Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Not remotely feral

Various Artists …Continued
Raised by Wolves performance
(Windows) Auckland University Clocktower
Monday 2 March, 6 pm

It was good to see Raised by Wolves do a work in Auckland, as I had missed a much earlier Newcall gig. This time they presented work in the beautiful neo-Gothic Clocktower of Auckland University.

Amy Howden-Chapman and Biddy Livesey presented a well-researched lecture on the history of that particular building, built in 1921-26. They also spoke about the university itself, especially as seen from the tower windows. Immaculately polished in their delivery, indeed like university lecturers, they told anecdotes on how the edifice was perceived, and how the university (and also the wider Auckland community) has subsequently changed over the years.

Their very accessible lecture lasted about twenty-five minutes and then was deliberately disrupted by noisy visitors with a ghetto-blaster coming up the stairs. The end was formalised by the scrolling up of blinds at the top of the building to reveal children’s drawings on transparent sheets, an image of a geodesic dome and – in true primary school teacher fashion - a scattering of gold stars. (Remember this is the generation of ‘Don’t Misbehave!’, and ‘Mostly Harmless.’)

As it is typical of performance artists of this vintage, no irony was intended. And here I have a gripe. I appreciate its professional finesse and energy, but find it too earnest and ‘goody-two-shoes’. What I think of as ‘Sunday School Teacher Art’. Conceptually dull as an idea for an artwork, and drearily wholesome and worthy in tone. And with more than a whiff of privilege. Take a look at Raised By Wolves' webpage here... ‘they have five university degrees between them.’ Says it all.


so you tell me said...

i am flattered by this attempt of homage, but their manners will never let them really get it.

hope you come to Wednesday's 11th, March at ARTSPACE..

John Hurrell said...

Good to know you are still out there, Tao.
So what's happenning on Wednesday at ARTSPACE?

Paula Booker said...

Hi John,
This comment may be well out of date but I only recently came across this review via another thread.

I was pleased to find some description and analysis of the Raised by Wolves performance at the uni clock tower here. However, I think your ugly claims against their supposed privilege have no place in this review. Moreover, even given your penchant for controversy, I am disturbed that you as a writer and thinker around art ideas will take a quote out of context to change its meaning. I do not think providing a link to the quote means you can ride roughshod over context, tone and meaning. Amongst other considerations, isn’t context too important to art and its consideration to disregard?

The quote “they have five university degrees between them” is not to be found on “Raised by Wolves Webpage” as you said (by this you misleadingly indicate self-promotion), but rather the City Gallery website next to a blurb on a video by RBW. Also, you have lifted the line from a clearly satirical bio in which Raised by Wolves absurdly refer to themselves as savage delinquents, in so doing they are in keeping with their chosen moniker.

I value this forum and much of your writing but find it deplorable that you so often stoop to personal attacks such as the one mentioned. If controversy and long arguments that increase your hit-rate are what you seek, just consider what you’re giving up in credibility when you stir the pot.
Keep up the (good) work

John Hurrell said...

Hi Paula. Thanks for your letter. I've only just discovered it while preparing another review.

It is true that line is as you say, 'satirical' but even satire can be worded mixed with other (contradictory) sentiments. I think my initial observation was correct, albeit the artists were making jokes. It looks smug - despite it operating on another level.

However I was not as you think, trying to be deceitful. It's in the public domain and worthy of comment. I think you being a little precious on behalf of your friends. I wasn't being irresponsible, just observant and perhaps insensitive.