Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Spitting on the artist

The pressure began almost as soon as the artist had opened his exhibition. Sitting outside the gallery in the sun, he was confronted by a series of angry men and women. Several of them swore at him; one of them spat on him. Other unhappy citizens wrote complaints to the gallery, urging it to repudiate the artist.

On three separate occasions, members of the police force confronted and interrogated the artist. During the last of these grillings, the artist handed his inquisitors a letter from the gallery's manager, which explained the institution's support for his work. A policeman tore the piece of paper up, and the artist decided that the time had come for him to end his show.

The events I've been described didn't occur in Solzhenitsyn's Soviet Union, or in the Ayatollahs' Iran, but in the east Auckland suburb of Pakuranga, where Kalisolaite 'Uhila performed Mo'ui Tukuhausia, or Living Homeless, for two weeks in 2012.

We New Zealanders like to consider ourselves a tolerant, enlightened people. We chuckle when we see the televangelists of America or the mullahs of the Middle East condemn a pop song with naughty lyrics or a film with nude scenes as an insult to the Almighty; we shake our heads when we read about the arrest of demonstrators demanding democracy in China.

When Kalisoliate 'Uhila donned the tattered black uniform of a tramp and took up residence in the grounds of Te Tuhi gallery, though, he soon showed the limits of our tolerance and enlightenment. The sanctity of private property; the separation of our private, embarrassingly intimate, and public, respectable lives; the moral necessity of work: all of these solemn principles of our society seemed mocked by the silent man in black.

This year Mo'ui Tukuhausia was nominated for the Walters Prize, New Zealand's most prestigious art award. At the request of the Auckland City Art Gallery, Kalisoliate 'Uhila has just finished a three month reprise of the work that made him a familiar and sometimes controversial figure on the pavements and in the parks of our central city. In the latest of my series of essays for the online arts journal EyeContact, I've tried to counter the criticisms that 'Uhila has faced, and linked his performances with some of the radical intellectual and artistic traditions of his native Tonga.

[Posted by Scott Hamilton]

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This work could have been used in the election by the left.

4:18 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

And it would have meant that more people voted for National or the right.

10:11 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

The review is good. Did he win the prize after missing out before?

I think it is great art and the artist here is sincere. Bruce Barber was involved in similar things, and indeed other artists have done this. But I think to the extent he has done, sitting in the doorway, falling through a tree: that is art coming very close to life.

It is valid conceptual art. It does point to a political message (but clearly it wouldn't affect most people in their thinking, but it will interest enough).

Great stuff by this artist. It also recalls that anti-work exhibition that was put on a few years ago.

10:39 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I mean other artists have done things with similar political-social 'messages'. Barber tried to allow people to make what they could themselves out of his room for a person who was homeless in an exhibition that postulated squatting as a possible positive action. The person was on a disability and actually lived in a room during the exhibition. But she wasn't in favour of squatting and that was allowed. It was all allowed to happen. It got responses that didn't involve abuse but people clearly not reading what was going on. Those, clearly from the 'middle to upper stratas' of the working class (or even from the Bourgoiesie), simply couldn't relate to it, in the main.

Here Kalisolaite 'Uhila confronts the issue very directly. He is seen to be the issue. There but for the grace of God go we...

10:55 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

"Richard: I hate to break this to you, but commenting is dead across the blogosphere. You're talking in an empty room. People still discuss blog posts, including posts on this site, but they almost always do it nowadays on social media, especially twitter. I've been meaning to redesign this site to reflect this new reality for some time, but have never gotten around to it. Sign up to twitter and join in the discussions there. You'll recognise a lot of old commenters from this site, including me."

I knew that the Blogosphere had been affected by FB and Twitter. I have known about Twitter since 2009 but I have had no interest in it, as in fact I find I spend too much time on line as it is. But I did join FB. I don't want to go to Twitter.

For similar reasons I have resisted buying a cell phone (except my son got one for reasons of getting bank messages) and also I got rid of my TV.

I look on a few Blogs out of interest to see what is happening but what I have is enough.

I think you have gone overboard re Ted. You both got on the wrong footing. It is silly to wipe him.

Even on Twitter it will be rather superficial...however, and in addition, it is all too time consuming.

You say it an empty room. I like empty rooms. Not empty houses though.

It seems that the 'advertising' and what is fashionable has seduced you.
Fair enough. But you wont get much sustained interest really anywhere, in fact being with the major journals etc is the way you should go.

I think you equate popularity or lots of people doing something with success or quality. I think it is simply not the case, the wider and more technologically advanced society becomes, it is concommittent that in fact there is less real communication between people. Meanwhile crime rates rise and generally human beings seem to be degenerating at a faster rate.

People are not really much interested in 'deep' issues and it is via books and probably hard copy magazines etc that any 'reality' or writing of significance will be found.

Twittering is for fat German's with large guts and big bank balances who should, in all probability, be in jail in the US. We can see the failure of such a twitterer.

So, twit away! Twit twit twit tteroo!

10:22 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

Fair enough, Richard. There are some people who've seen your comments here and enjoyed them - Sio Siasau is an example I mentioned to you once - and I don't mean to discourage you.

But there is a tumbleweed feel to comments sections on many blogs these days, and the vitality and discipline that come with commenting alongside large numbers of interested others can easily be lost. Giovanni Tiso talked a little about this in his recent interview on Radio NZ.

The switch in discourse to social media, and especially twitter, has afected online journals, as well as blogs - EyeContact, for example, has been struggling to work out how to deal with it. My series of articles on Tongan artists has gotten quite a reasonable response on social media, but almost no comments on EyeContact. The danger is that the discourse about these articles is 'privatised' because it is places like fb and twitter.

I was initially sceptical about twitter, but I've found that the extreme concision it demands is offset by its conversational format - by the way that one can comment again and again. And I like the sense of being involved in conversations that involve hundreds or thousands of people. Having said that, I could never remain sane if I were commenting all day most days on twitter, like Giovanni and others manage to do!

9:02 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

A related point is that twitter can't really exist on its own - it relies on larger-format sites, like blogs, to which tweeters can link incessantly. So twitter and the blog format aren't incompatible, they're symbiotic. It's just that folks who read blogs have tended increasingly to comment about those blogs at twitter and on other social media.

9:05 am  
Blogger Richard said...

I think this recent contre temps got out of hand. It was like an interview I saw between a woman journalist and Pilger. Both were in a kind of personal power struggle while the issue sank somewhat. But I'll get back to that. I'm back, the point was as F.L. commented at the time, one alsmost wished they could have restarted the interview: good as they both were, they were diverted. I am trying to fix that aspect of my own communication deficiency. (How not to lose it, when to keep quiet - my daughters would say that that is impossible...but I will try). But I saw Ted, I don't think he holds a grudge. I agree with much of what you were saying but I can see he had a point. So there were rights and wrongs on both sides.

I had noticed there were fewer posters, even anons.

I've been on Face Book for some time now, and in fact in the last few weeks or so started to use it more. Ted doesn't have a family and is, somewhat conflicted re the Internet and the questions of quality etc etc Recall it is Murray Edmond who once said (to the effect): I am an elitist democrat. Also that poetry magazines, he was talking about Landfall are by definition selective, or "elitist" (meaning only a small % of the population read it)...

I have left twitter out as it is one more thing. I have been going to your blog and Jack's, as while I have links to many more, well, interesting as they all are: just not enough time.

But I can see the value of FB, no doubt Twitter, and also Blogs.


I recall when I was on the POETICS list there was a large discussion when Silliman proposed starting a Blog. At that time I didn't know what one was. Ted perhaps is in that "space". It is complex. As there are some really negative results can come via the internet.

I recall that Ross Brighton used to post on FB virtually every day. It IS a way to communicate, and people can link up. I can see what my children, and other relatives are doing. Some I know who refuse even to touch a computer. Frank Lane who was an Engineer and at one stage a programmer also, then started selling games computers (Amiga and Commodore), but he never got a personal computer. All receipts and transactions were in handwriting and also cash only. But being a bit (healthily paranoid helps)as he kept away from the Internet.

For some, if one mode of life, sans the PC and the Internet, works for them, then that is o.k.

I realise you are into the mix, as I recall your promotion of Alex Wild's book.

And you have encouraged and promoted myself, Ted, Bill and many others as well as the whole Tongan thing and the new film etc This Blog has had some really interesting stuff.

Tiso is very bright but combative and he never forgives. He's massively into political correctness. He is a worry. He has a lean and hungry look. He is young and passionate, and very bright, but one day he will learn to lighten up. He needs, like some others I could name, some good re-educating by being forced to work in some of the places I worked in the good old days, get a bit of un PC from the wonderful working class!

But the Blogs do have this, as the trash leave! As they drop away, it becomes 'quieter', and I have perhaps and audience of 1 and 1/2! (Loney sought an ideal audience of 1...but recall that Loney and Ted are not exactly wonderful friends these days and we know the way Comrade Loney went...



Others

3:59 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

try this twitter feed out richard, a real fave of mine at present
https://twitter.com/HooklandGuide

4:14 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

One thing that used to happen to me was, because I got up so early on a Saturday morning to go to the K Road Market, the effect, was sleep defficiency, and I didn't realise it so much at the time, but it affects a person to the extent that he or she is kind of "drunk". Now I would get on the POETICS list, and rave on (with this new toy called a computer) for pages, as I still do somewhat, but I did it more, and errors and all would be sent across time and space. Once I praised a woman poet, but had another message, this I sent, and the fatigue-"drunkeness" meant it was full of spelling and grammatical errors, but I couldn't retrieve it! The woman thought I was taking the piss and was really upset, and wouldn't listen to my apologies.

Strangely though, one of the chiefs, quite an interesting writer and poet, used to email me and tell me how much he enjoyed my long rambling posts! He sent me about 50 poems by modern Turkish poets, translated into English. I will know his name if I look it up. He was Turkish-American and possibly part Jewish.

The reason I left that was because there were so many adverts for readings etc that had no relevance to me, and not enough conversation, or the conversations were one-sided. That sort of thing also goes on on a chess site I belong to.

The "page" on Fischer has several hundreds of pages of people arguing the toss. And there are many many others. There are pages devoted to politics, sports, and one under a chess-players name, where his games are, called the Odd Lie, which is amusing. It is amazing the crooks and crannies people climb into in this world and the internet is no exception...

But there is the problem of the 'Internet Effect', and Cyber Rage: and much else.

Well I commented many times on Jack's post, and very few others do, which is a pity, as witness some of them, they are beautifully done, well researched, etc And when in history was it so easy to write straight back to the writer?

Ted, by the way, has always praised the quality of your writing. He grumbles about you and Jack etc but by and large he is a good old classics man, if not a classical man: meanwhile his wife remains puzzled. Ted was here to pick up a book etc yesterday.

Let me know how you think Blogs will fit in, in the future. (Again, I understand the immediacy of such as FB and Twitter, but there is the 'depth' of Blogs, and there is the world of those who are blogless, or even computerless, in Gaza! They also serve...

4:16 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Yes, I see that symbiotic thing, and books and so on connect also.

My fear is that it is all going to be too much, too much noise...I am undisciplined enough as it is. Well, I suppose, as has been said of me:

Richard's mind is like an enormous ice cream.

I will be an icecream and look at that link...

4:18 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Another Albion psychogeographer with a sometimes ludic, sometimes archaeological twitter feed: https://twitter.com/cultauthor

I'd like to redesign this site so that the twitter response to tweets was somehow reflected. Last week Dylan Horrocks tweeted a link to the post where his Dad's talk was published, and a number of people, including Gio Tiso and a bloke with memories of the Auckland Uni English Department in the '80s, tweeted and commented on the post about Smithyman's poem. At present, of course, none of this sort of stuff is registered by the blog.

4:28 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Yes. I see, that would be good. So they're commenting but at a distance.

I saw your review about the artist but didn't comment. I thought it was good. See how everything goes. Maybe EyeContact could have such a 'reflection'.

4:34 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

That Hookland is good for sure! Amazing pictures and comments. But I resisted joining all the same...

4:39 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Here's another cool 'un
https://twitter.com/Oniropolis

And John Ashbery is tweeting!
https://twitter.com/JohnAshbery

10:59 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Ashbery! A tweeter!

I was just watching YouTubes on why zero to the power of zero is indefinable and cant be 1!

It's strange, sitting here and enjoying lectures on all kinds of strange subjects. I am able to play back what I cant understand.

Yes, that is the problem with the Internet - there is so much on there.

Whether it conflicts with our philosophies etc is interesting.

Is Comrade Hamish a tweeter? I have always felt he is too dignified to lower himself to the "Great Unwashed", but I believe he is becoming politicised by living near the hot radical and intellectual core of Edmonds, Maps etc

It is interesting to muse on the way technology moves so rapidly (in certain ways). I recall a time when there was no TV, no calculators, (no computers [only in Sci Fi books I read run by madmen] no videos, not many telephones, three radio stations, fewer cars. There were record players. And the movies, we called them the 'flicks' which we watched at the flea pit. We also would consume coca cola (I've always loved their sign) and we had pepsi cola, and chocolate, and icecreams...what was better? The motor bikes, Triumphs, and BSAs roaring along with guys with no helmets at the ton, and you could just get on a plane and fly to Australia, no passport.

Rapid changes. Different world. Better? Who knows? I know my eyesight is worse, but I lasted longer than a lot of other unfortunate people (so we always had good food and medical care, and a welfare system although we never used it as such).

Changed, changed utterly...(?)

1:50 am  
Anonymous Sunkita said...

Hi Scott, you talked about wanting capture twitter conversations on your blog - maybe storify would do what you're after. You could harvest the tweets into a storify, put it on your blog, and then tweet about the storify that's on the blog (so I know to come and read it coz I follow you), and fall into a social media feedback loop

5:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ta muchly for that suggestion Sunkista!

3:28 pm  

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