THE NEWS NETWORK
Tosh Ah Kit (NZ) Marian Crawford (AUS) Neil Emmerson (AUS/NZ) Richard Harding (AUS) Chris McBride (NZ) Trent Walter (AUS) Marion Wassenaar (NZ) Karol Wilczynska (NZ) Kate Zizys (AU /NZ)
THE NEWS NETWORK Catalogue produced for Artistsâ€™ Residency & Exhibition at the Dunedin School of Art with interviews by Year Two students, Print Laboratory, Dunedin School of Art
Neil Emmerson Fountain 2004
Students take notes in front of Karol Wilczynska’s work
The exhibition ‘On Air’ was held at the Dunedin School of Art Gallery from the 12th - 30th October 2015.
Exhibition list of works
Tosh Ah Kit working on the risograph project
Artists from Melbourne and Auckland made their way to Dunedin to engage in the inaugural trans-Tasman News Network residency and exhibition â€˜On Airâ€™ at the Dunedin School of Art. The residency, hosted by the Print Lab, aimed to galvanise a community of artists with common interests in printmedia and fine art print processes, politics and current events. Works in the exhibition contribute to contemporary debate on war, the refugee crisis, identity politics, climate change and the environment, surveillance and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. The idea for The News Network was proposed by artist, researcher and academic Marian Crawford from Monash University in Melbourne. The News Network Project fosters the development of an on-going transTasman artist collaboration and community. The artists explore new and old technologies in printmedia, creating works that invite critical thinking and visual interpretation of an increasingly media-saturated and globalised society. While in residence, some of the group collaborated with the students to produce new works while others conducted independent research. Open discussion relating to global media and communication was shared including a public seminar presentation that provided an
opportunity to articulate how current news informs their practice. Students conducted interviews to gain an insight into the diverse art practices of each artist and to frame the development of their engagement and response to current events. Tosh Ah Kit, whose practice involves collaboration and conversations with a focus on the homeless situation in Auckland and local body politics, participated in the residency. She spent a day with students producing a zine on the risograph. The students gleaned references from the newspaper to create a collaged pamphlet that communicated the life of a student in 2016 Aotearoa. Kate Zizys, also from Auckland, contributed to the exhibition with drawings, a poem and an essay that question and confront patriarchal society through a feminist critique of neoliberal politics and capitalist structures. Marian Crawford, Neil Emmerson, Richard Harding, Chris McBride, Trent Walter, Marion Wassenaar and Karol Wilczynska also participated in The News Network residency and feature in the following interviews. The dialogues reveal their motivations and concerns that trigger their artistic outputs.
Marian Crawford is a visual artist and coordinator of Printmedia Programs, Monash Art Design & Architecture, in Melbourne, Australia. She has exhibited her work regularly for over sixteen years. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Melbourne University, a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Victorian College of the Arts, and a Master of Arts by Research, from RMIT University, Melbourne. Crawfordâ€™s recent art works explore representations of loss and processes of mourning, and equivalent feelings we may have about environmental degradation.
Her projects also explore whether printmedia processes have, at their heart, an engagement with repetition and multiplicity that echoes the iteration of mourning processes, forms that, while felt uniquely by an individual, are also generic and open to citation. Many of her projects also include an interest in the artist book, focusing on the special relationship between the production of an artist book and the processes and technique of printmaking (particularly letterpress printing), the relationship between form and content in the artist book and about modes of distribution of works of art.
Michelle Hayward: When did you realise you wanted to be an artist? Marian Crawford: After leaving high school I gained a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and English at Melbourne University even though university life wasn’t in my family background, as a working, middle class family. While I was travelling and living in Italy in my late twenties, I enjoyed drawing in my leisure time and felt alert and concentrated on drawing as an activity in a focused way, and realised that drawing was something I would like to pursue. On heading back to Australia, I entered a Tertiary Orientation Program at a TAFE college and this included art subjects: history and making things. From there, I decided to apply to art school. MH: Why did you become an artist? MC: Going to art school and enjoying making art work is different to being an artist because you have to consider how your private activity can be presented publicly, how will it have a public outcome, how will you engage with the world. I trained and learnt about that in art school. I wasn’t exhibiting my work at that point or becoming part of the art world, contributing to the ‘cultural life of the nation’. Being at art school is really comforting and you’re really well supported by the people who teach you. I had my colleagues all around me and it’s a
really great atmosphere. I went to a really good art school in Melbourne but when you leave you have to think about setting up a studio, where will I show my work, exhibit my work? This is a whole other professional development that you need to then consider. I’ve had various exhibitions so I think that’s been quite interesting as well and as I go along I’m always learning from my colleagues, the people I work with now, observing their careers, how they engage publicly, what the outcomes of their work is, where does it go, so I think you just keep learning as you go along. MH: When you’re producing a series of work obviously with a particular outcome you talk about engaging with the public and having your work displayed to the public. Do you ever have this idea but because you know it’s going into a public forum, you pull your idea back to counter the reaction that it might get? MC: No I don’t do that. I get the idea but I don’t know what the work will look like so I have to make the work and look at a piece of work that I’ve made and I get another idea by engaging with the work and with the materials. When I’m preparing for an exhibition, I start with an idea and I usually put in a proposal. I had a show with Trent Walter at a gallery called C3 in Abbotsford, so we put in a proposal and we wanted to investigate our relationships to the
places that we are linked to by birth or where we were born. I was born on a phosphate mining island in the Central Pacific and I lived there for 10 years. Trent’s mother is from Sri Lanka, or Ceylon as it used to be known, but he was born in Australia. We both had a relationship to an island home that we don’t live on. It was in making the work that we then found out how we were going to express our ideas. Trent made one work with dust falling out of a fireplace in the gallery. It was as if a mountain of dust was vomiting out of the chimney which to me seemed to be about getting away from an island or maybe the dust from a mine too because there’s mining on Sri Lanka and there’s mining on Ocean Island as well so it was quite a poetic image. Responding to the space of the gallery can impact on your ideas. MH: What is your relationship with art theory? MC: I read a bit and I think reading about other people’s ideas about how the world operates is really interesting and really helpful. There’s a theorist, Jacques Derrida, a French continental philosopher who has written about mourning. When a few of his friends died he realised he was constantly mourning them and he felt it was something he couldn’t quite understand. He said the problem that he has, is when someone dies
and they are no longer present, one way of dealing with this is to try to internalise everything about them, or (and this might be a better way of dealing with it) to acknowledge their difference and distance from you, speak their name, keep talking about them while recognising their difference from you. Even though they are not present, there is this interminable mourning that goes on forever and you get the same feeling of grief every time you remember them. So in a way, I thought there is a metaphor in there for a print. That print is not the original picture, it’s not that person who died but you can print it again and again to remember that person. That theory helped me understand why I was interested in printmaking. MH: Who inspires you? MC: In terms of artists, I liked my teacher, Alan Mittelman, at art school. He was very inspiring, funny and talked about the works he liked. He really loved Pierre Bonnard and I appreciated why he liked him. I really like the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. She is a wonderful artist and uses circles and repetition quite a lot. Everything is dots, rooms full of dots, they’re really exquisite. There are all sorts of particular works from lots of different artists that I find are really interesting and I am inspired by reading as well. Its always inspiring reading novels, I haven’t got a list but there are lots of writers that
I like, G W Sebald for example. I’m interested in contemporary visual art and I’m interested in installation practices as well. MH: What does The News Network mean to you? MC: I’m interested in having a collegiate relationship with people who are interested in the same things that I am interested in. So I’m interested in the print and the relationship of the print to the newspaper. An art print is like a printed page and that page is related to a book and the book is
related in a way to the newspaper and the news. The book is an artefact that holds a history of the world. I think it’s a really significant object and I think that the print is so closely related to it and to the news and to our cultural history. The people that I’ve met who are involved in this group have an interest in making prints. I think that our relationship to the world and events in the world is something we’re all interested in and maybe we chose to make prints because we’re interested in that first.
Marian Crawford, Antiquities, 2015, artist books (detail)
I’m not sure how it will work as a collective. I usually work on my own so I’m interested to see how that goes and I’m interested in having colleagues who are researching, visually researching, and maybe we can pool our resources to publish a book or have exhibitions. To have a network of people who are interested in things that I’m interested in and to have a relationship with people in NZ is really important because you’re our neighbours and I think it’s really good to have that crossover. There’s certainly a rich culture here and we have that same colonial history here and interesting relationships with the indigenous people who were here prior to our colonising history. I think that those histories are very interesting, so maybe there’ll be something in that, who knows. I guess I just have to be open to potential possibilities at this early stage. Maybe we could publish an annual newspaper. MH: What do you believe your role is in society as an artist? MC: I think that artists comment. My artwork tells you what I think about the world in a particular way. I don’t think artists can change the world but we can comment on it and if we look back in history, artists’ works often help us understand how people at that time saw the world so it reminds us of our history. Artworks should remind us not to be forgetful about history, because things get
forgotten so easily. MH: Or purposefully put to the side? MC: The work that I’ve made, the work about Ocean Island, Banaba where I grew up, there’s a lot of things that are forgotten about that place. It’s a little tiny island in the Central Pacific with a colonial culture. I’m not saying that my childhood was special or any different but there was also the indigenous culture, the people with the culture of the island. What happened to them? What happened to me as a child in that colonial upbringing? It’s a sort of a history. There are echoes of that history in other countries as well where people colonised, left and returned; maybe my comments might be of interest to other people. So art in that way carries that record, it carries our history and interestingly if one culture is trying to overthrow another, when there’s an invasion of another country often they destroy the artefacts, like how the Taliban tried to destroy the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan. The Red Army defaced the Buddhist statues in China, ISIS are destroying the cultural artefacts of Syria. I don’t think we can change the world as artists but we can add our comment through our public outcome. MH: It can bring awareness to those that had no understanding. It can get them thinking about it. How do you cope with dealing with all this
injustice that’s going on in the world and how do you protect yourself personally because it can be quite overwhelming. What would your response to that be? MC: One of the books that I have made is titled ‘ANTIQUITIES’. I was reading the newspaper every day. I travelled to Saudi Arabia working on a project with the university and I had an interest in Islamic culture. I was reading the Dubai based newspaper on the plane. Every now and then I would find a paragraph that was shocking so I took those paragraphs and set them in type and printed the little paragraph. In the back of the book are all the citations where the quotes came from and some images as well that echoed something from those quotes. I did that for about a month or two. In the end I thought I can’t read the newspaper anymore! I think that is part of the way that Derrida writes about mourning. You have to acknowledge that it’s impossible to not be in mourning, but you have to acknowledge that it’s ok, that you don’t internalise it and lock it all up. You have to keep saying it and putting it out there. That’s part of the psychoanalytic practice as well. You turn it into a material thing. Derrida writes that a person’s name is very important. You can make their name material, turn it into
something solid. In linguistics, just saying it is making it solid. With all those terrible events, you know it happened. I can’t do much about it. You don’t want to feel powerless or overwhelmed. You acknowledge that there are power structures that are unfair but you try to act fairly and justly in your own life and not allow yourself to be in a situation where there are unfair imbalances of power. I read Derrida’s ‘The Work of Mourning’ and there is also Julia Kristeva’s book ‘Black Sun’ which is beautiful. It’s about melancholy and mourning and it’s very insightful and easy to read. Derrida’s not so easy to read. It’s about continental philosophy and the language is dense because what he talks about is complex, so to speak lightly or easily about it is not representing his thoughts. MH: A lot of students when they graduate from art school have the expectation that they’ll be selfsupporting artists. How do you survive? MC: When I was at art school I worked in a café on Sundays and when I left art school I worked as an assistant to a printer, helping editioning and working in a printmaking studio as the technical officer, changing the acid and setting the blankets and pressure on etching presses. It was a part-time job, so I was able to keep making my work. I’ve always mostly worked part time though never
earned a lot of money. I’ve worked at the Australian Print Workshop as the technical officer and was managing the Access Studio for a while, which was 3-4 days a week and then I did some teaching in a lot of the art schools in Melbourne.
Donaldson and helps her pay the rent for her gallery space and I’ve had some shows in public spaces like RMIT Project Space which is part of a university. I’m working towards a show next year at University of South Australia School of Art Gallery.
At the moment I work 3.5 days a week at Monash University as a lecturer in Fine Art and I get paid really well. I’ve been doing it for 7 years and I’m 61 now. I can actually buy a coffee now instead of just making a free one and I always take my lunch.
I think it’s really good to be represented by a commercial gallery and that’s maybe one way you might sell more of your work and have more of a public profile so probably I should seek representation in a commercial gallery. If you really get on well with the person who runs the gallery and they represent you fairly it’s ok.
I think that it is really important to have a good accountant. Someone who knows how the cost of your art business fits with your other jobs. I don’t show my work in commercial galleries and I don’t have lots of exhibitions. Maybe one or two or group shows a year. My accountant says that I still qualify for someone on a low income so I don’t have to pay so much tax. I think I earn quite a big income! MH: What is the reason for your decision about not using a commercial gallery? MC: I had a bad experience with a commercial gallery through a lack of communication, but really I like to support artist run spaces, or ARI’s we call them. I’ve had a couple of shows at Techno Park Drive which is run by a friend of mine called Kim
MH: What subject matter or concepts are you primarily interested in exploring. MC: How can we as artists make a representation of grief or mourning and loss? I focus on making representations of climate change, making works about coral reefs for example, because I grew up on a phosphate island that was surrounded by coral reef. I look at endangered species too, and I think there’s also grief around war, conflict and the loss of artefacts. There’s a lot of works about protest that are to do with the news. They’re the focus spots that I’m looking at but the overarching theme is how we make a representation of mourning or grief in a society when we’re not so supported by religion these days.
Marian Crawford, Antiquities, 2015, artist book (detail)
I suppose I’m interested in why I feel an affinity with the print process. What is it about this process that speaks to those ideas, and I try not to waste too much paper. I’m interested in artists’ books, artefacts, the book as an artefact and I think
making things is what I’m interested in as a positive act.
Neil Emmerson is an Australian artist living and working in New Zealand. He has coordinated the Print Studio in the Dunedin School of Art at the Otago Polytechnic since 2006. His research is concerned with projecting a gay subjectivity into the public arena through both subject matter and style, albeit sometimes covertly. His work is in major
Australian public collections such as the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and the Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney. His print works are often accompanied by sculptural and installation elements.
Kaela Janiten: Why did you decide to become an artist?
a relationship with what she said about sculpture with printmaking?
Neil Emmerson: When I was a kid I wanted to be an architect and make houses, but that involved too much maths. When I was a teenager I forced my parents into enrolling me into a correspondence art course. My father built me a special artist’s desk and shelving, rearranging all the storage in my room around it. I didn’t finish it of course, much to my parents’ dismay. I went straight to art school after high school.
NE: That was an examination of the expanded field in terms of a sculptural discourse. A number of discipline based practices could possibly apply her formula, as can print. I didn’t read “Sculpture in the Expanded Field” until after I started challenging traditional approaches to print practice. ‘Oh, I’m working in the expanded field!’ I can remember thinking. In the beginning I was just very bored with the way that print was presented and framed and spoken about and dealt with within the community of people engaged in the print world. My first move was to take it large scale. Through multi panel work and the application of mixed media, drawing and painting or moving into a 3D sculpture/ installation format I could break the print out of its conventional frame and smaller scale. My motivation was to get out there and engage with the contemporary arts through an extended print practice.
KJ: What is your relationship with art theory? NE: I probably have more of a theoretical relationship with the realms of sociology like queer theory, or gay and lesbian studies than with art theory and history, I think about my work having a formal relationship with minimalism and structurally a reference to surrealism and dada and that’s probably in their re-invented forms through notions of the ‘dream work’. A bit of print theory comes into it I suppose. The critique of conservative ideas around print practices I was more heavily involved with when my practice was younger. The conventions around print production these days have broadened considerably. I’m very fond of the print culture of pop. KJ: Rosalind Krauss wrote ‘Sculpture in the expanded field’. So do you see
KJ: Who inspires you? NE: I have my heroes and my heroines, a couple of contemporary American artists. Robert Gober and Felix Gonzalez-Torres have been quite significant influences on me. There is a more obvious reference in my practice to Gober and the concept of the ‘dream work’, but I think that Gonzalez-Torres’s work
represents a high point in critical print practices. It is also a high point in conceptual practices, drawing its influences from a re-examination of minimalism. I also have an Australian heroine, Bea Maddock, whose work I’ve always really admired, her steady on-going practice. The other connection to Gober and GonzalezTorres is that they both project the subject position of a gay male artist, so that’s been significant for me as well. KJ: What subject matter or concepts are you interested in exploring? NE: The costume work that I’ve been working on over these past years have developed into figurative photo/print works and explore the notion of pathos and parody. The ideas of Wilde and his take on the artist’s model. I also enjoy experimenting with the development of work through a combination of analogue and digital production methodologies. KJ: Why is it important for you to engage with current events and do you do that through your work? NE: I’ve used a number of found images from the internet or the newspaper. At the moment in the world there’s a lot of pathos to be found in terms of images in the media. I’m very selective about the sort of images that I would use. I have to be particularly affected by
something that I see that I want to use. It’s not always an image but it might be a story. My most recent piece in the TNN exhibition is the blanket work that was produced in response to the story of the two young Iranian men who left Iran on false passports and made their way to Kuala Lumpur where they got onto the Malaysian Airline flight 370 that disappeared. They were young, gay refugees who initially, when the plane disappeared, were suspected of being terrorists because it was discovered that they had been using false passports, but they were fleeing an oppressive regime and were on their way to China to take a connecting flight to Frankfurt, where they were going to hand themselves in as refugees. There is something like 80,000 gay refugees in Germany alone and so their story is not unique, but it is poignant in the sense that their flights to freedom have by a cruel trick of fate been foiled. I found it a touching and sad story. That would be an example of a response to a news story or a story that’s comes through the media. Other works use actual images presented in the media. KJ: It’s important to you because you get emotionally affected by it? NE: Yes, for example the image that came out of Abu Ghraib I have used was really spell-binding
for me. It was taken by bottom of the wrung in the American armed forces. They were of course acting on the orders of others. I found the psychology behind that stuff was really incredibly strange, the fact that they were forcing people to play-act homosexual sex as a means of humiliation. That one particular image resonates with so many other images in western art history. Repetition, multiplicity, different states, mirroring and echoing; it becomes a different thing about how images proliferate subconsciously. How do they make an image like that if they haven’t digested images similar? It’s kind of weird that there are so many art references and yet those people have probably no idea about art or history or of contemporary art.
In the past I have made a work that serves a general purpose for a general art going audience with a message for a very particular audience that knows about codes and contexts and gaps in which meaning can occur, so in particular I have a queer audience, but I’m not saying that the work would be unavailable to another audience, like the flag work is not necessarily a gay work.
KJ: What do you believe your role in society is as an artist?
NE: On one hand it can be limiting on the other it can be liberating because it means that you are free to operate however you want and that you don’t have to hide, that you don’t have to use those codes in order to express yourself or reach a particular audience, but it can be problematic when people start to pigeonhole you, like “oh, you’re a gay artist”. But I’ve never felt that work is overtly gay, although it can be camp, like the flags that are totally over the top and camp in a certain way. It’s more the dialogue and context around the work that makes it gay. I have often been curated into shows that have queer themes. In the 90s
NE: To bring people’s attention to the issues I care about I suppose, at a very basic level. To investigate and critique, and to challenge. To engage with the arts industry and to continue to explore things like project production and exhibition design. My work projects gay themes that are informed by gay and lesbian and Queer studies. Being gay has often had to be hidden or covert. I’m interested in playing with the idea of codes and the machinations of the closet.
KJ: I was reading a publication that you were a part of and some of the things that they had written had put you into a sort of gay stereotype box. When you started out as an artist did that start occurring and you had to embrace it? Or did you always have that as part of your artist identity. Is it limiting?
I was curated into a series of shows called E/Sensual Fragments, across two years that ran a series of shows from people whose practices were queer. I’ve been in other shows as well like the show the MCA, which was about politics in general, so there was a big show and it encompassed many aspects of the engagement of politics, and not just world politics but politics within the art world. KJ: What does the collective, The News Network mean to you? NE: The News Network has just been initiated with this project. We’ve produced something together and that is the exhibition. We’ve gotten to know a bit about what each other’s practices are about. I don’t think I have any preconceived ideas about what it should be, for me just getting through this episode will be a miracle because it’s been quite hectic and intense with people in town and doing the show. I think we should sit on it for a few months and think about it, but I do imagine that there would be opportunities that present themselves for other projects that I might choose to be involved with. These could be more collaborative in their nature in terms of making the work together or that there could be exhibition projects in either Melbourne on Auckland that I’d be interested in participating in.
The idea of doing residencies in Melbourne is a nice idea for me because I get to go to my home town. I have an established audience in Melbourne because I’ve been showing there for many years. It’s interesting to formalise my relationship with the Melbourne people, particularly Richard and Marian. We’ve all worked together at various stages and in various ways but this is another stage in our long relationships that provides possibilities for us to develop our research work together and put it out there. KJ: How do you survive? NE - Well I have a wage, I’ve got a job and I’m very lucky because jobs in art schools are like hens teeth. If I didn’t have a job perhaps I’d be much better at marketing my work, but because I’ve got a job and I’m making work I don’t have a lot of time to do that. KJ: How do you survive? What is your personal sustainability? NE: It is tricky surviving. This is the longest I’ve ever worked in the same job. Next year will be my 10th year of working in the same position, in the same institution. For most of my working life I have been in and out of teaching positions. At Sydney College I worked full time for three years and then went
Neil Emmerson (Frost), 2015 (detail)
on to part time. Then I got a grant and I spent two years working on that grant and producing a big body of work. I love just being totally immersed in my own practice, and so survival can be tricky when your job, even though itâ€™s involved in the
arts, limits the amount of energy you have to put into your own work.
Richard Harding is a print based artist and Senior Lecturer at the School of Art, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. Within a print based art practice Harding explores the use of printmakingâ€™s intrinsic qualities of sameness and difference through the multiple with the merging of traditional and contemporary print methods. Hardingâ€™s visual research is informed by architectural and queer theory, utilising print media, analogue and digital as vehicles for an ongoing art practice. He has produced twodimensional, installation, video and object based works. Harding completed a PhD by Project in 2014 titled, Juxtapose: An Exploration of Gay Masculine Identity and Its Relationship to the
Closet. The Project was triggered by the discovery of the term straight acting on the internet in the Noughties (2000 â€“ 2009) and has been driven by the paradox that is created when gay and masculine are positioned together within the western patriarchal dominant society where heteronormative masculinity is positioned as alpha with all other forms of masculinity and performance situated beneath it. Printmaking plays a fundamental and interrogative role within this project through its facility of reproducibility and thus production of multiples while the term straight acting activates the print based preoccupation of the real and unreal, the authentic and replica with the original and the copy.
Michelle Hayward: When did you realise you wanted to be an artist? Richard Harding: I suppose towards the final year of my high school, I decided that I really wanted to be an artist, in a very modernist sense, I had that romanticised vision of what an artist could be. I applied to go to art school from high school and I was successful in getting a place, so off I went. That’s when I was introduced to real aspects of printmaking, an expanded understanding of printmaking. I was quite young, I would say sixteen and so I was seventeen going on eighteen when I went to art school. I found that even though I had things I wanted to talk about with my fledgling practice, at the time it really lacked life experience and it wasn’t until after that I realised what a great opportunity I had and I could’ve made more of it. But I was coming of age, I was learning how to do all of these other things at the same time as going to art school. Sometimes that can be a great combination and other times certain things can get in the way and for me I think the coming of age, coming out as a gay youth really got in the way of art production. At times they worked really well together, in the realm of protest and activism, but other times they fought against each other because I was so involved in the activism or I was too self reflective in my situation.
MH: That’s interesting, I haven’t actually heard somebody talk about being too self reflective. RH: I think it was because at the time in Australia being gay was still on the books as being a criminal act. That was part of what activated me, but the beauty of printmaking was I could make handbills and I could play around with that stuff, go to the demonstrations, go the meetings and hand things out, incognito. MH: Why did you become an artist? RH: I thought I had something to say and visual art was the best way I thought I could say it. I didn’t feel confident enough to be an orator or a writer but being a visual artist I could make work or I could print, I could put it on the wall and I could stand back and let the work talk for me or I was talking through the work. Its like my attraction to print as well, it’s the democracy of print that really caught my attention and the idea that I was brought up in a house that had no art in it at all. It had one reproduction of a really bad seascape that was not an original artwork. At art school I actually started to understand the politics of the print as well, the democracy of it, the way it could activate people. Like the printing press, the sort of liberation through knowledge.
MH: What is your relationship with art theory, if you have one? RH: I’m very pro art theory and I don’t see it as being separate from art history. I see it as an integral part of being an educator and also an artist that we learn from the past and theory. What we’re doing now in our current timeframe, may become of historic importance or it might become of importance through a particular theorem or mode of operating or working. So to look back even ten years and then further back I think it is paramount for artists so I would say that I have a working relationship with art history and theory. Dates of artworks are not vital to me because I can look them up when I need them. What I lock onto are ideas that come either out of history or out of contemporary theory. When I talk about contemporary theory I’m talking about in the last 30-40 years, within my lifetime. I’m a really big fan of Mark Wigley, who is a New Zealander that lives and works in the US, he’s an architectural theorist and curator. He wrote an amazing paper in the 90s called Untitled: The Housing of Gender. He also talks in other writing about the construction of costume. I’m also a fan of Elizabeth Grosz, especially Architecture from the Outside, that particular set of essays talks about the use of the digital or cyber realm with the actual or so-
called real. Grosz also talks about how architecture and art community groups move backwards and forwards between the actual world and the cyber world. There’s this great statement, I wish I could remember who said it, “architecture is the mother of art.” From the earliest shelters, from the caves, we started to make art, humans started to make art in their surroundings. MH: Who inspires you? As you started developing your artistic nature, was there a particular artist that inspired you? RH: I would say that the artist that inspired me the most when I was really young was Michaelangelo. The main reason was the longevity he had and the fact that he could move between painting and sculpture. Also the fact that some of the documentation on his life is based around negotiations with quite powerful people, the different popes, he outlived so many popes that would try and maneuver him into doing things for them because he was so renowned within his lifetime. So becoming an artist I thought, how do you lock onto somebody or when do you decide on such a profession? I didn’t think I would get a job, or I didn’t think of any type of future economics or living or making
a living. I just thought I want to do that. It wasn’t until I was in my mid twenties that I started telling people I was an artist because I didn’t feel like I’d qualified. I remember being at the Australian Print Workshop, then it was called the Victorian Print Workshop and the director at the time (late 80s) was John Loane. I remember him turning to us and asking, “when do you think you’ll identify as being an artist rather than a printmaker or somebody that is just making prints?” My response
to that was, “I’m an artist now because I’m making work and I’m putting it on a wall for people to see in the public arena.” Through public presentation, exhibition, that is my seal of being a professional artist. MH: What does the collective, The News Network mean to you? RH: The News Network is a group for me, I don’t know whether it’s a collective, it is definitely a network. As a group of people I knew two of Richard Harding in residence
them quite well and one of them I just met recently, but the others I didn’t know at all and I think that this coming together as a group at Dunedin School of Art is our first introductory meeting, and through that introduction already things are starting to happen. I finished my PhD a year ago, and I’ve just started to make new work, and all the work that I’ve been making over the past ten years has used images from the published media that is either attached to the news or is considered news from newspapers and from the web. The News Network offers exactly what it is, a network to spring board from and to open up my practice once more, using very similar methodologies but to expand outwards. Part of that has already happened with the installation of the Refugee barcode in the corridor of the P-lab. MH: What’s the difference to you between a collective and a network? RH: A network for me, is the beginnings of a group that can expand and contract, depending on what’s coming up. We don’t have to work as a tight membership or a tight set, people can break away and then come back. MH: As a student, the thought of getting involved again, in AUT, Monash or wherever, for an opportunity like this would just be
amazing. RH: Because it is Trans Tasman, the connections that are being made at the moment are for the artists and the spin off of that is the connections that are being made by the artists and the network with the student body that we’re currently being hosted by. So that when we go to another institution, whether that’s in New Zealand or Australia, aspects of those connections will travel with the artists. MH: Why is it important for you to engage with current events? RH: I think that’s our job. As a contemporary artist, how you engage with current events is up to you, there’s lots of different ways of doing it. The way that I do it is incredibly direct, some people might say it’s quite didactic, but I don’t mind that, because that’s the nature of some aspects of print. I’m a big fan of posters and if you’re not didactic, you’re not going to get people to stop and look. I do other work that’s quite subtle and ironic, so I do big work, installation work and quite small intimate works as well. All of them have some connection to current affairs. They’re opinion pieces, they might be about a particular issue or a particular idea that I have an opinion on, and you know, not everyone has to agree with my opinion but I want to put it out there to activate discussion.
MH: I noticed one of your screens you were printing with yesterday was Sonny Bill Williams and another person. RH: Sam Kale, I think his name is. I try not to use such famous people but it was such a great image. It is so topical here at the moment considering the Rugby World Cup, and especially after last night and now Australia and New Zealand are to compete in the final. So the thing that I’m doing with that particular image: the two of them looking at a smartphone and being in a large arena, is that all the headlines that I’m collecting to that image will have nothing to do with rugby. The image that I’ve printed of the Palestinian protester, everything that’s going on in that image now has nothing to do with Palestine or Israel, so it is about juxtaposing different ideas and changing peoples perceptions of what they’re looking at. One of the big things with the two rugby boys is that I’m putting ISIS information over the top of them, because of what ISIS is doing to the gay and lesbian community, so it’s about making people aware. The thing about ISIS and the gay and lesbian refugees is that you don’t even have to be gay or lesbian, you just have be too familiar with each other and you can be disposed of under the guise of being gay or lesbian. So those two boys leaning on each other, could be read
in so many different ways, it could be full on ‘bromance’, they could be copping a feel of each other, in a clandestine manner, or they could be just looking at the score of Australia beating Argentina, it could be so many different things. I read those two men as overtly heterosexual, because of how they’re displayed, and how they’re comfortable with each other. There’s no questions for me about that but I put those questions out there for other people to play with, but somebody that’s unsure of their sexual orientation, or somebody that’s homophobic, would not do that. MH: What do you believe your role in society is, as an artist? RH: I think my role is to instigate questioning, to activate or trigger people questioning the status quo. There are a lot of good things that come out of Australia and Australia is a great place to live, as it seems to be here as well. But I don’t think that we should stop, because there’s more to do, there’s more, and things could be better. I think that both countries are wealthy, both have a lot of space, and both have outrageous border controls as well. I’m not advocating any particular policy but what I am advocating is a more humanitarian approach to allowing people to come into our countries. MH: How do you survive?
RH: I’ve worked in so many different part time jobs, but I’ve nearly always had a studio, and when I didn’t have a studio away from home there would be a room or a space allocated for planning, drawing, collaging within the flat or the house that I was living in. I didn’t expect to make a living out of it but by the time I was in my late 20s-early 30s I actually started to have solo shows and stared to sell quite well, but that ended when I moved into installation work, so there is a very particular dynamic with regards to making a living off selling art, especially in Australia. I started to do some sessional work as well. So predominantly now how I survive is I have an ongoing position in the university system as an academic so I work within academia, and because of that I get one day of research, I get paid a decent wage, and I can afford to work with or without people. I choose to work with people because I think it’s more inspiring. I work out of a studio in East Brunswick with 11 other artists, so there’s 12 of us in this warehouse, and then I have access to the print area at RMIT as well, which all the staff get access to, so I feel very fortunate. MH: How do you protect yourself from all of the injustice that you see and you deal with? How do you distance yourself to a certain degree? RH: I think we build up automatic
filters and barriers to that, I think it happens naturally. That’s why when you watch the news at the end of each session, no matter what station it’s on, there’s a feel good story. The reality of atrocities is incredibly overwhelming, emotionally overwhelming and psychologically damaging to dwell on for too long. I’ve learnt how to pull back. If personally or psychologically I’m feeling down I won’t work on certain things, whereas if I’m feeling really good about life, that is when I can quite easily go and submerge myself in things that are really difficult to come to terms with. I’m self protected because I’m feeling good about things. The injustices that I’m reading about, or that I’m taking on board need action, they need someone to actually do something and lots of people do other things, I make art. MH: What subject matter or concepts are you primarily interested in exploring? RH; Masculinity, codes, and space, they’re the three core elements of my work that I’ve been dealing with for twenty years, and they keep coming back. I’m fascinated by codes of behavior and how people identify visually, I’m fascinated by the Australian masculine myth, it’s something that is propagated through nationalism, and space is the metaphor of architecture for the self. So the home or the house is
Richard Harding, Invisible Man 2009 (detail)
the self, the idea of the architectural metaphor, of the homosexual closet, the idea of installation practice is all about space as well so they intertwine and are used to inform each other depending on what specifics I want to talk about. Iâ€™m
because I can also flip that into talking about the feminine as well. For me print is a feminine medium or process purely because itâ€™s based in reproducibility or reproduction.
Chris McBride is a New Zealand based creative provocateur, with a lifetime involvement in issuesbased collectivist/collaborative arts through a kaupapa based on action/praxis. His process involves participatory arts, design and screen printing to promote community empowerment, togetherness and freedom. He was a key designer and screen printer within the Wellington Media Collective, and is co-curator and co-producer of the retrospective exhibition of the WMCs collected works. He was co-producer and codesigner of “We Will Work With You: Wellington Media Collective 19781998”, a 240 page book published in 2013 about the social, political and design history of the Collective. While Manager of the McCahon House Trust (3009-2012) he was
responsible for liaison and support for three artists-in-residence per year and management of the McCahon House Museum dedicated to one of New Zealand’s most important contemporary artists. Chris is co-curator/co-producer for The Kauri Project dedicated to linking artists with scientists, iwi and others working with kauri (a nationally significant tree species under threat), considering the potential of art as a tool for research, education and activism to assist in raising awareness and discussion about kauri as a national taonga, and prompting positive solutions and action about kauri dieback disease.
Dayle Thomas: When did you realise you wanted to be an artist? Chris McBride: It is really hard to pinpoint that one because to some extent I fell into the art world and also particularly into the design world. In the late 70s, I was a detached youth worker, working with a gang in the Wairarapa, establishing work practices and a work cooperative. One of my external supervisors (from the Department of Internal Affairs), told me about a collective she was involved in that was being established in Wellington – was a desgin and print collective, and suggested I come visit the next time I was down. When I finished up with the detached youth work, I moved down to Wellington and met up with the people of the collective. In 1979, I became a member of the collective, which was still at a fairly early stage with a studio in Newtown, Wellington. I had a fairly organic, and perhaps almost anarchist idea about design. I had some design abilities, however, I was really fortunate to learn more from a few key Collective members who had been through design school and art school. That training honed my abilities. Along with other designers and screen printers, I was involved in producing work, which was destined for the streets, multicoloured screen prints, runs of three to five hundred were right up my alley. So that’s how it really came
about, it was almost by accident but being involved in the Collective has been a part of my life for a very long time now. Our kaupapa, ‘We Will Work With You, Not For You’ has guided me even when working for design publishing companies or on other projects. That ability to work in a collaborative way has become a really big part of who I am and how the organizations that I work with operate as well, and that’s very important to me and the way I work. DT: Why did you become an artist? CM: I think I saw it as a means to get the message out there about issues, about employment and tino rangatiratanga (Māori sovereignty), No Nukes, social justice, antiapartheid and more. It was about working with people on issuebased projects. And again, going back to the Collective motto, “we will work with you, not for you”, this is the key, to teach others and to have others involved, empowering people building people’s awareness about what they could do and how they could get their message out visually, and better. The artwork and the visual impact on the streets was a really important part of what we were trying to get people to achieve and to think about. For example we worked with trade unions and other activists. They were always wanting to put out a leaflet which
had a thousand words in it and no images, and we worked towards changing their perception and showing that they could actually get the same message out with a minimal amount of words and with really impactful graphics. That was quite a transitional thing, to work with people, and respectfully guide them in a visual direction. Many came to our studio and consulted really closely with us on the design aspects, sometimes they couldn’t come to the studio, but they would come in and help us print. You know what it’s like when you’re printing, there are quite a lot of things to do, and it’s great to have someone help you along with that. DT: What is your relationship with art theory, if you have one? CM: Pretty minimal really! It’s interesting for me because I’ve been involved in art projects for a number of years now, so I think the art theory side of it is probably an area which I could do with a little bit more work on. But it’s not so important to me to naval gaze! I like discussing art and I like talking through ideas but I don’t really get bogged down with the inner workings of why that works against that or what genre it is or anything like that. It’s not through seeing that as being a negative or anything, it’s more that it’s never been part of how I’ve viewed it, although I’ve read a lot. A good friend of the Collective recently put it this
way when talking about art school and his tutors: “They (Elam) had all these wildly unqualified people who were just magic because they were practitioners. They taught me everything I needed to know. Now you have to be a theorist, a wordsmith, the pendulum has swung.” I have been involved in the discussion though. I was manager of the McCahon House artist residency and museum up in Titirangi in Auckland for just over three years and that meant a lot of time with artists discussing their processes, their work, what they were thinking about and what direction they were going in. One of the good things about these discussions was that artists, who had found themselves stuck about direction, would find a way to break out of that trap and to move on. It’s a connecting of ideas rather than the theoretical approach to art. I guess I’m not overly interested in the whole theory of art. DT: What subject matter or concepts are you currently interested exploring? CM: Primarily issues-based content. It’s interesting to be involved with the News Network. For me it’s about finding my pathway to address the issues. I prefer to use the term address rather than respond. It engages directly to the core. When
Chris McBride No Person Is Illegal II You Have to Understand… 2015 (detail)
you respond to something it’s almost just a reaction to it almost like saying “sorry”, but if you’re trying to address the issue you’re really tackling the bigger questions and attempting to breakthrough barriers. There are people around the world who have been doing that in different ways. You could put some of the work that Banksy does into the category of just whimsy, but then there’s also the work that he did on the Israeli wall which is issues based and is making a really big statement addressing
the problem of Apartheid in Israel and the destruction that’s going on for the Palestinian people. A good friend, Emory Douglas who is a revolutionary artist and was The Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party in the U.S, is in his seventies now and still working and producing and actually reworking he calls it remixing - some of his older work so that it has a contemporary flare to it. It’s a lovely way of looking at it.
When you choose a pathway as an activist artist and a collaborative artist, and become involved in collective practice, you’re really consciously choosing to be involved with what’s happening in our communities and we need more of that. I’m going to read a little statement by this woman, Frie Leysen, who’s a Belgian festival director and curator, she says: “Art should not please. On the contrary art has to show where it hurts in our societies, in our world. We urgently need the courage back to pick up this role of disturbers again.” And that’s where I come from, that role of being a disturber. James Baldwin also says something very similar; basically that the artist’s role is to disturb, to make people think. It is really trying to get people aware of the issues around us. It’s also important to have fun and to enjoy producing and making art, but you can do that and address the big issues as well. I think it’s a really important part of our role to be involved with our communities, to provide a place for our communities to make a statement. This is actually quite a good way to segue into the Kauri Project, which is an organisation that I helped to set up. The kauri tree is under threat. A bio organism burrows into it and eventually causes it to die. Its name is Phytophthora Agathidicida which means kauri killer and, that’s what it does. There
are a lot of Phytophthora around the world but this one is unique to the kauri tree. The kauri tree is a really important tree in our ecosystem; it grows from the upper-mid North Island from the Waikato, Tauranga area through the Coromandel, right up to the far North. Kauri is the biggest absorber of carbon in the world courtesy of its size and the biomass surrounding the trees. We, The Kauri Project, are using art as a way to build awareness of the problem and how we all should react when visiting our ngahere/forests. What should we do? When we visit someone’s home, we might leave our shoes at the door or we at least wipe them before we go inside a house. Now we need to be aware of how we enter our forests. We need to encourage people to be aware when they go into the bush that they need to use the cleaning tools before entering the forest. Going into the bush is like going into a whare. Into a house. It’s the networks within the bush that we need to re-understand, that we are vitally connected to, because without the trees we don’t breathe. Our work brings art, science; Mātauranga Māori and community together to become more aware and to change behavior so it’s an ongoing issue that keeps on popping up. The
supports greater discussion. Meeting and working with new people and being able to have conversations with students and lecturers, and being in different places is actually really vital, you might go away and think, “oh that’s really interesting, I might pursue that or explore that a little bit more and see what else is around.” DT: Who inspires you? CM: A lot of people, I guess one of my biggest inspirations was a person who’s no longer with us who was part of our Collective (WMC), Dave Kent. He passed away from motor neuron Disease in April 2013. In 2009 we began the task of archiving the WMC. The archiving of over 500 items – Posters, books, leaflets and other items – began in 2010 and culminated in a large retrospective at the Adam Art Gallery, Victoria University, Wellington, and the launch of the book at the end of the exhibition. Dave was one of the founders and despite everything continued to inspire and provoke. The book about the Collective “We Will Work With You: Wellington Media Collective 1978-1998” is dedicated to him. And people like Emory Douglas (Black Panther Party) who is older and still making art, working and painting murals in Australia with artists like Richard Bell, (Kamilaroi, Jiman, Gurang Gurang), and
heading off into the bush and areas of Mexico, and creating and collaborating with Zapatista artists and communities. Also the work of San Francisco-based artist Melanie Cervantes and the work of Charlotte Graham – one of the many inspiring artists we work with in The Kauri Project resonates. – These are artists who are inspirational. There are many different artists whose work I really admire. In the past I was fairly heavily influenced by Cuban style graphics and artwork because it fitted in with what we [WMC] were doing then; the immediacy of getting the message out to people was important. What was really lovely about the WMC work was not only the political side of it but the art side of it, our collective was very much involved in the politics but we had all this work that we did with theatre and music and dance and that had some crossover but it was really quite fun to do. I’m not so much influenced by other people these days as by words. The poster “You have to understand…” in the exhibition [at Otago Polytechnic] has a statement that was part of a big long poem by Somali/British poet Warsan Shireh about the whole issue of putting someone on a boat, and that putting them in danger is not really what you intend to do. People who write things like that inspire me. It’s great to see that type of statement coming out. I think it’s incumbent
on us to be mindful to get involved. DT: What does the collective, The News Network mean to you? CM: I think it’s a chance to come together and to not necessarily work so much on collaborations, although that could happen and I’m sure it will happen, but to be supported by people who have likeminded ideas about what we should be doing to address the issues that come up in the news and making statements about them that other people can reflect on. I think it’s in its infancy, this is the first time that we’ve actually all been together, so that in itself is a really great thing. Face to face conversation is an extremely important part of knowing who you are in relation to other people, and how you can be supportive of processes. The projects that each of us undertake are quite different, but thematically they are similar. I hadn’t really realised what Richard’s [Richard Harding] barcode meant but we had been talking about all these different barcodes and this one means refugee. I feel really comfortable that around the corner from that is my work, a solidarity poster. I think there’s really strong connection between the two.
Michelle Hayward: A lot of artists are so empathetic with what’s going on around them and the injustices of the world which can be quite emotionally overwhelming. How do you cope with that? How does everything that’s going on that you care about not overwhelm you?
DT: Is it important for you to engage in current events?
CM: I go and walk on the beach, breathe in the ocean. Recently with our Kauri Project, we’d take people out into the bush. Artists, scientists and the community, and when you’re in the bush you can be overwhelmed by the destruction that’s going on so we’d deliberately go to some places where the bush was perfect, the kauri – large and inspiring. This way we provide a clearer picture of the impact, and context about what’s happening with the disease overtaking our taonga tree. I tend to just step away every now and then and take a moment. I grew up in a big family and my mum always took us to the water when she needed to go and regenerate her energy. Her way of coping with the issues of having seven boys and a husband and things getting her down was to go and walk out on the beach for ages and ages. I’m really grateful for that because I think it’s given me a place of solace and reflection. Water is a healer and I have that as a way of being able to cope.
CM: Definitely, yeah, I think that’s in all my answers.
I also spend time with my daughter or other friends. There’s a group of
us who were involved with youth work in the past – generally with gangs. Every now and then we gather, have a breakfast together and talk. Sometimes it’s the heavy stuff, but quite often it’s about what’s happening in the whanau, or someone needs a bit of support, so you talk through things. We’re four blokes and often this doesn’t happen with men, but we’ve all been through some tough stuff. DT: What do you believe your role in society is as an artist? CM: I think that’s probably connected with that statement from Frie Leysen that we talked about before, that my role is to bring messages, and to address issues, and to create a place for people to have a conversation about things, and to look at means and ways to make enough change in our world. I’m here to stir.
DT: How do you survive as an artist? CM – Precariously. That’s actually very relevant at the moment, my coworker and I have no funds to go ahead with our work at the present time. We’ll find a way. We lurch basically, I think a lot of artists just lurch, get a bit of money here and really spread it out. From time to time I’ve had full time, paid work. I’d prefer not to because that interferes with being able to do other things, but I’m quite open to having a two or three day a week job that gives me a bit of money to survive. I’m used to not living on a huge amount and that’s my choice. I’ve chosen this way of living. I could have pursued working for various companies as a designer and get a reasonable wage out of that, but it’s not me. We all face those choices.
Chris McBride I read the news today oh boy.., 2015 (detail)
Trent Walter is an artist and publisher interested in the intersection of contemporary art and printed matter. In his artwork, Walter combines multiple readymade sources (textual, pictorial and/ or sculptural) to form alternative narratives that comment on identity, history and culture more broadly. He was joint recipient, with Brook Andrew, of the 2013–14 Georges Mora Foundation Fellowship, for the project Dual/Duel. Through his studio, Negative Press, Walter commissions artists to create projects made through the lens of expanded print practices. Negative Press commissions three editions
annually and also works on print projects commissioned by artists and cultural institutions. Recent projects include Anna Ephraim’s series of screenprints Lake Eyre, 2015 and Stuart Ringholt’s Untitled, 2014, which was pasted up on the streets of Melbourne during February 2014 and exhibited at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, as part of Ringholt’s survey exhibition Kraft; as well as two major projects made with Emily Floyd, Ripple 2013–14 and Solve Your Personal Problems Socially, 2014. Trent Walter is a sessional lecturer at Monash University Art Design and Architecture, Melbourne.
Kaela Janiten: When did you realise you wanted to be an artist / printmaker? Trent Walter: I can probably say categorically, when I wanted to be a printmaker was in my second year of a more general course, the Bachelor of Visual and Performing arts. I had planned to pursue acting as a career, but had the opportunity to study art during the degree and had studied art in my earlier school days. Stephen Spurrier, now based in Queensland, introduced me to steel plate etching in nitric acid and as soon as I inked that first plate, and put it through the press, I felt like it was something I wanted to pursue. So as a result, I concluded my studies at the University of Melbourne and moved into a Fine Arts course at Victoria College of the Arts majoring in Printmaking. In terms of being an artist, I guess, I don’t feel like I was an artist at art school, which is a strange thing to say. I then worked in various print workshops gaining valuable experience working with a variety of artists. I had no desire to make my own work until a decade later, in 2012, when Marian Crawford invited me to contribute work to an exhibition. This happened to coincide with me thinking about making my own work. KJ: Is art theory important in your practice? TW: I have an interest in aesthetics
and feel art theory is important to engage with but it’s not the whole picture. I love to read about ideas and think them through. When the artist Simon Starling was writing in Texte Zur Kunst about research, he said it’s really tough to write about research in regards to [Starling’s] practice but at the end of the day there’s this other process which is more about responding to occasions that arise in the studio, that push the work in a way that is different from just pure thinking. I feel I can relate to that and have a similar approach in my own studio. So, I have an idea for something, but what actually happens in the studio in the process of making the work becomes a thinking through doing with a result that is often more complex and interesting. KJ: Who inspires you? TW – Ah, that’s a good question. Obviously all my colleagues in The News Network. I think that a lot of it ends up being quite personal, so, I have a studio, Negative Press, where I invite artists to work in my studio and they inspire me. The most recent people I’ve worked with are Elizabeth Newman, a Melbournebased artist and John Spiteri who is a Sydney-based painter. John, in particular, is someone who I find to be an incredible painter, incredible artist… a great human! Basically nice people inspire me - in a nutshell... good people.
Trent Walter Remembering Alan Kurdi, 2015 (installation view)
KJ: What does The News Network mean to you? TW: As this residency is our initial meeting I think it’s still not fully defined, but it’s a group of artists coming together through different institutional organisations to see if we can work together on this broader project called The News Network. It represents an experiment through art making processes and practices, and also personalities. At the moment we don’t really know each other, so this Dunedin School of Art residency is a real testing ground for those relationships, and so it might work or it might fail. But having seen a lot of the work in the exhibition, as it’s being installed, I’m feeling optimistic. KJ: Why is it important for you to engage with current events? TW: I think it’s impossible to live in a vacuum these days. Current events are all around you. I really admire an artist like Giorgio Morandi, who would just sit in his studio, painting still lifes, and it is incredible work as is non-representational work. But for myself, I can’t help but be engaged with what’s happening around me, and what’s happening in the world. At the same time I would say that it’s difficult to respond to things because we’re making artwork, and artwork is much less able, I still feel, to make changes in the world than activism. I guess I’m coming to terms
with the notion of artist as activist. KJ: What is your position on being an artist in society? TW: If I was making a joke I’d say ‘to promote bohemian lifestyle choices’. In some ways you have to be prepared to promote your own work and feel that it is strong enough, or powerful to have an audience. You put your trust in the work and put it out into the world. KJ: How do you survive as an artist? TW: To survive financially, I do some sessional lecturing at Monash University and I run my business, Negative Press, which is a commercial business involving custom printing. Working with artists isn’t always a very lucrative commercial venture, but I find it very engaging. At times I do projects where, rather than me paying for everything, an artist or an institution will approach me to print someone else’s work. I also work in the studio of artist, Brook Andrew every week. So I do lots of different things basically… to survive. My advice to students that are coming out of art school would be just to go for it one hundred per cent. Often you’re doing lots of different jobs and it may be tough to survive but you tend to have less responsibility so it’s an opportunity to push ahead as hard as you can.
Trent Walter Remembering Alan Kurdi, 2015 As you go on, the pressures and responsibilities mount. You find you have less time for play which is really important in the studio. You become better at prioritising and spend less time making. KJ: What is your subject matter, or what concepts are you primarily interested in exploring? TW: I find I’m always working with ready-made sources, whether it’s textual, or sculptural, or pictorial. The works in The News Network exhibition are a combination of works that I’ve remade from old magazines, texts from newspapers, or other literary sources. The juxtaposition of those images and texts form a new relationship
between the image and the texts. The work in the show is about the effects of forced migration on children and references Aylan Kurdi, the little Syrian boy who was washed up on the beach with his brother. My research looks at identity, I guess, and culture, more broadly. While on the residency I was able to make use of the archive of magazines and books in the photocopier room. Within that there are resources I find interesting. I’m working on a magazine project where I assemble different pages of magazines together. They make interesting juxtapositions. So within that databank of images and pages there’s always interesting information, that when reconfigured could tell another story. It becomes
an alternative narrative within an everyday collection. You could attach it to semiotics in in the way you read signs and how that has changed with time. But I am as equally interested with contemporary resources. The advantage of older
sources is that you have fewer issues with copyright. That becomes something thatâ€™s interesting, and difficult, for a lot of artists working with ready-made sources.
Trent Walter Remembering Alan Kurdi, 2015 (detail)
Marion Wassenaar is a visual artist specialising in print practices and collaborative projects and has a background in the commercial print industry. Her research focuses on the collision between humans and their environment, either through social justice or ecological concerns. She seeks to engage in non-conventional print practices with renewable resources and recycling in mind. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Dunedin School of Art. Her masterâ€™s project, Carbon Black, was held in the historic
Dunedin Gasworks Musuem The interactions associated with this community, and fieldwork within the site, propelled the exhibition project towards a collaborative framework. The charcoal making process using recycled newspaper and site responsiveness ackknowledged the impermanent materiality of charcoal production and the industrial labour relations associated with the Gasworks. She lectures in the Print Studio, and is collections administrator at the Dunedin School of Art.
Sophie McDonagh: When did you realise you wanted to be an artist. Marion Wassenaar: A friend and I volunteered to make sets for a pantomime held in our local community hall and while working on that I floated the idea of attending a four day â€˜Summer in the Sunâ€™ life drawing workshop in Kurow. That was back in the year 2000. Two more summer schools followed and enrolment in community classes and then in 2007 I decided to become a full-time art student. This was while raising two children and having a part-time graphic design contract working on a Bed and Breakfast publication. Soon after leaving school at 15, I signed up for an apprenticeship in photolithography, working mainly as a colour stripper which involved assembling four colour film works for commercial printing. I worked in this field for over twenty years both here and overseas. This profession is now superseded by digital technologies so when I discovered the processes of print at the community classes it gave me the opportunity to revisit some old skills from the commercial print trade. My first year of study as a mature student at the art school was fairly daunting but I have had wonderful support which helped in my decision to continue arts study until finally completing my Master of Fine
Arts in 2013. SM: Is art theory important in your practice? MW: Yes, definitely. A major component of my masterâ€™s degree involved theoretical research and to a lesser degree the undergraduate programme. This research helps to contextualise my art practice. It gives me skills to critically analyse and understand my work in relation to contemporary practice and cultural traditions. The art school lectures gave me insight into the fascinating world of art history and theory and introduced me to philosophical questions about human nature and our engagement in the world. Following my second year at art school I enrolled in summer school at Otago University to study a paper on Postmodernism and continental philosophy. This gave me a deeper understanding of some of the philosophers ideas and key topics I was coming across in the art school lectures. SM: Who inspires you? MW: Artistically, the students and my colleagues in the P lab, and the communities of artists I associate with for group shows or collaborations. They both inspire and challenge me to engage in creative activities. The formation of The News Network is an exciting and stimulating foundation in which
to participate in current events through our common interest in print practices. Art historically, I am inspired by the Dada artists with their anti-war agenda and I am also influenced by the Arte Povera movement in their use of low cost, recycled materials. A visit to the Sydney Biennale when I was in my second year in the undergraduate programme was both inspiring and eye-opening. The biennale was curated by Carolyn Christov-Barkagiev and I saw a number of artists and artworks that helped shape my thinking or raised awareness of contemporary issues. This included a piece by Pierre Huyghe in the Sydney Opera House where he completely filled the darkened auditorium with tropical plants and created pathways negotiated by head torches. When seen from the stalls above, it acutely highlighted for me the devastating human impact on the ecosystem of rainforests. My family and friends continue to inspire and inform me as does the environment. I admire the work of Elsie Locke. She was a writer, historian, environmentalist and leading activist in the feminism and peace movements. I have to admit to being a bit of a book hoarder and have a collection of her books including some of her illustrated childrens’ books.
SM: What does the The News Network mean to you? MW: It has been an exciting experience to be involved with the residency, meeting the artists involved and taking part in the exhibition in the DSA Gallery. The residency is a fantastic opportunity to view each other’s works and look for connections. Opening up the dialogue of current events through print practices amongst the triad of artists from Melbourne, Auckland and Dunedin generates new and unforeseen possibilties of participation and research. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future of The News Network holds. SM: Why is it important for you to engage with current events? MW: I think it is important to be actively involved and informed. We live in a society today that is saturated with the news from a range of media, making it virtually impossible to ignore. There is so much propaganda out there too, that it is important to have the skills to critically analyse the information that is presented to us. We are engaged in the world and as a mother I’d like to think that I can help to cultivate a safe environment for my childrens’ future. There are some issues I feel more strongly about, such as human rights, war and the impact of climate change and how this may affect our future.
SM: What do you believe your role is, in society, as an artist? MW: I would like to think that my role as an artist is to creatively promote and foster a sense of community. I also think an art practice gives me the opportunity to visually communicate my ideas on issues that I feel strongly about to a public audience. I tend to think that my work isn’t like a loud, ‘in your face’ response but more of a subtle and subversive poke that draws attention to the social and environmental marks of civilisation.
SM: How do you survive as an artist? MW: I guess, because I was a latecomer to art, I was already well established with my own home and a background of professional experience. This gives me the flexibility to immerse myself in art making without too much financial pressure. I do, however, have a number of part-time positions both at the Dunedin School of Art and installation work at the Hocken Gallery. I feel fortunate to be surrounded by
Marion Wassenaar’s weekly news publication during the residency
creative people and this certainly helps sustain my art practice. I think it is important to be intrinsically motivated to seek opportunities and maintain professional practices. SM: What sort of subject matter or concepts are you primarily interested in exploring? MW: One aspect of my research relates to the human impact on the environment looking at experimental methods of art making with sustainability and recycling in mind. A large part of my practice during my undergraduate and master’s degrees involved recycling newspaper and seeking unperceived value in this waste product. My experimentation with newspaper led to charcoal making and tied in with my environmental concerns. The process of making charcoal involved trapping carbon emissions, a major factor in the issue of climate change. There was an image of a gas masked rescue worker in a flood ravaged area of China that was gleaned from the newspaper that was to become another thread in my project. I saw a connection between the labourer and the rescue worker. As the middle class, industrial labour force declines, the rescue work force, it seems, escalates. The rescue worker replaces the labourer by cleaning up the spills of industry and the devastation of environmental or increasing natural disaster.
So the effects of industrialisation, the loss of jobs, and the loss of natural resources all come together in my research. My process also includes reducing books to their carbon state which provides a recycled material for further use. I have a collection of carbonised books, powdered and stored in reagent bottles. Sigmund Freud’s ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ is one such book awaiting transformation. I find it interesting that my first essay I wrote for art theory in year one of the undergraduate programme was on the impact of gas lighting on the streets of Paris and how artists’ Vincent van Gogh and Georges Seurat responded to the new night scenes. I then concluded my master’s project with an exhibition at the Dunedin Gasworks Museum which supplied lighting to the streets of Dunedin. So much of what we do and study, it seems, is interrelated but I would never have imagined how closely aligned these connections in my practice would be at the outset. Working collaboratively also opens up avenues to challenge new ideas. It can be quite liberating.! I have been involved in a number of projects that give me the opportunity to explore a variety of materials and concepts. Being open minded and in touch with the contemporary art world is a vital aspect of research.
Marion Wassenaar, Carbon News 2015, (detail)
Karol Wilczynska is an internationally recognized designer and published illustrator who has been working in the field for over 30 years. Currently employed as Senior Lecturer at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) in the discipline of Communication Design. Karol over sees the development of graduate and post-graduate students. Karol engages in her own research: this includes satirical poster art utilising comments found in the public arena from prominent speakers within New Zealand. Alongside her visual research, Karol is interested in Polish Poster Art, and Polish Immigrant stories in
New Zealand. The visual material prepared for the Trans-Tansman The News Network exhibition looks at the interplay of media stories during the month of July and August 2015 in New Zealand. The work prepared for her Masterâ€™s thesis discusses the interpretations of the impermanence of the book as an object. She is concerned with a distinctive, generic, tactile, paper artefact that reacts to time, both in its physical structure and in the intrusions of readers upon its surfaces. The physical book metamorphoses both physically and conceptually.
Michele Hayward: When did you realise you wanted to be an artist. Karol Wilczynska: To me art has never not been a part of my life. So I think when somebody is asked that question it wasn’t a lightning bolt situation. Like you’re struck and that’s it, I think you have a way about you whether you will gravitate to that or you won’t gravitate, really. I think the designer artist, some people may say that is one of the same thing, designer philosopher, designer, philosopher, teacher, role model and mentor – all of these things have rolled into one. I’ve worked as a book designer, as an illustrator, a magazine designer, and newspaper designer. I’ve worked as a photographer doing studio shots and location shots. I’ve
worked as an illustrator for the St Johns Ambulance manual. I’ve done illustrations for children’s books, instructional design where you have to instruct design in a visual form, manuals which are 1000 pages long because I work with design information. So you can’t put a finger on me and say that’s the letterbox you fit in. I see what fits and I do what fits and what is necessary and what needs to be communicated. Regarding my interest in print, it is not necessarily the technique but what it means to me as far as a method of practice and the processes that have built our collective society. My art teacher, Mrs. Evans from way back when, showed me her Masters work which was illuminated manuscripts. She actually produced a huge illuminated manuscript as Karol Wilczynska May God Protect Our Troops 2015
her Master’s thesis. I was blown away and I said to her this is incredible and I looked at all the gold leaf, all the precious gems, and all the book furniture, and all of the hand written material and I thought the dedication and the repetition that goes into that is unique, because nothing else does that. Only a human does that as far as an end result that may or may not be kept. MH: Is art theory important in your practice? KW: My relationship to art theory has more to do with reflective practice than anything else. To always question and to always improve from my stand point and critique. Reflection gives you a gestation period in which to make sense of your ideas and contextualize your practice. I’m always interested in things that are past, that are dying, and that are going into a decline. I’m always interested in using those technologies like the letterpress, lead type and those processes that have built our countries and its commerce and know it’s just getting made redundant because it’s not ‘fast enough’. I question what is permanent and where will it lead. MH: Coming from a design background do you differentiate between art and design or do you see them as entwined? KW:
terminology as interchangeable depending on what their belief or personal philosophy is. If you think about the argument for high art and then review the past and the early to middle 1900s in relation to commercial art in seeing programmes like Madmen, you get the understanding that advertising agencies work in a certain way. They have a job to do and that time means money. They have to work to deadlines and schedules, but in art it may take somebody 10 months to paint a picture or make a large work that can equate to $5 per hour so is monetary value the difference? It doesn’t mean that one has more thinking processes involved; it’s more what is the value that they themselves or other people put on it. Another area of research interest is the decline of authorship meaning the quality of authorship. You now have information that is published online, no editorial management of that whatsoever. People are self-publishing everywhere. So everybody has an opinion, everybody has a say, but there is no moderation. MH: Who inspires you? KW: If I was teaching my first year students I always get them to look at Mondrian. Mondrian was always an artist; he would never call himself a designer. But he worked on grids and we talk about grids constantly. We also look at the work of Paul
Karol Wilczynska relief woodcut 2015
Klee but is he an artist or is he a designer? So there is this argument all the time. They themselves wouldn’t have said that they were a designer as such; it’s how they themselves expressed their world at the time. Paul Klee came up with his own extensive notebooks on the principles of design theory for the modern artist. I would be so inspired personally if I had students who did the same thing as what Paul
Klee did and worked out their own manifesto. One of the things I try to do is to get the students to think of their practice as their own personal design process. I can give them the tools, the information to send them on their way but it’s up to them to grasp and run with it. I’m inspired by the students that actually take things in their hands and they run with it. They are hungry and keen to learn more and are capable of
Karol Wilczynska May God Protect Our Troops 2015 (detail)
making decisions. MH: What does The News Network mean to you? KW: Print is my preferred medium. I think that it is quite enriching, it’s immediate, you get the connection with newspaper, newsprint, newsgroup, and network and so that’s where that connection is. When I hear people say statements like “get some guts”, you know, “be on the right side”; what does that mean? I work on my own a lot, always questioning what I am doing and saying what else can be done. Personally I don’t like not doing something that’s specific to an event so the opportunity to be involved with The News Network gives me an outlet to make people stop and think about issues. MH: Why is it important for you to engage with current events? KW: All I can do is make works that mean something for me and if that inspires somebody great, and if it doesn’t I’m not going to stand there and tell them they have to look at this because it’s really important. I think a lot of the work that artists and designers do is quite serious and it has a point to it, but you can’t force another to understand it unless they want to engage.
KW: I’ve never thought of myself as having a place in society. So for me that’s a hard question. Society, some people may say is a culture, so it’s a way of living. And society as such, when you’re a first New Zealander in an immigrant family, you live in the society that one or more of your ancestors didn’t live in. So one half of my family, they didn’t have a car, had never been on a plane before coming to NZ. They had an orchard and rode on horse or horse and cart. So their society was much slower, their life was much different. NZ is quite a modern society; it deals with internet banking and is interchangeable between cash and very different from other places. I’ve just come back from China and it’s a cash society and so too is the USA. So we in NZ rely on the banking system quite heavily, credit heavily, so we are always forestalling the payment of things. It’s always pushed to the future so people are constantly in debt. So what does that say about our society that we are always in credit? Do we know what that credit means and my fiscal responsibility to society is do I treat it well, do I cause it no harm in its development, do I add to it or do I make it worse? So questioning these things is quite important for me. It is a weird thing to think of it as fiscal responsibility. I don’t always think of it as monetary but it could be behavioral.
MH: What do you believe your role is, in society, as an artist?
Exhibition list of works
List of works in The News Network exhibition: DSA Gallery and PLab DSA Gallery Karol Wilczynska “… May God Protect Our Troops” 2015 Letterpress relief, wooden type, blocks - newsprint, Fabriano, cartridge, foil. Dimensions variable Chris McBride The Eyes of The World 2015 Archival digital print Ilford Smooth Cotton 330gsm 61 x 22 cm Breaking Point 2015 Archival digital print Ilford Smooth Cotton 330gsm 61 x 41 cm No Person Is Illegal II You Have to Understand,, 2015-10-07 Archival digital print Ilford Smooth Cotton 330gsm 62 x 41 cm Victory Belongs To Love Archival digital print Ilford Smooth Cotton 330gsm 61 x 44 cm No Person Is Illegal I 2015 Archival digital print Ilford Smooth Cotton 330gsm 61 x 40 cm Kate Zizys Searching for ways out of the patriarchy Ink on paper 119 x 68 cm Artist book 29.7 x 21 x 0.5 cm
Marian Crawford Ocean/Banaba 2015 Photopolymer intaglio, letterpress, relief, lithography 15 works – 42 x 29.7 cm each, 4 booklets, paper shelves Antiquities 2015 Photopolymer intaglio, letterpress, relief, inkjet Artist book 29.7 x 21 x 2 cm News Diary 2015 Photopolymer intaglio, letterpress, typewriter, inkjet. Artist book 29.7 x 21 x 2 cm Trent Walter Remembering Alan Kurdi 2015 Screenprint and offset lithography 10 works - 100 x 70 cm each Neil Emmerson (I must confess…) Cork 2013 Digital and relief prints. 3 works - 144 x 88 cm each Double Body Bag 2009 Plastic shade cloth, tulle, woollen thread, metal zip, cardboard and wire. 250 x 98 x 27 cm (frost) 2015 MDF Boxes, black paint and digital print on woollen blanket. 260 x 69.7cm Richard Harding Invisible Man 2009 Digital injet print, screenprinted gouache 10 works – 42 x 29.7 cm each
DSA Gallery window
Marion Wassenaar Carbon News Carbonised newspapers. 40 x 30 x 20 cm
PLab Gallery Kate Zizys Hysteria 2014 Inkjet print created from digital TV screen shots taken with i-phone technology. 42 x 57.8 cm
Tosh Ahkit Tell Me Something Zine Workshop Tuesday 20th October The PLab http://tellmesomething.co.nz Opening night with works by Trent Walter and Marian |Crawford
Chris McBride Solidarity 2015 Archival digital print Ilford Smooth Cotton 330gsm 61 x 41 cm Neil Emmerson (I was his…) Second Edition – Red/Black/White 2011 Multiple Plate Etchings 7 works – 37.8 x 30.4 cm (framed), 40 x 19.5 cm (plate) Richard Harding Refugee 2015 Acrylic mirror strips 200 x 530 cm Neil Emmerson Fountain (3 Red Flags) 2004 Dyed Woollen blanket, wooden poles, chromed steel brackets, rope and cotton thread.
Grateful thanks to the Dunedin School of Art, Otago Polytechnic and Professor Leoni Schmidt for supporting the News Network residency. Thanks also to the PLab for hosting the residency and Neil Emmerson for curating the exhibition. Thanks to the artists on the residency for your contributions to the Print Studio and the Dunedin School of Art community.
Published by PLab Dunedin School of Art Otago Polytechnic Dunedin
ÂŠ 2016 PLab All rights reserved First edition
Special thanks to the students who conducted interviews and engaged with the visiting artists: Michelle Hayward Kaela Janiten Kirsty Lewry Sophie McDonagh Dale Thomas Editing and graphic design: Marion Wassenaar Catalogue photography; Neil Emmerson Chris McBride Marion Wassenaar
Kate Zizys, Searching for ways out of the patriarchy 2015, (detail) Previous page: Installation view in PLab corridor Page 56/7: Installation view in DSA Gallery
'On Air' artist residency and exhibition catalogue