Value, values and #HomeAKL

For the past several months, I’ve been part of the curatorial team for the upcoming exhibition, Home AKL at Auckland Art Gallery opening Saturday 7 July. Under the leadership of Ron Brownson (Senior Curator – New Zealand and Pacific Art, Auckland Art Gallery), Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai, Nina Tonga and I have been the Associate Curators.

The experience has been exciting and rewarding, challenging and eye-opening. It is always satisfying to see artists who show at Fresh Gallery Otara go on to do great things. Having celebrated the gallery’s sixth anniversary last month, and processing mixed emotions about leaving my role at Auckland Council, it is particularly heartening to see that almost 40% of the artists in Home AKL have shown at Fresh since the Gallery opened in 2006.

The entry fee for Home AKL last week got reconsidered, the process of which was reported in the New Zealand Herald (10 June, 2012). Whilst an entry fee potentially limits accessibility to some audiences, it also builds value. The value of Home AKL is significant: for the artists, their work is shown in a landmark exhibition, in an award winning building over three months. Their work will be hung on the same walls as the European masterpieces in the recent Degas to Dalí travelling exhibition. Artists benefit from extensive media coverage, in-depth essays and exhibition writing, public programme events and talks. For audiences, Home AKL is a massively varied insight into Pacific lives and experience here in Auckland. The Pacific community is diverse and dynamic and this exhibition is a highly considered reflection of that. The works in Home AKL push the ‘identity’ cliché beyond recognition.

The upcoming Advance Pasifika: March for the Future event on Saturday 16 June is an effort to make Pacific people visible in Auckland. I’m excited about this event because I’ve seen so much change in the past three or so years that has systematically reduced the input and participation of Pacific people in decision making at local and central government levels. It’s heart breaking to feel so powerless in Aotearoa.

I’m proud that Home AKL comes at a time when Pacific people are starting to stir and expect and demand more of our leaders. I know that an entry fee for an art exhibition is considered by many to be unreasonable and even a deterrent. I understand the costs, particularly when coming from South Auckland. Transport and parking alone is expensive. I can only say that the experience of Home AKL will confirm for Pacific audiences that our lives, identities and multifaceted contributions to Auckland are recognised and honoured in this exhibition. We will be visible and present; our issues and perspectives, our communities and environments – Home AKL is a celebration of Auckland through a Pacific lens.

Importantly, myself, Kolokesa and Nina have ensured that Pacific input has been present and considered at every stage of the exhibition’s development. For me, this is an important point of difference. I hope that this input has informed a new way of looking at and considering art made by Pacific people.

I’m looking forward to the show opening, the various public events, and importantly, the reviews and responses from the Pacific community and beyond.

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The 3rd South Auckland Pacific Arts Summit (4-31 May)

I’m excited to be overseeing the third South Auckland Pacific Arts Summit in May, the last project I’ll be involved in before leaving my role. The poster design process has been another thoroughly inspiring creative collaboration with Edgar Melitao at The Kitchen Media.

The Pacific Arts Summit poster brochure will be out by the end of March at Arts facilities around the Auckland region. The Summit is delivered from 4-31 May in the South Auckland suburbs of Mangere, Manukau, Otara and Papakura.

Resignation and Change

By the time I leave my job, I will have given six years and six months of service to local government in South Auckland.

Whilst the organisation I work for has been in the throws of corporate transition,  change and transformation for almost half of that time, I now find myself deep within my own personal transition. I am filled with clarity and determination, emotional with nostalgia and excited and scared to step boldly towards the unknown.

Nostalgic and emotionally bonded through literally blood, sweat and tears to Fresh Gallery Otara. What many term, my ‘baby’ – Fresh has been my everything for six years. By the time I leave, I will have overseen 66 exhibitions and too many gatherings and events to count.

It is the right time to leave. The last show I will curate will be WWJD – the Gallery’s 6th anniversary exhibition that honours Jim Vivieaere. I’m really proud of this show – I know it will be visually exciting and conceptually strong, but most importantly, the community will love it. It opens on Thursday 10 May, and whilst I’ve said it for many years now, there ain’t no opening like a Fresh Gallery Otara opening, I envisage that this opening will be really, really special.

In 2008, a young art school graduate named Nicole Lim joined the Fresh family. Nicole and I went through the University of Auckland Bachelor of Visual Arts programme delivered by Manukau School of Visual Arts, now the Faculty of Creative Arts at Manukau Institute of Technology. We clicked and were on the same page from day one. I always joke that Nicole is my right brain – the logical, the mathematical, the long-term memory – I have most probably got that scientifically confused, but in essence, Nicole has become the ying to my bureaucratic yang. With Nicole on board, Fresh went into second gear, and then third… we work so well as a team, I will miss that so, so much. I am filled with pride and happiness to see Nicole curating her first show outside of Fresh Gallery Otara, 2 for 1 opens next week at St Paul St Gallery 3:

I know I will call Fresh, just to hear her say “Fresh Gallery Otara, speaky Nicole!” in her sweet fobby voice! LMAO! Sorry Nicole :’D You’ll probably just hear deep breathing then a quiet sob.. I promise I’ll try not to do that everyday! 😀

This transition time for me is half grief, half happiness, total love and respect for what has been, and superb clarity in who I am and why I do what I do.

I’ve been sitting in meetings recently, feeling like a wolf in sheep’s clothing – being a “curator” but thinking like an activist. Speaking up for artists, but asserting a firm position on [post-]colonial power struggles and institutional racism. Taking the hits, fighting the fight, doing the work of too many individuals… I’m so tired.

I had to speak to my father yesterday morning, to give me some words to get me through another day. We discussed anger, and calmness… being positive, being part of a solution, not a problem. He told me to read the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi, that he has often recited to me. I put it on my phone and read it throughout the day. And it helped.

Last night I attended the opening of Identi-Tee – a new exhibition about T-shirts at the Auckland Museum. I was so impressed – those in attendance represented such an excellent cross-section of the Pacific community here in Auckland right now. I loved the video Janet Lilo was commissioned to create – it reminded me how much I’ve loved working with Janet over the years. Janet’s cousin, Lorna, who has become a great friend, and Lorna’s partner Peter being part of this project made me smile from ear to ear.


I love being around the objects in the Pacific collection at the Auckland Museum – the feeling of closeness to one’s past, land, history, ancestry, is real. I love the Fijian war weaponry and the way it’s displayed. It felt nice being there for an event like this, the main atrium area was filled with Pacific people, voices, laughter and music, and we were surrounded by our objects and our history.

I ended the night sitting on Mission Bay beach with my colleague and dear friend, Nigel Borell. The air was cool, the moon was full and the water was completely calm. Nigel and I have worked closely for three years and getting SOUTH off the ground this year was a great achievement. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, I’m so proud of what we have achieved together.

I’ll post more on my plans moving forward… my next chapter is looking pretty exciting!

Hand-made Media

I often tire of trying to get [mainstream] media makers to recognise the importance of the artists and exhibitions that take place at Fresh Gallery Otara. For example, in six years of operation, the nationally funded Pacific Island affairs television programme, Tagata Pasifika, has done less than five stories on Pacific artists and events at Fresh.

In 2011, I collaborated with Tanu Gago to make a series of videos about Pacific artists and exhibitions; we started to make our own media. I’m really proud of what Tanu has created and will be making more in 2012. Here’s a video he made on Angela Tiatia’s 2011 exhibition, Foreign Objects

AVANOA O TAMA opens at Fresh Gallery Otara

AVANOA O TAMA is Tanu Gago’s second solo exhibition being held at Fresh Gallery Otara from 2-31 March 2012.

“Avanoa O Tama is a photographic series that looks at the cultural assignment of gender identity in regard to social and cultural expectation amongst men of Pacific diaspora. Concerned with representation and codes of gender this work explores a spectrum of masculine identity among literal and conceptual cultural spaces. The conceptual spaces refer to the grey areas where gender and sexuality tread an ambiguous line between the typical and the unexpected.
These spaces are often occupied by Fa’afafine and gay Pacific males. In this instance this space is shared with other heterosexual Polynesian and Melanesian males. As an artist I am interested to see what is exposed about our public perceptions of gender and sexuality when these codes of gender deviate from cultural and social norms and how this reflects on our own cultural sensibilities and notions of tolerance and understanding.”

Tanu Gago is a South Auckland-based visual artist practising in the field of photography, short film and video installation. He holds a Bachelor of Screen and Performing Arts from Unitec (2009) and held his first solo exhibition, YOU LOVE MY FRESH at Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, Auckland in 2010.

Tanu’s photographic series, Jerry the Fa’afafine (2011), developed for the exhibition Mana Takatāpui: Taera Tāne at City Gallery Wellington, was subsequently purchased for the Manukau Art Collection (Auckland Council) and is on permanent display at Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku.

In April, Tanu features in a group exhibition of Samoan artists at the University of La Verne (California) and in July, he features in an exhibition of Pacific artists at the Auckland Art Gallery.

Public Programme:

  • Tanu Gago in conversation with Richard Orjis
    12-1pm
    Saturday 17 March
    Fresh Gallery Otara

SOUTH is here!!

SOUTH is a publication I have co-edited with my colleague, Nigel Borell; we work as the Māori and Pacific arts coordinators for Arts and Culture South, Auckland Council. This is a project we have been working on for two years and have finally… FINALLY… made it to this point.

As curators and arts administrators, Nigel and I have produced numerous small, medium and large scale publications for Māori and Pacific arts exhibitions and events in South Auckland. We always engage primarily with Māori and Pacific writers, artists and commentators, and wanted to create a publication that highlighted the wealth of arts activity, commentary and writing that is emanating from South Auckland.

Issue 1 of SOUTH is a beautifully designed 44-page journal-book-magazine. We endeavor to publish SOUTH twice a year, holding launch parties at Fresh Gallery Otara.

This first issue is being launched at Fresh Gallery Otara on Thursday 26 January (6-9pm) alongside the opening of I don’t wanna talk about it – a solo exhibition by Otahuhu-based painter, Molly Rangiwai-McHale, who is also a contributor to this issue.

If you’d like a copy of SOUTH, email Nicole Lim at Fresh Gallery OtaraSOUTH is free!

Issue 1 features:

  • Exhibition overview of 18-year-old Waylan Tupaea-Petero’s first solo show, Kāinga Tūturu – Calling Home
  • Photo essay about tattooist Capilli Apelu Tupou
  • Page works by Daniel Tautua, Cerisse Palalagi and Molly Rangiwai-McHale
  • An in-depth artist Profile of Rebecca Ann Hobbs
  • Responses to Ngaru Roa, the 2011 National Rangatahi Art Conference, Auckland Art Fair,  Māori Market and the newly refurbished Auckland Art Gallery.
  • A tribute to the Cook Islands curator, Jim Vivieaere
  • An excellent interview between Parris Goebel of Request Dance Crew and Coco Solid
  • Photography by Raymond Sagapolutele (including our cover shot of Tattooist Capilli Apelu Tupou’s hands) and Vinesh Kumaran

#PolySwag
#BooomBahhhng
#TeamSOUTHSIDE

#JustSaying

😉

Fresh 2012 – it’s a new era…

Fresh Gallery Otara is going through some changes this year! More information to come. In the meantime, the January – August exhibition programme is locked in and lookin’ mighty fine!

This year kicks off with I don’t wanna talk about it – a solo exhibition by Otahuhu-based painter, Molly Rangiwai-McHale. I’ve liked Molly’s work since we were at art school together. Her paintings are big and sassy, strong and so, so bold. On the same night we open Molly’s show, we launch SOUTH – a new Māori and Pacific arts publication celebrating South Auckland. SOUTH is an epic project I’ve undertaken with my colleague Nigel Borell. We’re SO excited to launch Issue 1 – more on that to come too!

I don’t wanna talk about it runs from 27 January – 25 February. Molly’s artist talk is from 12pm on Saturday 11 February.

Avanoa o Tama is Tanu Gago‘s second solo exhibition. The exhibition is a follow-up from his highly successful 2010/11 series, Jerry the Fa’afafine first shown at City Gallery Wellington and now on permanent display at Mangere Arts Centre – Nga Tohu o Uenuku in South Auckland.

Avanoa o Tama is a photographic series that looks at the cultural assignment of gender identity in regard to social and cultural expectation amongst men of Pacific diaspora. Concerned with representation and codes of gender this work explores a spectrum of masculine identity among literal and conceptual cultural spaces. The conceptual spaces refer to the grey areas where gender and sexuality tread an ambiguous line between the typical and the unexpected.

These spaces are often occupied by Fa’afafine and gay Pacific males. In this instance this space is shared with other heterosexual Polynesian and Melanesian males. As an artist I am interested to see what is exposed about our public perceptions of gender and sexuality when these codes of gender deviate from cultural and social norms and how this reflects on our own cultural sensibilities and notions of tolerance and understanding.”

I can’t wait to see Tanu’s new body of work. This is one of his working images that I love:

Avanoa o Tama runs from 2-31 March, Tanu’s artist talk takes place from 12pm on Saturday 17 March, which btw is a FANTASTIC day to come to South Auckland – it’s the Otara Market AND the final day of the ASB Polyfest – the premier New Zealand Pacific arts event on my calendar!

In April we open Generation – a joint show between Northland sculptor Will Ngakuruand his Auckland-based son, Ammon Ngakuru.

“Ammon’s paintings seek to explore the relationship between everyday personal situations and situations portrayed as regular through popular television and media. ‘Generation’ could relate to this in the sense that television and media generate ideas and normality which effect us on a personal level.

Will creates works that both challenge and inform using wood, stone, metal and clay, he has created a body of work titled ‘Intergenerational healing’ past, present and future expressed through sculpture.”

Generation runs from 6 April – 5 May.

I’m so excited about WWJD – a group show I’m curating for Fresh Gallery Otara’s 6th anniversary in May. WWJD honours the work of the late Cook Islands curator, Jim Vivieaere (1947-2011); the title is based on a tribute I wrote to Jim not long after his death. This group show is an opportunity to reflect on Fresh Gallery Otara’s pioneering role in showcasing new Pacific art that challenges, engages and reflects on the unique socio-political context of Otara, South Auckland and Oceania. More on WWJD to come!

WWJD runs from 11 May – 23 June with the curatorial floor talk at 12pm on Saturday 26 May. It is a central event within the 2012 South Auckland Pacific Arts Summit (3-31 May) and more associated events will be announced soon!

The work shown here is Otara at night (2011), a single-channel video work by Rebecca Ann Hobbs filmed in the Otara Town Centre featuring dancer Amelia Lynch. I can’t wait to present this work in Otara for the first time!

A signature event of Matariki Festival 2012 is the Te Taumata Exhibition Series which this year is guest curated by Ngahiraka Mason. The initiative celebrates excellence in Maori visual arts, with a series of exhibitions by a selection of Aotearoa’s most exciting new and established artists in galleries across Auckland.  The talented photographer Aimee Ratana has been invited to present an installation of new work in her first exhibition at Fresh Gallery Otara. And it’s really… really hot!!

Te Taumata at Fresh runs from 6 July – 4 August with an artist floor talk on Saturday 7 July at 12pm.

After August, there’s some exciting changes underfoot for Fresh, so watch this space for more info!

Drop Nicole Lim an email to be added to the Fresh Gallery Otara mailing list, or follow Fresh on Twitter: @Fresh274