rice and beans, 127 Stuart Street, Dunedin, NZ
after Madelaine Basseporte, Kirsty Cameron, William Colenso, Albrecht Dürer, Marco Fusinato, Kim Gordon, Rhona Hazard, Giovanni Intra, Peter Fengler, David Haines, Kaoru Hirabayashi, Adrienne Martyn, Michael Parekowhai, Lee Ranaldo, Ann Shelton, Chieko Shiomi, Leah Singer, Anita Speijer, Jan van der Ploeg, and anonymous
curated by Michael Morley August 2O11
“Look out Mamma there’s a white boat coming up the river…”
I am on a bed, staring at the ceiling, in the room the light swirls and swirls, it is like a movie but I know it isn’t that. I know it is real, I know it is time passing, I know I will be in trouble for lying here for so long. My friends downstairs are talking loudly now, trying to overcome the sound of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, but me knowing that it’s impossible, that I will be drawn into his song, that beautiful voice beckoning me to that warm abyss. The abyss is nothing like the cinema or the photograph, it is not a physical thing, it is an impossible abyss, the thing we search for and do not know, Powderfinger sounds like the universe should. Unstoppable pleasure, terror and escape.
When I first laid eyes on an Albrecht Dürer print I was amazed at the clarity and truthfulness of the image. Eyes and hands spewing forth golden zones of hard solid light. I considered the image modern but knew it wasn’t. I was 15 years old, and it was in a book about Dürer that an art history geek friend had, she carried around books with pictures by Botticelli, Caravaggio, and Michelangelo. She never read books without pictures, although she read the analysis and commentary, making notes about composition and application. I remember looking through one particular book, an extensive history of European art and saw Dürer in reproduction, surrounded by didactic text. It was like magic. I dreamed that clear and crazy moment - the Dürers and the classroom being long and an art class as well, and the smell of Aroha, and Renee, and Tana, their lingering perfume mingling in front of me while we talked so that I was ultimately high and felt that I might puke as they made me dizzy, because they spoke of art, and because it mattered.
It was many years later and again on a bed, and again with a friend who was wise and brilliant and beautiful. We talked pictures, paintings, photographs, films, sculpture and drawing. We would go to galleries and museums and search and search and search and look and think and walk. I was living in a city in decline, in a good library job despite the prevailing economic situation and right-wing pig government. I would walk or skate to work, I would walk or skate or ride the bus home. On Friday nights I always walked home, even in the rain, and there was a lot of rain. Picking up a six pack of beer and drinking the entire thing by the side of the main freeway over-bridge, dropping the cans onto the road and watching the tires of speeding cars smash the empty aluminum and dash the remains up into the air and under the next vehicle. I had a well maintained and meticulous routine, I would spend my lunch hours most days traversing the many narrow streets within the inner city, those that contained the numerous second hand bookshops and antiquarian galleries that used to exist in the recent past. On some days boxes of prints in clear plastic envelopes would be lined up outside the stores, the specials and the unwanted. I would spend days going through the contents, reviewing and then further researching the prints that made me breathe faster and give me a giddy rush to the head as I imagined each history, the journey made, and how this print had managed to get here. I made many impulsive purchases: detailed hand-coloured and lithographed butterflies, and plain un-coloured copper-point etchings culled from dismembered copies of Cook’s journals of discovery, in English and French. Maps of the Pacific carefully extracted from larger tomes on navigation and naval intelligence, the flexing of muscles and power within an alien and hostile landscape by nations remote and yet somehow important. We exist at the spinning edge just outside of the dump-world, the world that exacts full payment for information and silence. The neglected become the forgotten and the forgotten are the most prevalent. The prints became my link with the quickening and vanishing past.
I fell in love with a 19th century clothbound drawing book, 168 thick luxurious grey cream pages. Hand bound in a cream linen hardcover, made in Bruxelles at 61 Rue Fadier by Office Artistique possibly in the 1890s. It measures 550 millimeters by 360 millimeters by 20 millimeters. Some pages have had images affixed and then removed, leaving shadows of sheets or pencil drawn frames encompassing nothing. The cover itself contains what one would expect from 120 years of existence; worn, marked and scarred but still functional and with a patina that further enhances its allure. Many months after acquiring the book two Dürer images fell from the volume during a more thorough examination. The books pages being sewed together from much larger sheets, folded into quarters with the folds remaining uncut so as to act as a pressure folder, allowing for single leaves of paper to be collected between the protective and loving embrace of the book. I have never painted or drawn in the books pages, that would seem impossible to consider, an act of vandalism, the empty pages seem like a silence, they give nothing except their blankness. To attack with brush and graphite and pen would seem too much, a heresy, an act of betrayal. I have been to Rue Faider and saw nothing of the artist supply store, the book bindery business, or boutique uber-stationers.
Other prints have arrived in different ways, because of friendships, and as exchange. My fondest memory of Giovanni Intra involves his wonderful smile and intense looping conversation and laughter. We had been talking for hours and had driven across town to look at some old black and white photographs that I knew he would like. It was summer and we had returned to my studio to begin making and drinking Margaritas. I had in the studio a wonderful 1970’s inspired domestic bar, the kind of thing people would stick in their homes to give the place a pathetic whiff of small exotic cocktail lounge. I had found the thing on the street and had dragged it home and up three flights of narrow wooden stairs, in the dark and in the rain. I had recently bought an electric blender to christen the bar, and had pretentions of establishing a drinking club. Giovanni and I made cocktails and created that wonderful mess of ice and lemons and limes and tequila, making sticky trails across the floor of the studio while we made black and white abstract pictures with an early version of MacDraw on an Apple II. I had no printer because of my distaste for waste, and we were attempting to invent ways that we could remember what we were doing because the hard drive was an incredible 120 Mb and we had been unable to save any data. It was 1994. We traced pictures off the monitor and laughed at our stupidity and smarts. Stacking sheets to be faxed from my machine out to his machine, a compromise of sorts, yet elegant despite the deprivations. As Giovanni stacked the drawings into the fax machine he stared blissfully out of my windows across the street into the open windows of the backpackers opposite. He marveled at the naked tourists fucking freely in their bunks, and the disintegrating paint and stonework of the façade of the dying King Edward Hotel. The city was crumbling about us and yet life pulsed still from within this decay. We wondered aloud if it could ever change.
MM 10 August 2011
Thanks to my family and friends; the contributors and their agents.
Thanks to Rice and Beans. Thanks to the School of Art and the Research Grants Committee, Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin.
Exhibition check list
Lee Ranaldo, Black Noise, 2008
Lee Ranaldo, Bikfaya, 2007
Lee Ranaldo, Devil Rock, 2007
Lee Ranaldo, Immaculate, 2007
Albrecht Durer, Witch Riding Backwards On A Ram, 1499
Adrienne Martyn, Louvre, 1992
after Madelaine Basseporte, Le Cipres et son fruit et Le Cedre, 1736
William Colenso, Ko Te Kitenga A Ihikiera A Te Poropiti I Nga Iwi, 1840
Michael Parekowhai, Jacks, 1993
Chieko Shiomi, Music For Two Players II, 1963
Giovanni Intra, Harsh Seventies Reality, 1993
Leah Singer, Fist, 2007
Lee Ranaldo, Jacques Prevert, 2007
David Haines, The Phantom Leaves 6, 2010
David Haines, The Phantom Leaves 11, 2010
Leah Singer, Feather Girl, 2007
Leah Singer, Found Object, 2011
Rhona Hazard, Isle of Bechou Sark 1928, 1984
Peter Fengler, This Is Upside Down, 2009
Ann Shelton, The Powder Room, 1993
Jan van der Ploeg, Untitled, 2008
Marco Fusinato, 0_Variations I - IV, 2005
Anita Speijer, Horse, 1996
Kirsty Cameron, Woman, 1991
Anonymous, Building, 2009
Kim Gordon, She Is The Darkness, 2010
Unknown, Birds, 20th century
Kaoru Hirabayashi, The Sound echoing in the Blackness, 1991
Kaoru Hirabayashi, Song Playing on Lips, 1991