Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Poetry warning

I may have made a few ill-natured remarks in my time about my feelings in regards to the poetry voice, but I am, in fact, a keen—albeit a silent—reader of poetry. (Some people's poetry, that is; not everyone's; I do discriminate freely.)

Consider my surprise then when a very welcome parcel stuffed with a friend's recent books and catalogues arrived, featuring this notice written prominently on the front:

I was quite taken aback. (The essays by Gregory O'Brien are superb: in one he quotes the Swedish poet-philosopher Lars Gustafsson, who said that the artist should handle ideas with consummate care and ease—"the skill with which a German handles a boiled egg." Which has prompted me to seek out more of Gustafsson's writings.)

The small guy, who seems alarmingly keen on reading poetry out loud, recently wrote an environmental poem featuring (I think) slant rhymes. A transcription appears below, as it's been on the windowsill.

The fish are farting

The whales are eating fast food,
The sharks are trying to look good.
The fish are farting in the reef,
and the toilet seat has teeth.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

Perpetual Xmas: No Abstractions

In my experience, holidays can be divided into two predominant types: cultural, where the object is travelling vast distances to look intently at rare and special things; and actual, where the object is to keep one's eyes closed for as long as possible while lying on the beach in the sun and pretending not to hear the children asking for drinks.

Many holidays taken during my English childhood were of the former 'cultural' category, and involved my family packed into a pop-top VW Combi van (known ominously as The Dormobile), sitting in a campsite somewhere in the home counties waiting for the rain to lift so that we could visit a historic house and garden. The vehicle was stuffy, and had a roaring engine, and I suffered reliably from travel sickness in any particularly winding bits. At night, my parents slept on the bench seats pushed together to make a double mattress (a brown tartan pattern): my brother and I were hoisted on to the swing-out canvas bunks above. We ate corned beef. The Dormobile smelled of kerosine from the tiny camp stove. There were always naked Germans in the toilet block. There were moments when everyone was quite cross with everyone else. It was not altogether jolly.

Even now when I see a Combi I come out in a sweat. Visiting Michael Parekowhai's The Big OE (2006) on Te Papa's roof required considerable personal courage.

We've recently returned from a few days' holiday in Queensland, which was definitely of the latter variety. Not much culture, but plenty of sandy shut-eye. And importantly: no earthquakes. (Or Combis.)

Although we didn't travel in search of culture, culture found us in the most unexpected places. Here is Queensland's favourite Crocodile Hunting family and their pets immortalised in several tonnes of bronze at Australia Zoo.

I like how everyone's smiling in this photo.

A painting of the Crocodile Hunter sent to the Zoo by a fan. The eyes in particular capture a certain something.

There's definitely something of Ronnie van Hout's robot teeth about this squeaky pufferfish.

We have those ridiculous new "No Cruising" signs in the central city in Christchurch now. But in Queensland, they don't beat about the bush: there they call it by its proper Antipodean name. I find Australians on the whole very congenial: they're like New Zealanders with assertiveness training. "Anti-Hooning Initiative" would be an excellent name for something or other, perhaps a novel or an exhibition or a band.

At Australia Zoo's very impressive Crocoseum, I was intrigued by the presenter's description of crocodiles as the 'Apex Predator'. Inevitably my mind turned to wondering which member of the New Zealand artworld might be described accordingly, and thus another pleasant five minutes passed.

Some people might consider this ad for a Queensland realtor to be in poor taste.

A receipt for some cultural merch.

The second artwork we found commemorating the Crocodile Hunter, this time in Queensland marble. (There are no doubt many more, which would make an interesting photoessay sometime, although then the holiday would be in grave danger of segueing into the 'cultural' category given the research and inconvenient travel involved.) Again, the eyes have it.

The grass is worn away around the base by visitors' feet.

And at the end of the trip, half a day in Brisbane at GOMA. The work above is Scott Redford's 10-metre-high The High / Perpetual Xmas, No Abstractions, which refers to the pop culture icons of the Gold Coast's glorious past (though is influenced in its design by a sign he saw in Yukon, Oklahoma). Apparently it has confused many tourists, who have enquired of GOMA staff where the motel is.

Back home now in Shaky Town, where, I read, the aftershocks might conceivably go on for up to a year. A Combi might well start to look like a good option.