12 July 2005

Speaking of Art

There's been a growing trend at exhibition openings at public institutions I've attended lately to have unbelievably bad speeches. Last night's opening was no exception, with 4 speakersthat made a veritable plethora of mistakes. Each.

We had the host gallery director, lending gallery director, principal sponsor, and local mayor - all of whom got up with almost rehersed syncronicity, read the speech notes that I suspect had been prepared and circulated well in advance by the gallery's marketing manager.

Reading from notes is fine, particularly when you're a new sponsor coming on board, or a mayor with 80 other public events in any given week. But all 4 spoke as though they were addressing a room full of art world imbiciles - a total misreading of an audience that was one of the most substantial gatherings of art world names, faces, and figures I'd seen in years.

All 4 introduced the show - particularly Trekka - as controversial, substatial, and thought provoking. In repetitive monotony that made me think it was more futurist repetitive sound poetry than a reflection of the sponsors, gallery staff and supporters, and concepts that had made the show come together.

And the mistakes. There's a golden rule about public speaking that dictates that even if you're only getting up to say thank you - reherse it. Clearly this had been somewhat overlooked by all. Even the title of the exhibition was ballsed up by at least one speaker - not exactly a stunning look or reflection on the validity of the argument presented by the show. And these are the leaders of the art world?

All of this picks up on a crusade New Plymouth based artist Peter Peryer is on regarding art writing. His argument is that art writing has degenerated to the lowest rung of the New Zealand literary ladder. I would add that art speaking - in an introductory/opening capacity - is buried somewhere well beneath that ladder.

On a plus the food wasn't bad - the show was pretty good in places (although made me think of Dream Collectors at the old Te Papa, and WHY THE HELL DOESN"T TREKKA HAVE IT'S OWN EXHIBITION!), and caught up with a bunch of great people.

05 July 2005

Redeeming the press

Caught the World Press photo exhibition in Shed 11 last night, at a sponsor's function. As far as those things go it was good - great food, brief and interesting speeches (as you'd come to expect from one of NZ's most celebrated speakers), a good group of people, and running into old firends who are doing great things.

There were some stunning images there, dragging out emotions from the horrifying to the ecstatic. I found the presentation lacking a bit, on 2 fronts - the venue is looking tired, which I think is a real shame, but probably more of a result of limited funding and its inability to be reserved as an art only space, and the actual presentation of the works was a little underwhelming. I concede that this is a touring show, pulled together from people who aren't in the exhibition business, and on little money and much goodwill (from generous sponsors like tonight's hosts), and that the native environment of many of these images is a glossy A4 magazine page, yet I was expecting a lot more scale and the associated impact. I was expecting more of a Magnum type display, that better reflected the substance of the works.

Another thing I got to thinking about was the need to read the captions to get the most out of the works. Again I think this is a reference to the magazine/newspaper environment in which these will be delivered, but it brought up a question about the strength of the images when judged by purely artistic criteria - and whether we're meant to look at them in this way, being documentary photography.

An interesting point was raised by Biggs in his speeches - move up the left side and be depressed, and move down the right side and be revived. The left side showed real life - the right sports and arts. When real life gets you down seek solace in art and activity. I like that.

And being an ad agency event there was, of course, a bar in the middle.