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February 26, 2007 | by  | in Visual Arts | [ssba]

Photo Chop

Thistle Hall, top of Cuba Street, 23-30 January

So there I was, walking along Cuba Street half drunk on wine from yet another art wank fest, when I staggered into Thistle Hall. I had to be careful, as I almost got run over because of those damn traffic lights everywhere on that new road. Something appeared to have been going down in there.

Discovering a nearly empty cask of red wine, I chatted to the nearest person, some lady who’s been around the scene for 20 years or so. Although reluctant to feature an exhibition that’s in the past, I made the exception here for a reason. This is an ongoing project (and will be back) and more importantly, it’s the first exhibition since the monolithic bypass sprang up.

No it wasn’t an exhibition of hippies chaining themselves to the traffic lights outside, but a form of collage art called Photo Chop. It was set up by the Word Collective who won the Best of Fringe two years running with Sk8board Poets and Karaoke Poetry. Photo Chop is a truly home-made endeavour using old physical print media like newspapers, magazines, glue and scissors. Interested local artists were invited to submit a collage without using Photoshop or any other digital technology mounted on paper up to A3 size for sale between $5-100. The premise for making an affordable exhibition with no catalogue is that if you like the art, you will buy it regardless of who made it.

The philosophy of Photo Chop embodies a creative reaction against computer-generated artwork. I asked the organisers which genre of art best typifies Photo Chop and they pointed out the work of Hannah Hoch, who was a famous Dadaist collage artist in the 1920s and 30s. Hoch’s collages were generally of a political nature, looking as though she had cut them out of a newspaper, which is the whole point of a collage. Her most famous piece of work, Cut With The Kitchen Knife, was a critique of Weimar Germany in 1919. The works at Photo Chop thankfully didn’t look like they were aping Hoch in style. The exhibition’s political content only got as extreme as hers with one piece by Rudy Nekk that had Idi Amin, Osama Bin Laden and an unidentified shirtless man with no arms with a t-shirt that read: “Faggots did this to me.”

Photo Chop is a modernist step back into a predigital age in art, where philosophy and forms in art were heading to the informational/digital but hadn’t yet lost its raw aesthetic.

French post modernist Jean Baudrillard wrote that everything has become a simulation of itself where nothing is real, just a representation of the object, thus computer-generated art has nothing to do with the world around us. Instead we live in a postmodern world of media, art and an information canyon collated by Google. Indeed, most bloggers and media outlets now use Google Images instead of going out and taking a photograph in the traditional sense.

Thistle Hall looks lonely now, surrounded by a motorway. I was hoping that there was going to be an exhibition more relevant to the bypass but that might have to wait. It will be interesting to see what happens to the vibe of the area as intense gentrification is happening all along Cuba Street. Looks like Newtown is set to become the new Cuba Street.

For more information on when Photo Chop is coming back to Wellington go to Word Collective: and also thanks to Diane Sporadek from


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