May 29, 2015

Friday Round Up - 29 May, 2015

This week on Friday Round Up - Part Two of the 12th annual Auckland Festival of Photography coverage featuring four diverse exhibitions - The Imperial Body Fiona Amundsen, Oil & Water Murray Lloyd and Peter Evans, California & American Pride Sandra Chen Weinstein and Lisa Reihana's In Pursuit of Venus [infected] 2015. Plus an interview with Festival Director Julia Durkin.

Auckland Festival of Photography - Opening Weekend

Until 20 June

Reporting live from Auckland! Last night the 12th annual Auckland Festival of Photography opened with a fantastic event at Silo Park where this year's commissioned artist, PJ Paterson (below), revealed his new work created for the Festival under this year's theme Truth and Fiction. See last week's post for the interview with PJ.

PJ Paterson (C) Alison Stieven-Taylor

At the launch Auckland City Council confirmed funding for the next decade giving Festival Director Julia Durkin and her team much to smile about. In fact the community spirit and local pride in the Festival was truly wonderful to witness. This is first and foremost a festival that celebrates photography in New Zealand and gives local artists a platform on which to showcase their work. The Festival is also an important annual fixture in the region and part of the Asia Pacific Photo Forum. With exhibitions, projections, workshops, portfolio reviews and the Talking Cultures seminar program there's a wealth of activity to immerse yourself in.

Tomorrow (Saturday) there are talks and a panel discussion at the Auckland Art Gallery on photobooks. On Sunday I'm giving a talk on the Future of Photojournalism at 1pm so if you're in town head to the Gallery for these free sessions.

Today Julia played tour guide and escorted the Festival's international guests to no less than eight exhibitions. But we started the day at Mount Eden, a "dormant volcano" Julia assured us, that provided the most amazing 360 degree view of Auckland on a day that sparkled. Auckland Festival of Photography is on until 20 June. Check the website for the full program. 

L-R: Julia Durkin, Libby Jeffrey (Momento Pro - sponsor)  (C) Alison Stieven-Taylor

Tour party on top of Mt Eden: Jackie, Donatas, Doug, Julia, Mindaugas, Alison, Mikolaj, Libby 
Fiona Amundsen - The Imperial Body

Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine was established in 1869 in honour of those who died serving the Emperor. For decades soldiers departing for war have uttered the phrase ‘If I don’t come home, I’ll see you at Yasukuni,’ to families and loved ones, and Yasukuni is fixed in the annals of Japanese warfare.

In her series The Imperial Body, New Zealand photographer Fiona Amundsen draws on her academic background in social anthropology to explore “the contentious Yasukuni Shrine” with the aim “to provoke new experiences of historicised narratives that both pay homage to trauma, but resist holding histories as static or fixed”.

Amundsen says, “I am neither Japanese nor Anglo-American, but a New Zealander who brings a perspective to this material that has undoubtedly been shaped by my own experiences of learning about not only WWII, but also Japanese and American military histories. Accordingly, as a New Zealander, while interested in the discourses that surround WWII, I’m also looking for the counter histories that reside within such dominant rhetoric as it is ascribed to both the allied and axis powers. I’m interested in confronting what can be pre-given or non-negotiable fixed ‘images’ (visual and narrative based) of history, regardless of specific cultural origin. Ultimately, my practice aims to produce artworks that continually reflect on their position as being essentially a ‘cultural outsider’ who comes from, and is firmly rooted to the Asia Pacific region”.

2 June - 11 July
Gus Fisher Gallery
University of Auckland
74 Shortland Street

Murray Lloyd and Peter Evans - Oil & Water: Is clean water the new oil? 

(C) Murray Lloyd

(C) Peter Evans

The works of two New Zealand photographers – Wellington based Murray Lloyd and Auckland’s Peter Evans – combine in this exhibition to explore the notion that clean water may soon become a precious, and valuable, global commodity as pollution and climate change influence the availability of this essential resource. 

(C) Murray Lloyd

(C) Peter Evans

Until 24 June
Depot Artspace, Main Gallery
28 Clarence Street

Sandra Chen Weinstein – California & American Pride

In the late 1990s Sandra Chen Weinstein moved to Southern California after living in large metropolises in China, Japan and Taiwan. Weinstein says living in Orange County “I became acutely aware of the solitude and the very different and disconnected lifestyle experienced in a community separated by freeways. Californian State highways divide widespread suburban landscapes. Fences divide communities. In their isolation, neighbourhoods are often missed when passing through due to the overwhelming traffic”.

Using photography to understand this foreign landscape, Weinstein took many of the images that feature in her series California while travelling on the highways through neighbourhoods and country areas. “Like most of my photography, my works are un-staged and represent a moment in time; I like to allow the subject to lead us to itself,” she says. 

In this exhibition Weinstein features images from California and her other series American Pride which was shot primarily in San Francisco with the LGBT community in the Bay Area. “I have always been interested in culture and the human condition, including the complexity and controversiality of one’s identity and sexuality," she says. 

Until 16 June
Hum Salon
123 Grafton Road

Lisa Reihana – In Pursuit of Venus (infected)
Lisa Reihana, in Pursuit of Venus [infected] 2015, multi-channel video (still), 
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of the Patrons of Auckland Art Gallery 

A multi-disciplinary artist of Maori descent Lisa Reihana often enlists friends and family to create her elaborate, cinematic artworks that draw on the complexities of photographic and filmic languages. "If there is any Maori philosophy that I work with more than any other, it is that sense of community. I love people and the notion of community, friends and places to come together, so I utilise my work, digital and actual, to play around with that idea," she says.

Lisa Reihana, in Pursuit of Venus [infected] 2015, multi-channel video (still), 
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of the Patrons of Auckland Art Gallery 

Lisa Reihana, in Pursuit of Venus [infected] 2015, multi-channel video (still), 
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of the Patrons of Auckland Art Gallery 

In Pursuit of Venus (infected) is a multi-disciplinary project which “challenges the stereotypes developed through the gaze of imperialism and reappraises a widely distributed European representation of the Pacific from the early 19th Century in the form of Joseph Dufour's 1804 scenic wallpaper, Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique.” Here Reihana “refreshes, reactivates and reenergises these ideas from a Pacific perspective using digital technologies to create an immersive experience for audiences. This exhibition marks the world premiere of one of the most ambitious screen-based projects from Aotearoa New Zealand by one of the country’s most admired artists”.

Until 30 August
Auckland Art Gallery
Toi o Tamaki

Festival Director Julia Durkin with Alison Stieven-Taylor

Julia Durkin (C) Stefen Chow

In a year when the legitimacy of the photograph as proof is under question once again, the concept of truth and fiction in photography seems an appropriate theme to explore in the 12th annual Auckland Festival of Photography, which runs until the end of June.

Festival director Julia Durkin says the choice of this year’s theme – Truth and Fiction - progresses the conversation around digitally constructed imagery, and also allows for the incorporation of photojournalism, providing the Festival’s audience the opportunity to engage with the new as well as the familiar.

This year’s program combines the fictional and imaginary worlds of international artists like Julia Fullerton Batten (UK) Jae Hoon Lee (Korea) and Maria Kapajeva (Russia) alongside “hard hitting factual photojournalism” including exhibits from Angkor Photo Festival.

There is also solid representation from the local photographic community in New Zealand with individual and group shows including Lay of the Land, which features the works of 11 artists. And there’s the new series by this year’s commissioned artist, PJ Paterson, unveiled on opening night.

“Ninety percent of the work in the Festival is by local artists and we are very proud to support New Zealand photography and promote our cultural identity through photography,” says Durkin. “Within the theme there is a nice balance. I think it’s important for our audience to have exposure to international work they wouldn’t get to see as well as New Zealand work that is part of the cultural landscape, contemporary and also archival. It’s a very New Zealand bias program, and that’s what we’re here for.”

Durkin says the Festival’s program is the result of “discussion, research and referral”. The Auckland Festival of Photography is a member of the Asia Pacific Photo Forum and as such Durkin travels to other festivals throughout the region including Angkor in Cambodia, Pingyao in China, and Head On in Australia. “I get to see an awful lot of photography at these other Festivals. I also do portfolio reviews and that’s another great way to see work, get to know what you like and what might work for the festival. My colleague Elaine Smith is the curator of our annual commission so she’s focused on the local talent. It’s about knowing your craft, understanding what will work with the audience and then programming to fit our budget”.

The Auckland Festival of Photography attracts a diverse audience from professional photographers to enthusiasts, amateurs and those who are not involved in photography per se. This year the Festival has also targeted the student demographic with its Future Projections project that features work from all the educational institutes in Auckland. This runs alongside the professional exhibitions and the amateur shows.

“We are there mainly to generate interest in photography with the general public and that’s a very broad remit,” she says. The Festival attracts both the older and younger demographic with the latter group showing a ten percent increase in attendance last year. 80 percent of the Festival’s audience is local.

Auckland has one of the most diverse communities with more than 160 languages spoken in a city with a population of only 1.4 million. “Photography is a universal language and can engage people no matter their mother tongue,” says Durkin.

“The great thing about Festivals is they are conduits for community engagement for the delivery of cultural experience and the building of cultural currency. We are the only photography festival in New Zealand and we have managed to build and maintain it. I’d like to think there are twelve year olds in Auckland that have never known the city without a photography festival.”

This year the Auckland Council granted the Festival long term funding, a breakthrough Durkin puts down to the increased profile of photography in the Asia Pacific. “There is a change in the air now,” says Durkin who credits the collaboration between regional festivals through the Asia Pacific Photo Forum for shifting the focus away from European, American and Japanese photography and putting the spotlight on the Asia Pacific region.

“We’ve positioned ourselves fantastically to be able to capture this shift because we’ve actually led it with our partners in Australia. It’s nice that we are now in a position where the cultural funding agencies in New Zealand are taking note and are now supporting what we are doing because of that. It’s taken us having this network in place and being able to take New Zealand photography off shore for them to suddenly wake up and say hang on that’s amazing, we want to support it.”

The Auckland Festival of Photography runs 28th May to 20th June.

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