Saturday, January 11, 2014

A big, big digger

I had hoped that, after returning from Tonga to a land of fast and reliable internet connections, I'd be able to usher in 2014 with a torrent of blog posts, as I caught up with and critiqued the learned bloggers and tweeters - Giovanni Tiso, Jack Ross, Louis Proyect, and the rest of them - whose work I had been unable to access often in 2013.

 But my wife has spent most of the last week in hospital with gallstones, and I've found myself, as a solo parent - albeit a solo parent generously assisted by family and friends - spending my time watching Dora the Explorer, repairing broken-down matchbox cars, and taking part in backbreaking blueberry hunting expeditions, rather than in disagreeing with obscure and erudite bloggers.

Cerian was admitted to hospital in some pain - we called an ambulance, which delighted Aneirin with its light show - but has been almost luxuriously comfortable (thanks, by the way, to the friends and rellies who've visited or sent facebook greetings) for days, and has been thoroughly enjoying my struggles as a solo Dad.

The clip reproduced at the top of this post is one of a number that I sometimes show to Aneirin when he tires of playing with the toy cars, trucks, spitfires, and tanks I hoarded as a child. I must admit that the performance of the anonymous driver of the big, big yellow digger - a performance that Aneirin punctuates, delightfully, with cries of "Careful don't fall! Bump your head! Big ow!" - is very impressive. I can't think of many contemporary artists or athletes who could match his display of grunt and delicacy, as he climbs, like some one-armed crab, all the way onto a train carriage.

Over the last week I have at least managed to cobble together, in between truck racing, digger-ogling, and nappy changing, an essay about a remarkable exhibition called Homage to the Hoi Polloi, which the young Tongan-New Zealand artist John Vea brought to the Papakura Art Gallery late last year.

I only encountered Vea's show by mistake: shortly after we'd arrived home from Tonga Cerian decided to pop into the Papakura branch of Countdown for groceries, and I sidled across the road to the suburb's gallery, thinking that it might just contain a canvas or two by one of the great Kiwi artists I'd been missing in the Friendly Islands. Instead of Woollaston's weather charts or Clairmont's hallucinations, though, I found Vea using sculptures, video, and performance art to examine the experiences of the Pacific migrants labourers who have, since the establishment of the Recognised Seasonal Employment scheme in 2007, been coming to New Zealand in their thousands to sweat in the glasshouses of Franklin and shiver on the apricot orchards of central Otago.
John sent me this photo, which was taken during a performance held to mark the opening of Homage to the Hoi Polloi. Dressed as construction workers, or as the Pacific Islands crims who have so haunted the imaginations of paranoid palangi Kiwis like Jenny Shipley, he and his mates walked the streets of Papakura, leaving the strange plaster objects the artist calls 'urban taros' in their wake.

I'll post a link to my piece on Vea when it sees the light of day. In the meantime, enjoy the big, big digger.

[Posted by Scott Hamilton]


Blogger Ray said...

"Some pain" just proves it was not the author who was doing the suffering
Apparently it can be worse than childbirth
Love your work as always

4:28 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Hi Ray,

you're quite right: 'some pai' is a very weak, a very limp phrase! If I'd been experiencing the pain I'd have surely tried to find a meaty metaphor or similie! My wife actually used the comparison to the pain of childbirth...

7:35 am  

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