Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Expensive Movements - and expensive photographs

Last December Brett Phibbs and Ioana Gordon-Smith both visited Pukekohe, which has the well-deserved reputation of being New Zealand's most redneck town. 
In a paddock outside Pukekohe Phibbs, who is the chief photographer for the New Zealand Herald, took a series of shots of Polynesian workers while they brought in a harvest of onions. In a gallery near the centre of town Gordon-Smith, a curator and art critic, set up an exhibition called Making Visible, in which a group of artists emphasised, with a mixture of exasperation, anger, and humour, the contribution that workers from the Pacific Islands have made to New Zealand's economy and culture.
Phibbs' photographs were published in the Herald, and seen by many thousands of Kiwis. The exhibition that Gordon-Smith curated was viewed by a far smaller number of people, some of whom walked out of the gallery when they were confronted by images of Pacific Islanders driving forklifts or lying in Aotea Square.
Over at the online arts journal EyeContact, I've contrasted the photographs that Phibbs took at Pukekohe with some of the art that Gordon-Smith brought together in the town's gallery, and asked what Phibbs' images tell us about the way New Zealand sees migrant workers and Pacific Islanders. I've argued that Salome Tanuvasa's two screen video work Expensive Movements, which was shot at a brewery on Auckland's Great South Road and a hotel somewhere in the east of the city, can be seen as an implicit reply to Phibbs' photographs. 
Unfortunately, the New Zealand has refused to let EyeContact reproduce Brett Phibbs' photographs without paying an unreasonably high fee. The paper's stance is disappointing, because New Zealand's galleries and museums have always allowed EyeContact to reproduce images of the works they hold for free. I'm hoping that Brett Phibbs will respond to my comments on his work by posting the photographs he took at Pukekohe online, so that everyone can see them.
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]


Anonymous steve taylor said...

Got your head together now?
Got a way that's better now?
Who you tryin' to kid, kid?

You'll march if all the streets are full
A two bit closet radical
No time to check the end result
Expedience is your catapult

Convictions make your skin to crawl
You act like you're above it all
You say faith is a crutch for a mind that's closed?
You guzzle your crutch and shove it up your nose

Who you tryin' to kid, kid?
To my left wing band with their head in the sand
Who you tryin' to kid, kid?
To the "might makes right" playin' chicken

1:34 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Good poem Steve!

When you say the exhibition is an 'answer' does that mean that in some ways the photographs by Phibbs and Gordon-Smith were somewhat 'biased' against or misrepresentative of
Pacific Islanders in some way?

5:13 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

No, I mean Phibbs. Clearly G-Smith set up the exhibition.

5:15 pm  
Blogger AngonaMM said...

We are all Polynesians. My heart goes out to them. The French cry "We are Charlie" is an echo of various cries over time to "be" someone, or something. In French, it is a cry of the heart and sometimes literally the case "Nous sommes tous des immigr├ęs" actually true of a quarter of the FRENCH population if they would admit it). We (Polynesians) are (not) all assassins. Are we (all) New Caledonians (ethnic Polynesians are a 20% minority in New Caedonia Money for food. Food for photography. Themes for exhibitions. Engagement in the north, discourse, courage. Bravo.

9:56 am  
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9:09 pm  

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