I went to a really interesting lecture/forum tonight, on a bit of a whim really. It was at Te Papa, and was one of those last minute, bump into someone while heading home, and find out about it kind of things, that usually reward through sheer unexpectedness.
I'm not exactly sure what the forum's main brief was, but the outcome was a detailed analysis of New Zealand's presence at the Venice Biennial.
First up was CNZ chair Peter Biggs, delivering a good performance on the importance of supporting art, and the need, as a creatively focused economy, to place cutting edge New Zealand art in the global arena. And a bit about the technical aspect of the exhibition's associated marketing and promotional campaign. So far so good.
Then to John McCormack, Et Al's Auckland dealer and StarkWhite lynchpin. I was kind of hoping for an insight into being the dealer of the innovative collective, and a reflection on the commercial benefits of promoting NZ art to a global audience. Instead we got a commercial viability report, worthy of a Select Committee grilling, and in a strange but nice twist, something of a diatribe on the exodus of NZ's older curating talent - namely Greg Burke and Robert Leonard. This was great - recognition of a strategic issue about to hit the institutional art world here. So so far still good.
Then on to Fundamental Practice and te Papa curator, the thoroughly lovely and well dressed Natasha Conland. Natasha again looked into the technical delivery, the importance of geography, and the vitality of our entry against the global opposition. Sadly she missed a key topic that I had hoped she would nail - the actual art itself. But as I said, this may have been precluded by the event brief.
Then on to arts journo Josie McNaught, who to many presented the initial public aspect of the whole campaign. Josie raised some interesting points, but seemed a bit confused as to whether or not she a)supported the biennale focusing on contemporary art, and b)approved of taking a media managed, marketing savvy approach to the whole campaign.
A brief bunfight almost broke out at the end, mostly between Natasha and Josie, but this was cut short and the event wound up.
But the coolest thing of the night was getting embroiled in a potentially huge debate upon leaving about whether Et Al was the right or wrong example of NZ art to thrust upon the world, and the role CNZ and taxpayer funding played. I got all excited, and in a strange way all nostalgic for New Plymouth. Then went home and had pizza.