel the flow of the hills, and also the warmth of the sun. It is organic. It reminds me of the ancient stone monuments of Britain. They've been tidied up, they've had their surroundings weeded and mown, thanks to history societies and the tourist industry - but they will still exist when the grass is long again, when weeds are growing out of the roads the tour buses run down...

Maps: So art is more powerful than money?

Maxine: Great art is. As I say, the other stuff on the farm isn't memorable - it looks gimmicky, it looks like it's been dropped on the landscape, it hasn't found a place in the landscape -

Muzzlehatch: A lot of them look like the toys dropped by forgetful infant giants. Huge but garish - and childish.

Maps: I wanted to ask about the way Gibbs is treating the farm as a whole. Reading accounts of his efforts to shape his private kingdom - of the vast amount of mowing and manicuring he pays for, to keep the property looking like some English country estate, and of his importation of species like the zebra and the peacock - I'm reminded of the way that members of the bourgeoisie treated places like Kawau and Motutapu islands in the nineteenth century. I think of Grey stocking Kawau with wallabies and peacocks and bringing in hundreds of foreign plants, and of Auckland's upper class establishing buffalo herds on Motutapu so that they could go shooting there.

Sociologist Bruce Curtis gave an interesting paper a few years ago in which he argued that in the nineteenth century the new owners of New Zealand attempted to transform it, by altering the landscape and introducing new species, in an effort to make it less alien, less 'other' -

Muzzlehatch: To feel more at home.

Maps: To disguise the fact that they were intruders in a land which had been settled by another people many hundreds of years ago, and which had been empty of humans for an almost inconceivably long time before that - to escape the otherness which our early Pakeha literary nationalists recognised and described, the otherness Ian Hamilton described when he wrote of the 'soft rainy silence' of the bush, the otherness that Allen Curnow wrote into his agraphobic early poetry -

Muzzlehatch: But why would Alan Gibbs feel so ill at ease here?

Maps: Isn't there a sort of perverse utopianism at work on Gibbs' farm - isn't he trying, with all his weeding and mowing, with his exotic species, with his alien sculptures, to expatriate himself, to forget he is in New Zealand?

Maxine: You don't feel like you're in New Zealand when you're on his farm. The miles of manicured lawns, the grids of gates and fences, the herds of exotic toy animals...it's a relief when you reach the top of a hill and look west out to the Kaipara harbour and to hills of scrub on adjacent properties, and ragged herds of mangy sheep - it's a relief to be able to see your way out of this artificial landscape.

Maps: There is a sense of disappointed utopianism about the whole political project represented by Act. Roger Douglas predicted the party would win over half the votes cast in the first MMP election, but it has always struggled with the 5% barrier, and it is now, in the words of Douglas himself, in danger of 'going out of business'. Douglas, Gibbs and their ilk frequently seem frustrated by the ingratitude and backwardness of Kiwis - why, they wonder, don't we want to revisit the halcyon days of Rogernomics, why do we vote again and again against a new programme of privatisations, why do we cling to the welfare state, why have we failed to become a thriving nation of entrepeneurs, the Hong Kong or Singapore of the South Pacific?

Douglas and Gibbs will be speaking at the fundraiser about what they would do if they were dictator of New Zealand, and in a sense this is what Act has been reduced to - fantasising about circumventing the constraints of bourgeois democracy and bourgeois legalism, about fearlessly and brutally remoulding society against the wishes but in the interests of ordinary recalcitrant Kiwis. In a sense, Gibbs' attempts to transform his farm into something bizarre and foreign are an expression of his loathing for this country he is stuck with -

Muzzlehatch: Well, he's not stuck here. He's got lots of money to travel -

Maps: Apparently he's spent the last few years travelling the world by helicopter! He says he loves the voyeurism of seeing the world from five hundred feet in the air...

Muzzlehatch: The dirty old man!

Maxine: It's the perfect expression of that peculiar alienation that the very rich often experience, isn't it?

Muzzlehatch: Above the world, but not of it...There's something else I'd like to mention. The Kaipara is a strange region. It is full of eccentrics. The night before we raided Gibbs' farm we stayed on the end of one of the peninsulas that pushes out into the centre of the harbour. There was a guy who was living in a hut, waiting for doomsday, drinking cheap beer, loading his shotgun. There was a bunch of hippies along the road who seemed to be obsessed with Lord of the Rings - they had built themselves a house which resembled in every respect the digs of the hobbits in the movie...The Kaipara seems to attract people who can't really live easily in the world. Perhaps it is the nature of the landscape - it doesn't overpower you like New Zealand's more mountanous, bushy regions, it is quite subtle, low hills and a grey smooth harbour. Perhaps it leaves a lot for an overactive imagination to do? Maybe Alan Gibbs is a just a high-rolling eccentric? Maybe his farm is really no different from the hobbit house we saw?

47 Comments:

Blogger Paul said...

What ghastly snobbery saturates this page: the raiders understand Art, but the dumb patron just wants big things. And of course, the ACT supporters are too conservative to appreciate Modernism. They cannot understand or feel; they are not Bohemian like us.

It is no wonder that lefties and arties are so detested.

Much as I love the work of Serra, he can hardly be called a leftist when he shows the contempt for ordinary people evidenced in Federal Plaza, and the willingness to work for millionaires evidenced here. To claim that Gibbs has somehow "appropriated" the work is absurd: Serra made it for him and took his money for his efforts

9:41 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hullo...trespassing is a crime!

I hope you lot ROT in the CAN.

10:32 pm  
Blogger maps said...

'the raiders understand Art, but the dumb patron just wants big things. And of course, the ACT supporters are too conservative to appreciate Modernism. They cannot understand or feel; they are not Bohemian like us'.

Except for the Bohemian bit (I'm far too uncool to be a Bohemian) I don't mind this summary at all.

The mode of thought which the Act Party represents is relentlessly commercial and calculative, determined to reduce everything in the world to a commodity with a known financial value. The very name Association of Consumers and Taxpayers shows the organisation's mindset. We are not human beings and members of a community; we are cogs in a capitalist economy.

The qualitative, flexible thinking involved in the arts is foreign to the ideology Act represents.
Act's shocking arts and education policies - its proposals for the commercialisation and privatisation of library services, its religious support for crudely quantitative 'national standards' testing in education - bear out this fact.

I don't think we need to be snobs to celebrate demanding genres of art and those individuals who excel in them. Are we snobs when we recognise the achievements of elite athletes? I can admire the century Brendon McCullum made today without abasing myself before him, or insulting people who can't play as well as him; in the same way, I can admire an avant-garde artist like Richard Serra without implicitly writing off everyone who doesn't enjoy or understand him.

11:21 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

I agree that ACT policies are awful, but that is not the point. The point is that the one patron of Serra's work in New Zealand is an ACT supporter. The assumption of the post is that he cannot possibly be alive to the work's meanings, because he is an ACT supporter: rich people with right-wing opinions cannot be sensitive to the arts. Leaving aside the fact that most patrons have been rich and right-wing, the post reeks of the most appalling snobbery. You three know nothing of Gibbs' sensibilities, yet you assume he cannot have a genuine love of Serra's work because of his wealth and his political opinions. Equally, you assume that other ACT supporters cannot be aesthetically progressive. The only evidence you can bring to support this claim is an objection to Gibbs' patronage by Peter Cresswell, who is not an ACT supporter.

The snobbery here is not about appreciating demanding art or writing off those who do not understand such art, it is about the assumption that others must be mere vulgarians because they have different political opinions.

11:56 pm  
Blogger maps said...

We're not just talking about different political opinions, we're talking about completely different *modes of thinking*.

Some of the greatest creative artists of the modernist era were reactionaries - TS Eliot, Ezra Pound, and so on - but they would have been repulsed by the mode of thought that Act represents.

Many of the great modernists were conservatives because they wanted to preserve the cultural and environmental heritage they felt was under threat in an age of wars and revolutions; even if they were snobs, the likes of Eliot at least valued culture and the environment.

The vast majority of today's right-wingers, by contrast, are inveterate philistines. The crudely calculative mode of thought they advance separates them from the conservatives of fifty years ago.

It's true, of course, that a lot of people on the left have also succumbed to their own version of the type of thinking that Act employ. This chap is a good example:
http://readingthemaps.blogspot.com/2009/04/arguing-with-ted-bracey_09.html

12:15 am  
Blogger Paul said...

The 'mode of thinking' employed by Eliot and Pound was anti-semitism.

12:49 am  
Blogger maps said...

And you accuse me of being simplistic, old boy!

12:55 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LEFT-WING TERRORISTS!

BASTARDS!

8:08 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Richard Serra said: “The first thing Gibbs said to me was ‘I’ve just been to Storm King [where Serra has the “fairly consequential” Schunnemunk Fork 1990-91] and I want a more significant piece than that. I don’t want any wimpy piece in the landscape.’ -

'but the dumb patron just wants big things.'

sounds about right Paul.

9:13 am  
Anonymous mike said...

But isn't there always a bit of an issue with big expensive Art, whether the rich private patron funds it or the money comes from the public purse?

The rich patron is an easy target, but there's usually a selective blindness about the process and values of public subsidy. Public-funded sculpture can still be seen as a monument to Big and also dehumanising (in the socialist or communist mode).

And it always comes across as self-serving for arty lefties to promote public subsidy of the arts. Like doctors always asking for pay rises to help them better serve the "public good".

But really, is Big Art going to be sustainable (to use the cliche) in the long run?

Poetry is different I think in that it doesn't require the expensive overheads of Art monumentalism.

10:24 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gibbs is a bit...special. Act had to let him speak at their recent conference cos he gave them so much money. He spoke about how we should deal with the international crisis by...going back to using gold.

10:29 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re Alan Gibbs being a moron who likes big dumb things:

'Alan said, I don't want any wimpy piece in the landscape, I don't want any small bullshit.'
http://www.margoleavingallery.com/assets/uploaded/articles/oursler_vogue_02_08.pdf

10:40 am  
Blogger Paul said...

So, what is simplistic about noting the anti-Semitism of Pound and Eliot? Pound was, after all, a Fascist; but we must overlook these inconvenient truths because they were great poets, must we not?

Gibbs, on the other hand, makes a comment about wanting a big work from a leading Modernist and that makes him a moron, rather than an enlightened patron of Modernism.

11:03 am  
Blogger maps said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:29 am  
Blogger maps said...

Sorry, I'll try that again without the typos:

Of course the anti-semitism of Pound and Eliot should be not only noted but discussed in detail - and it has been, by biographers and critics. But does it constitute their 'mode of thinking', as you claimed? Really?

Pound was an American-style populist who embraced Social Credit and then fascism as his brain gave way in the '40s.
Pound was tormented by the suffering he saw in the Great Depression and by the neglect many of the writers he tried to support suffered, and as he became seriously mentally ill he grasped at fascism as a solution and the Jews as a scapegoat. As Jack Ross has shown in his study of the Fascist Cantos for Ka Mate Ka Ora, Pound eventually repudiated anti-semitism.

Eliot was never a populist, and never very interested in the fate of ordinary people. He was distressed by what he saw as the destruction of Europe's high cultural heritage and traditions during the revolutionary teens of the twentieth century. He thought, along with many other English reactionaries of his era, that the city was an evil place and that people were better off living as quasi-peasants in villages.

Eliot embraced High Anglicanism and old-fashioned Toryism because he thought they honoured tradition. He had anti-semitic prejudices, which creep into poems like Gerontion, but his anti-semitism was never on par with Pound's mania, and he never suffered the disgrace that Pound's very public fascism brought him.

In their different ways, Eliot and Pound were reactionaries - they wanted to halt the march of modernity, which they wrongly saw as the reason for the excesses associated with capitalist
development.

There's a clear contrast between Eliot and Pound's forms of right-wing thought and that of today's neo-liberal parties. I don't want to argue that Eliot and Pound's politics are either superior or inferior to those of Act, but I think the mode of thinking they used made it possible for them to appreciate art in a way that, say, Alan Gibbs simply can't.

11:35 am  
Blogger Paul said...

Indeed there is a difference between Eliot and Pound's forms of right-wing thought and that of today's neo-liberal parties. Today's neo-liberal parties do not hate Jews.

12:38 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Well, at the moment Muslims have replaced Jews as the popular bogey figures for the right, but the NZCPR forum is filled with Jew-haters like Swinney and Wilson, an Act Party vice-president candidate recently attacked John Key using anti-semitic language, and when the Libertarianz Maori affairs spokesman took part in a TV debate on Waitangi Day he brought along an avowed anti-Jewish conspiracy theorist and Holocaust denier as an 'expert historian'.

12:49 pm  
Anonymous Geoff said...

Gibbs and his fantasies also conjures up images of Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane, and how he was destroyed through a combination of inflated ego, greed and hubris. Maybe Gibbs still yearns for his teddy bear ;-)?

12:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Russell Brown today...

'It's always surprised me that more people don't recognise that the really crazy dimension of the Act Party does not lie in the economic prescriptions of Roger Douglas. You may debate those, and they certainly lie at some distant end of the neo-liberal spectrum, but they have a relatively coherent basis.

The same can not be said for the cult of Muriel Newman, who spoke at the party's conference over the weekend, attacking National's relationship with the Maori Party as damaging to race relations and "underpinned by racist policies".

Newman herself has of course, been a champion of various explicitly racist myths, including the belief that Maori were not New Zealand's original inhabitants. But that's not the really crazy part. For that, you only need to go one click deep on Newman's New Zealand Centre for Political Research website, where you will find such headlines as Chemtrails: Why Are We Under Chemical & Biological Attack?

In this light, Muriel's own demand to know "who scrutinises all these Waitangi claims to make sure they are correct? Does anybody? If not, there is nothing to protect taxpayers from exploitation," seems almost sane, if not very well-informed.

It does strike me that not only does Act enjoy a membership with a penchant for strange ideas unmatched since the heyday of the Social Credit Party, and isn’t shy about electing them to office, it is rarely held to account. Newman is a former deputy leader of her party and, of course, former vice president Trevor Loudon remains a "student" of a seriously weird Scientology spin-off whose founder is held to have enjoyed godlike powers. If senior members of the Maori Party had come out with anything approaching that degree of weirdness, it'd be front-page news.'

http://publicaddress.net/

1:03 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

All a bit tenuous; anti-semetism is hardly official policy for those parties. Pound, on the other hand, was a supporter of Mussolini and a hater of Jews. He was a Fascist. He was also a great writer, but there is no need to make excuses for him.

1:04 pm  
Blogger maps said...

I don't think I am. The background to what I'm arguing is the idea that there has been a shift from a 'judgement-based' to a 'calculative' mode of thinking - the terms come from Gadamer - across most parts of most Western societies, and on the political right especially, and that this shift ismaking it very difficult for us to experience, let alone defend, art, and many other good things. But really this is a subject for a proper post.

1:08 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

Sounds interesting; I look forward to it.

1:17 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are a lot fo arselickers in the art world who are basically scared of Gibbs and his ex-wife cos of the money they have...

...example:

http://twitter.com/hamish_keith

1:47 pm  
Blogger Lyndon said...

I had observed that objectivists (eg PC) have fairly determined ideas in favour of symbolic realism in art, in both what they consume and what they produce.

Which I'm inclined to think that's more a matter of 'because Ayn Rand happened to think so' that a matter of political psychoanalysis.

1:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please remove this post or face legal action.

4:01 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That comment about Hamish Keith is out of line.

Where is evidence he shares the agenda of Alan Gibbs and the far right?

4:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL

Cheryl is twittering that you want to execute her Maps

4:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

twitter.com/CherylBernstein

4:58 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Well that's the thing about twitter - it allows people to make completely ridicuous claims without having to back them up. I'd be delighted to read some sort of serious criticism of my chat with M and M from Cheryl or from Hamish Keith.

6:15 pm  
Anonymous id said...

I think that if there's a possibility that an important artwork held in private hands will be either egregiously misused or destroyed, then the state has not only the right but the responsibility to step in.
Enter the RSPCA the Righteous Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Art, aka The Mothers of Interstitial Intervention!
Tune in next week when the team rescue an early Duchamp installation from a life of critical penury in a Working Mens Club's toilet.

9:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if Te Papa, when purchasing art for its collection, ensures that the vendor will only spend the money on things it approves of?

I wonder if, after purchasing a delightful limited edition print for their dining room, the authors would be happy for the artist to visit them and insist that it be hung in the downstairs bedroom instead?

I wonder if, after selling the aforementioned print, the authors would be impressed if the artist told they could not buy marmite with the money, only vegemite, as marmite's owner is owned by a cigarette company?

9:52 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

Quite. It might also be worth noting that none of our public institutions has bought or commissioned a Serra. Anti-intellectualism and parochialism keep international art away from our galleries.

10:04 pm  
Blogger maps said...

How ridiculopus to suggest that Te Papa should behave ethically when it purcahses and houses art! Next thing people will be criticising the place for hosting conferences by arms dealers and renting out lecture theatres to anti-semitic Trouther nuts like Richard Gage...

10:16 pm  
Blogger pollywog said...

hmmm...a big, long steel wall on a farm ?

*yawn* I'd rather look at whats outside my window everyday and be reminded of where i am, who i am and how i fit into the general scheme of things because of it

now this is art...

http://pollywannacracka.blogspot.com/2009/10/epiphanies-in-room-wth-view.html

What do you reckon. Pics just don't do it justice ?

...and the last (photo) structure is functional too. every now and then a shitload of sheep get marched down the road there to be de fleeced, de parasitised and trucked off to the slaughter house.

If only there was a place you could do that to rich pricks and charge an admission fee :)

BTW thats Delaware bay, Nelson. where rarely a more poignant story of how Maori risked life and limb to save pakeha has ever been enacted and told.

http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/timeline&new_date=4/9

12:43 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'I hope you lot ROT in the CAN.'

What, in the TOILET?

I knew National was looking at ways to deal with prison overcrowding, but...

3:57 pm  
Anonymous mike said...

CAN: Prison. US prison slang, early 20th century.

[See glossary of argot terms commonly used in NZ prisons in: Greg Newbold, The Big Huey. Auckland, 1982, pp.244-256. Incidentally, this is quite a unique folkloric source that shows how Cockney rhyming slang thrives among the local prison community. At least it did back in the 1970s.]

Anon, I think this is possibly what your earlier namesake was referring to.

5:26 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

"The 'mode of thinking' employed by Eliot and Pound was anti-semitism."

This is nonsense. Eliot wasn't particularly anti-Semitic. His mode of thinking in his writing was (more or less) modernist. he was naturally introverted so he tended toward conservative things - so he basically rejected democracy. that is o.k. point is he was a far more than just an anti-Semite or as such people go he was very common.

But his supposed anti-Semitism is exaggerated and not relevant to his work.

Pound wasn't anti Semitic as such either - he became so engrossed in his ideas and theories he just had to go in hat direction. But he maintained a god relationship for example with Louis Zukovsky - Jewish modernist poet. His theories were quiet wrong so ultimately he might have seen his obsession with "usura" as quite wrong...but his Cantos transform all this. In fact his earlier "Hugh Selwyn Mauberly" shows him in quite different light. his sensibility would not endear him to fascists...had he stayed in Italy and Mussolini etc had "won" they would have probably got rid of him. The Nazis certainly would have.

(But this is not to ignore his very grave errors in thinking.)

No: their mode of thinking was not anti Semitism. He and say Wyndham Lewis somewhat revised their views than extreme right wingers.

They were more open to ideas than those.

12:09 am  
Blogger Richard said...

But this farm (as far as I can see via Muzzle and Maxine and Maps's boiled up interview!) epitomises what I don't like about art or the art world. It is very largely snobbish (although I know I am simplifying). I love art of all kinds...Serra and Warhol, and all styles interest me. The Laocoon as much as Hotere and many others.

But the "art world" I find problematic. But that maybe me.
Paul's point is valid to degree. It is possible for very right wing people to appreciate and know about art. Their right to it might be that in fact they ARE very rich have power and in the end power is what talks.

And artists need and want money.

This post raises interesting questions - the (political/conceptual) artist Haacke questions these issues. How far artists (and that could be extend across all the arts) can stay "independent" is a question.

What about the "garage artists" - doesn't their "point" about art now have more relevance (in contrast to say to Gibbs etc? (Although perhaps they do go to extremes.)

On the face of it I don't like the sound of this Gibbs fellow BTW. But I don't know him.

12:24 am  
Blogger William said...

In some films people break into (or caretake) hallowed European art galleries at night... could there be a film in this?

2:48 pm  
Blogger angel said...

When The popular comment layout is common, so it is easily recognized scanning to post a comment. If the comment section is in a different format, then I am going to spend more time trying to decipher what everything means.

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6:13 pm  
Anonymous George D said...

Gibbs gives his take, as Australia's SBS tours the Farm.

http://www.sbs.com.au/dateline/story/about/id/600392/n/The-Art-of-Politics

7:29 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi

12:44 pm  
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is a place famous for its sculpture park and strange animals, but the Kiwis think few have had the opportunity to visit, because of its excessive cost

12:46 pm  
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2:45 am  
Blogger phlebotomist said...

A letterpress chapbook of six ghazals, The Maps are Words is a cyclical journey on the backs of language and geography that fits the small chapbook style well. The poems are quietly searching, a finger tracing lines on a map, learning the curves of topography, rediscovering history, and following the evolution of words.
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4:46 am  
Blogger Barry Thomas said...

Gio... ask Alan to show you his Cabbage Patch art :-)

2:50 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Yes it is wrong to assume that Gibbs doesn't understand art. That he charges is a piss off for me as I cant afford the entry. Serra I can see in books. Great artist. For me one way is perhaps unpaid graffiti or even anonymous street art.

The young man who wants no art in galleries has a point, especially if he is sincere about Socialism (or Anarchism).

The whole thing does seem rather "cut off". This I feel is a general problem (and has been for hundreds of years, e.g. the Rennaisance Artists were paid by rich (appreciative and intelligent) patrons: to some degree this steered their art. Similar problems arise today if artists want to live by their art and keep their own integrity.

It is the whole art scene, the whole scene that is problematic not the ACT or other political parties or even Big Money as such.

After all artists can choose to work on their own and abjure payments that are they feel "compromising". Not many can remain neutral or "committed" as they either do need money or they are taken up in any case. Their mode is absorbed into the prevailing culture etc

10:53 pm  

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