Wednesday, April 11, 2012

William McAloon, 1969-2012

I am deeply, deeply saddened to learn of the death of William McAloon, one of New Zealand's foremost curators and art historians. An old friend. As a writer, you have an imaginary close reader, a person whom, as you write, you envisage reading your writing and commenting favourably or unfavourably on your style and the development of your ideas and your means of expression. William was that person for me. He was, without any possible doubt, the best New Zealand art writer of our generation. He set a standard which I strain to meet and of which I am always conscious. We were at university together in Christchurch in the 1980s, and there was a time when he would read what I'd written and critique it for me; and even now, as I write, I still imagine his snort and his slow grin and the raise of a sardonic eyebrow as he'd put the pages down.

At the end of the introduction to his biggest book, Art at Te Papa (2009), he wrote that the national art collection is a treasure, which enriches our present and remains a challenge for the future. With William's untimely death, the New Zealand art world has lost one of its most well-informed and quick-witted critics and historians. The work that he has left behind enriches our cultural history; and its intellectual standard remains a challenge for our future.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The people's plinth

Inspired by local art teacher Henry Sunderland's instructions in The Press, to celebrate Easter this year we made bunnies out of plastic milk bottles. (Henry Sunderland is the originator of the idea of putting flowers in road cones as a commemoration of the first anniversary of the fatal 22 February Christchurch earthquake.)

The big guy screwed the rabbits on to some short lengths of wood.

Then we went out and put them on road cones nearby our house.

The city is still littered with road cones, indicating the extent of the damage to roads and pavements and underground services, more than a year after the earthquake.

I think there's something really interesting going on here, which is expanding the definition of public art. The road cones, symbol of damage and endless dust and mud and dreariness in our post-quake daily lives, have been adopted by locals as The People's Plinth; a place for showing and enjoying the creative expressions of local people.

I look forward to the next participatory public art project. We'll join in.