Monday, May 15, 2017

Ten propositions about the Ghost South Road

The Ghost South Road exhibition opens at Manurewa's Nathan Homestead gallery on Thursday night. Last week Paul Janman and I got together to choose some of the photographs that will adorn the gallery's walls, and to write a statement to join them there. 
When we attempted to state the historiography and political message of the Ghost South Road project our language quickly became dour and doughy, so we abandoned literalism and tried to produce a text that replicates the mixture of disorientation and exhilaration that we  feel when we travel through time and space up and down the road. 
Ten Propositions
1. That the Great South Road is a route through time as well as space.
2. That under the shining tarseal, tonight, at Rangiriri or Martyn's Farm, are the gravel and mud of an imperial road, the bones of ambushed coaches. 
3. That the dead work harder than the living. 
4. That the perpetual present of the past reemerges in surprising ways. Driving south into the Waikato we risk repeating the invasion of Tawhiao's kingdom. Struggling north through rush hour currents at Ellerslie we drive long-dead cattle before us. 
5. That feeding the dead is necessary.*
6. That the allegedly random and apolitical violence that flows through the modern history of the Great South Road as routinely as traffic - the fights in roadside bars and the botched bloody holdups of roadside dairies and pawn shops and the buckled and glassless cars pushed onto kerbs by dutiful cops - is connected causally to the great, meticulously prepared acts of violence that accompanied the building of the road in the 1860s.
7. That certain rituals follow the road's disasters. Ambulance officers feed their vehicles prone bodies. Kingites are buried in mass graves. Fire engines let their flashing lights make psychedelic patterns on the glossy deserted tarseal dancefloor. Gorse burns where fern once rusted. The roads reopens, oblivious traffic flows over the site of another tragedy. 
8. That a huia sings in the puriri that the hihi has already abandoned. The huia is a car horn, the tree a traffic light and the hihi a warning. 
9. That an empire is built and destroyed by the blinking of an eye.**
10. That the road is alive tonight. SUVs and lorries follow ancient migratory paths, out of Auckland and into te ao nui.  The streetlamps are as dead as sentries. Von Tempsky's sword flashes on each window. 
*This proposition is lifted by the great Scots-Cornish poet WS Graham.
**This proposition is pinched from the Finnish scribe Paavo Haavikko. 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

this man is an internet troll. He is like Trump and makes up history. dont believe anything he writes. its all fake....

12:32 pm  
Anonymous Ryan Bodman said...

This looks awesome, Scott. I will be there tomorrow night, kids permitting. I'm particularly stoked to see the war-gaming idea take shape. That idea caught my imagination that evening we spoke about it on behind the toitoi, in industrial Otahuhu. All the best.

1:08 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Hi Scott. I used 'That an empire is built and destroyed by the blinking of an eye.' in part of my The Infinite Poem. Mind you I sometimes cant differentiate where things come from and that was a long time ago now. That Haaviko quote is a good one. Your whole manifesto is stealing the way you and Hamish et al used to write in the SALT days!

It is Hamiltonian of the poems at the very least, and of course now put to use in the 'political' poems. Very clever method the list of propositions. Dadaish in some ways also?

11:42 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Trump does make things up for sure. He is possibly the funniest President so far: a man who runs the US etc on Twitter!

"Anonymous said...
this man is an internet troll. He is like Trump and makes up history. dont believe anything he writes. its all fake. "

Then Maps can join Herodotus, the 'father of lies', who nevertheless ventured forth into the Other [more or less a quote from - or inspired by - a short book 'The Other' by Ryszard Kapuściński...]

11:49 pm  
Blogger Paul Janman said...

Yes anonymous. That's one of the main points of our show - that history is largely a work of imagination. At least Scott ventures an argument.

1:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

never been to a worse opening. badly organised waited for ages for the little action there was to finally get going, food rubbish and wine had seen better days. The exhibition looks amateurish and the hosts got smashed, Need some help in organising a launch guys, did NOT do Gt South Rd proud!!!

9:19 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah so true,never learned how to do it - as for the boozing shocking.

9:22 am  
Blogger Richard said...

I know Scott well and knew a few others there and it went well for me. But I can see if a person didn't the launch, because of what it was, needed a "centre". So it was as much a film launch in a way as an art or book so it needed a short or reasonable explanatory speech and more notes. I think the booklet with the 'poem' herein was a bit reductionist.

I certainly would have liked to see ideas and spiel by both Scott, Paul et al on a sizable booklet, I would have paid a fair price for something.

That said I don't think the organizers were smashed or that if they were it mattered. There was some booze and nibbles.

But it remains part of an interesting project and showed a medley of ideas and images as well as a video of Bill Direen reading his own translation of Tristan Tzara juxtaposed on images of Scott and Paul walking up the Great South Road. Also a number of disparate images including the polar bear and old photos of Auckland and related to the subject, which is history as it occurs so it means what is happening now or recently and links to the wider world were indicated by the titles of books on the table.

But I think Scot and or Paul et al could have warmed it all up with a talk about the various aspects of these images, books, and the movie on display.

Not the worst at all for me (all things considered). The turn out wasn't large as it was a rather cold dark night....

7:23 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

The second sentence there reads a bit strangely: Better is: "....that if a person came not knowing anyone it may have seemed rather unfriendly or difficult to focus on...". I went to an opening once at the Art Centre in Pakuranga and I was ignored and recall being baffled by it all so I just quietly slipped away. At that there was little information also of what was going on so I can see how it might be.

7:26 pm  
Anonymous Scott Hamilton said...

We just wanted to keep it pretty casual, Richard, because most people are only going to visit the show once, and June the 10th is the day when we have foal events, like wargaming and a panel discussion, planned. Paul is hoping to do a lot of filming that day. The hostile comments on this blog often come from pseudo-historians whom I've criticised over the years, and they are in a terrible flap at the moment, after the Northern Advocate's decision to run an article on Noel Hilliam and his stolen skulls prompted a big backlash:
This blog's archives have been a resource for the many people criticising the Advocate's article about Hilliam, and I suspect that's reflected in anon's animus...

11:07 am  
Blogger Paul Janman said...

Haha. You weren't even there. Bitterness and insecurity of you reek.

1:36 pm  
Blogger Paul Janman said...

Yes, on completion I felt the need for more context and I meant to give the crowd a preamble but people arrived at different times and I let it ride. I also got on too much of a roll with individual conversations with the intimate crowd, which I really appreciated. Scott and I were going to annotate the images but ended up leaving things more mysterious and synchronous for free associations. We still aim to do some online explanation as another layer for the punters (stay tuned). Of course June 10th will be much more formal for the bigger crowd.

2:24 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I liked it. For the sake of argument I assumed that anonymous was who he seemed. In fact he or she may not have been there and been another White supremacist of conspiracy theorist. Nothing wrong with that as long as this doesn't colour ones views of things. I think most people would realise (more or less) where the exhibition was coming from. I liked Bill Direen reading with the GSR background and also the mix of images as well as the books displayed. Which I thought suggested a depth.

Nor was it "amateurish" I felt that THAT is below the belt and stupid. Arrogant in fact. You don't need people like that. Even if it was, which it wasn't, why say it? Criticism can be good, and it's good to get feedback. But the critic has to identify their self. Otherwise we don't know the motivations etc

The battle was interesting etc and meeting some of the people involved was good.

No one should assume that anonymous (who appears everywhere) has said anything about the project that you & Paul et al are doing. It is great stuff. The focus on New Zealand. And then the way that can also move outwards. (I started reading 'Terra Nullius' which I owned but hadn't read yet. Also interesting to see was Brief 40 and the thing I did in that had quotes from Te Kooti and a (fairly) young fellow (Maori) who wrote a book about events after the wars when Maori wrote a lot of letters and undertook litigation etc. I read that some years ago and quotes from it and also I quoted from a book about the Inuits etc I had read...So with Tacitus there (his histories of the Roman's in "savage" Britain and Germanye etc, and Iain Sinclair with his book about walking the large ring motorway around London it was an interesting mix; as well as the images, including what might become iconic, the polar bear!!

2:46 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

That looks a bit wrong there in the sentence...."In fact he or she may not have been there and been another White supremacist of conspiracy theorist. Nothing wrong with that as long as this doesn't colour ones views of things."

The problem with grammar and syntax! I mean, nothing "wrong" as such with being a theorist of alternatives...but to then say one KNOWS is a worry, and to add that theory to a White Supremacist outlook is not so good.

The world is irremediably now NOT controlled or dominated by White people...the mathematics comes up with only about 20% if that and de facto we are now massively diverse throughout the world. So the idea of Hitler's etc of one race has been shown to be nonsense. Drivel.

But alternative theories people love to have but that is something separate. Some people believe in aliens or ghosts. GHOSTS!

2:53 pm  
Anonymous Scott Hamilton said...

Hi Richard, the Tacitus is on the table because I reckon that 19th century settlers thought about themselves through analogies with the classical world. In his memo proposing the building of the Great South Road Colonel Mould of the Royal Engineers makes an analogy with the Romans in ancient Britain, and talks about how they used roads to open up the country and to defeat their indigenous foes. I thought that was quite remarkable: a British imperialist equating the ancient Britons with the Maori he wanted to subdue! And then there's GW Rusden, an early critic of the NZ Wars, calling his anti-colonial book Aureretanga: Groans of the Maoris, in an allusion to the Groans of the Britons, a document penned by some of the Romans struggling to hold on in the twilight of the empire, when Saxons and Celts were pushing them towards the sea... I think some of the policies of colonial governments, for example the confiscation of Maori land in the aftermath of the Waikato War, were borrowed, albeit indirectly, from the policies the Romans employed during the centuries when they occupied Britain...

6:03 pm  
Anonymous Master f the still stars and of the flaming door said...

I am really fucking tired of the world's empires. Imagine the battle of Stalingrad lasting four thousand years: tank treads crushing bodies and then miring in blood. World without end, amen.

Who is the master of the still stars and of the flaming door? Not God, but the Second Law of Thermodynamics. What else can still a star?-- On September 11, there was nothing in that crystalline blue autumn sky but decaying particles and hijacked 767's arcing toward murder.

6:17 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Did the British really want NZ that much? At the time I always thought they came in thinking the French might beat them to it. They used Australia to dump "criminals" or socialists or whoever was deemed dangerous etc. The Romans were ambiguous. I recall when I studied Latin years ago the descriptions of Julius Caesar of the testitudinae (something like that meaning - tortoise - shaped) I think they were, they put shields above theire heads and marched into the Welsh hills etc but it was heavy going. But Julius Caesar didn't really do much in Britain it was some of the Emporers who followed how did. The Chinese stayed more or less inside China defending against the Mongols who invaded northern India. India was important, or became so as more and more settlers and entrepeneurs went there. A lot of damage was done by the Spanish who came close to exterminating the Aztecs and other Indian peoples right up to Mexico. Like the settlers in Australia or the US Government (pushed again by settlers and gold seekers) they considered the "native" people to be non-human. This wasn't univeresaly the case but if it was challenged (it was once by an Indian as shown in 'Bury My Hear at Wounded Knee' but then the Army and eventually the Central US Government slowly pushed on and basically exterminated the Indians. In Australia it is not as clear but there were massacres and the effects of disease brought by the Whites, from our wonderful Syphilisation as Tim Shadbolt used to call it in his brilliant orations at Albert Park (he had an awesome effect on people and pulled to his speeches hundreds of listeners...he used humour and knowledge); Tim Shadbolt wasn't just a talker though he was into the police and was beaten up and arrested quite a few times...But the focus of the US Empire then was Vietnam and before that Korea where they invaded also. There was also the real possibility of a thermo-nuclear war as the Chinese were fully nuclear capable then as was the USSR...and Russia, I don't know much about it, extended their empire South from Moscow but they dealt or their expansion to the Urals etc took its toll on the Siberian people (there were a number of ethnicities there. Meanwhile in the 19th Century the Germans exterminated a whole race-group in Africa; the Belgians worked blacks to death; the British put thousands of men women and children in concentration camps, aided by New Zealanders - Kitchener wanted them exported to the West Indies.

Maori got off lightly in relative terms but the real damage was done not by the British army as they weren't that effective, it was those Maori who allied themselves with the settlers and helped to train the White Settlers in bush warfare that did the real damage and then it was a question of numbers and technology and time and litigation.

Did it all have to happen? If we had an alternative universe maybe we could have shared land in a positive way, also aiding (really aiding) local people where they needed or wanted such assistance.

But they certainly didn't need a lot of our fact many of those entering NZ were corrupt, people not really much good in England or wherever, criminals etc so they were often also racists. It became a Darwinian struggle to the death.

8:07 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

"Anonymous Master f the still stars and of the flaming door said...

I am really fucking tired of the world's empires. Imagine the battle of Stalingrad lasting four thousand years: tank treads crushing bodies and then miring in blood. World without end, amen.

Who is the master of the still stars and of the flaming door? Not God, but the Second Law of Thermodynamics. What else can still a star?-- On September 11, there was nothing in that crystalline blue autumn sky but decaying particles and hijacked 767's arcing toward murder. "

Fascinating! Great writing!

8:20 pm  
Anonymous Scott Hamilton said...

It is fine writing isn't it, Richard? And allusions to Yeats' eerie poem 'Valley of the Black Pig'...

9:10 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Come clean Scott, with allusions to something obscure such as a black pig it has to be a Hamilton poem slipped in for the unwary...although I did muse it might be Bill Direen, or Tertius (who has disappeared though) isn't Jack's style......Brett? What is he up to? Was he absent without leave on the night (Thursday) in question, in the throes of composing a great epic?

I narrow it down to one Hamilton.

But don't try to kid us you know more than Jack Ross, as only he knows such obscure things....altho, it is a Hamiltonian trait.....hmm....

11:44 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Indeed: 'Master of the still stars and the flaming door.'


'I bring you with reverent hands
The books of my numberless dreams..
....Brimmed from the pale fire of time.'

This is a poem A Poet to his Beloved in my 'Collected' not far from 'The Valley of the Black Pig'.

I wonder if Nabokov got the title of his book 'Pale Fire' (which is one of my favourites of Nabokov)...I have Brian Boyd's biog. here so I should consult that I suppose. It is of numberless dreams as the poem that starts it is dream like.

11:58 am  
Blogger Richard said...

On Wikipedia it suggests that 'Pale Fire' comes or came from Timon of Athens by Shakespeare. Of course it may have been an invention by Nabokov himself not knowing the Yeats or the Shakespeare connection, or he knew both.

But Pale Fire has been compared or considered one of the first metafictional novels - in any case like Ghost South Road it has many levels and connections.

Not that Nabokov himself in his political views is someone one connects to of course but it shows the unusual range of issues that can interconnect. Tacitus sits beside a book about Auckland by Swainson I think it was and on the other side is a book 'about' the genocide and injustices done to the Australian indigenous people called 'Terra Nullius' which I had and this inspired me to start reading it: it is good.

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