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March 12, 2007 | by  | in Visual Arts | [ssba]

A Waste of My Time at Another ‘Dime a Dozen’ Gig

One hot February night, after a long day at the Salient office, I made my way down to Thistle Hall to do my usual art review. I walked in and immediately thought, ‘Oh, no! Not scenesterville again!’ It seemed like every trendy person from Cuba Street was there. I soon found out why – some hipster band, Zombie Fuck, were playing some live art rock gig there – I was told it was their ‘art’. Unfortunately, the art was shit, due to it being clichéd and extremely pretentious. There were dark curtains over the windows, some old TV sets randomly put against one wall with static on the screens, and unoriginal images which I struggled to make out.

Against another wall there was a projector illuminating lots of tiny little images, resembling yet another Massey University of Wellington Design School end of year exhibition installation. Continuing the lack of originality, there was some kind of random geometrically shaped wire sculpture on the wall near the entrance. Further up at the end of the Hall, I found heaps of tiny portrait photos that would not have looked out of place in a Saloon from an old Western.

The opening band got underway. I was told they were originally from Dunedin, which impressed me because of that whole Flying Nun thing. Like most bands from down south, they were very DIY – which is cool – but the beginning of their opening song (if you could call it that) ripped off Pink Floyd’s classic Syd Barrett-era ‘Astronomy Domine’, complete with the distinctive Morse Code.

It was obvious that there was no underlying philosophy to this art piece.

Was it a revival of an earlier era? It wasn’t entirely clear. Was there some kind of postmodern media analysis with the TV screens and projector? Who would know? It quickly became apparent that it may have just been a glorified gig for their friends and hanger-ons. In my strong opinion, there was little artistic merit evident at all. I had no idea what I was supposed to think or feel about the art. This can be forgivable when the art in question is beautiful to look at, but, unfortunately, the only eye candy there consisted of several audience members.

During the break, I satisfied my thirst with the tasty yet trendy beer, Bushman. One thing the organisers got right with this opening was that the beer didn’t run out too soon. However, there was no food – not even the usual cheese or crackers. This may have been due to the fact that the opening was later in the evening than usual. The lead act, Zombie Fuck, then made their appearance. Ex-Dunedinites who formed when they came to Wellington, I suppose you could call them noise art, rock art, thrash, DIY and/or posers. They certainly looked something like the Velvet Underground, but lacked their energy. At times they did sound interesting, and it became apparent that they make up their music as they go along – which can be a good thing. But they did seem to be more interested in looking cool than actually playing decent music. Having said that, they are an okay band – so, if you are into that genre and just want to chill out with a beer, I definitely recommend them. I’d expect you’d usually find them at Happy, San Fransisco Bath House or anywhere else on Cuba Street, but they’re definitely not an art gallery band of any real substance It seemed that the bands managed to base their whole show around coming up with a whole lot of clichés to justify being there. This is not the first time that rock bands have created shit art; although usually they limit their indulgences to pretentious films (The Who’s Tommy, The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour and The Rolling Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil being obvious examples). In those attempts, despite missing the mark in a cinematic sense, there were at least some good ideas and great music.

Unfortunately, with this visual art piece at Thistle Hall, there was nothing edgy, philosophical or even camp about it. Nor was was there any really great music. The music, like the art, would be forgotten within a week or two. Which I consider to be unfortunate, as when I go to a gallery, I like to see some kickass art every now and then.

As I was beginning to feel caught up in the ‘coolness’ of it all, I slipped away into the night to find something to eat. Drunk as usual after these openings, I noticed that it was a balmy February night, and I was hungry for something to fill the gap in my soul. I hadn’t found it tonight, but luckily there was a steak in the fridge at home, to quell the hunger in my belly.


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  1. Brendan Philip says:

    So, just where are these sort of gigs a dime-a-dozen? Sounds like my kinda town.

  2. rory storm says:

    you would have steak in the fridge at home.
    move down to dunedin and the zombie fuck fan club will be pleased to meet you….

  3. Liz Mathews says:

    “I had no idea what I was supposed to think or feel about the art.”

    This is the best review ever!!

    I can’t wait to see Zombie Fuck – the band to confuse your mind with shapes, colours and sounds.

    ” Nothing edgy, philosophical or even camp” —Does this mean it is invisible to you??

  4. lucy-my-control says:

    i wish i was in wellington

  5. chris says:

    good to see the reviewer believes that Godard’s “Sympathy for the Devil” missed the mark in a cinematic sense (!)

  6. Beth Dawson says:

    I’d just like to point out that it was a dodecahedron not “random geometrically shaped”

  7. Beth Dawson says:

    I’d just like to point out that it was dodecahedron not “random geometrically shaped”

  8. Isn’t it unfortunate when a reviewer misses the point altogether. He could have asked one of the loverly ladies serving the beer, he so thankfully liked ,what the show was and who by. Get your facts right before you go off slagging. The art wasn’t by the band.

    I mean a reviewer who reviews a show drunk ” Thistle Hall, top of Cuba Street, 23-30 January … walking along Cuba Street half drunk on wine from yet another art wank fest” and has no cultural taste “art wank fest” and “but a form of collage art called Photo Chop” err Collage is collage. Can he really be trusted to review a show at all.

    I hope this guy isn’t being paid for what he is doing. But come along and visit my gallery sometime… not at an opening as you will I assume be drunk.

    Oh and there might just be a catalog you can rip off…

  9. Nick Archer says:

    I apologise if anyone took this review too seriously, I knew that whenever I give a negative review I would get a lot of comments from the artists in question…

    Firstly I would like to point out that there was no info displayed explaining the art at Thistle Hall, I was told by a senior person at the VBC that the art was Zombie Fuck’s, I trusted her judgment.

    Secondly in my opinion the art was cliche and unoriginal this in itself is not a bad thing as it looked nice but it wasn’t cutting edge enough for my taste, how I reported it doesn’t change my opinion on the art piece, it was basically a gig as far as I am concerned.

    Thirdly in future I will talk to the artists in question and really pin them down if I think their art is unoriginal. The fact that it was a loud noisy gig made this difficult. It is not my job as an art critic to do positive reviews for everything that comes along if I think it is not of high enough quality. I am not going to just publish their press releases.

    My goal is to find out four areas in my reviews of local art

    Firstly how much innovation: i.e. how original the work is. In my opinion this art peice was unoriginal.

    Secondly: Technical, this art did have some technical ability with the installations but was not complex enough.

    Thirdly: Abstract vs Concrete. This installation was abstract and looked interesting but there was no idea or philosophy coming through. I couldn’t see or feel anything.

    Fourthly: Social commentary. There was none.

    I do apologise to the band in the sense that it wasn’t their art, and yes I do plan to meet the artist and review her next peice of work. Erin sorry I didn’t get to meet you, you seem like a really nice persobn, please let us know when your next exhibtion/work is and I will have a chat about the four areas I am interested in and I will review it.

    Aaron as for being drunk at Photochop, I did go back and get more information about the art later on. As for your gallery I have already been there at some openings and no I wasn’t drunk, I know Arlo also who was curating the exhibition and he did an excellent job.

  10. Rocko Mandroid says:

    you needed to drink more beer

  11. inspector morse says:

    is this your art? its very edgy

  12. michel beroff says:

    yeah sounds like more self validating trash

  13. Nick Archer says:

    Good to see some funny and witty comments coming through by ordinary students (yes Rocko Mandroid will drink more beer next time) who don’t take attacks on pretentiousness too seriously. Didn’t realise that Gonzo journalism wasn’t appreciated by the local arts community though… Oh well… I wont comment any further as I’m just glad that people are ACTUALLY reading The Visual Arts Section for once…

  14. miss noma says:

    no cheese and crackers? oh. my. god. first off, and in response to Nick’s reply, i am confused that you did not expect to be taken seriously. second, how did you know that every ‘trendy person’ from cuba st was there if you are not in the business of knowing who every ‘trendy person’ from cuba st is? did you ever stop to think that perhaps these icons of style that you view as posey, self-induglent ‘cool looking’ people might actually just be your everyday run-of-the-mill types who get out of bed most mornings and put one sock on at a time without regard for how some wanker with a pen and a piece of paper will judge them? me thinks the ladyboy doth protest too much. if you didnt like the art you should have said that. wax lyrical on a point by point basis by all means but whats with ripping people up because you think that they look [too?] ‘cool’ and by some clever calculation you deduce that they must be posing. i mean really. really. as a social researcher i find your remarks regarding naiive. as a reader, the only posing and pretentious indulgence seems to come from your review.

  15. quote:

    Technical, this art did have some technical ability with the installations but was not complex enough.

    is art only good in your eyes if its complex?

    I couldn’t see or feel anything.

    but you go on to say that the art was “abstract” (great word) and looked “interesting” (another great word). so you did see and feel something.

    Secondly in my opinion the art was cliche and unoriginal this in itself is not a bad thing as it looked nice

    what is it that you are saying here? you are backing down from your own criticism in the very same sentence.

    one final note. you dont have to keep saying “in my opinion”. we can tell its your opinion because you’re writing the damn thing.

  16. also any art writer who uses the words ‘nice’ and ‘interesting’ to describe art should be struck off.

  17. -iS0- says:

    Sounds like an intriguing night out. Are there any London gigs/exhibitions planned?

  18. Harry says:

    Reading the comments I found myself thoroughly inspired to laugh and chuckle at the sometimes poignant, regularly astute, and obviously intellectual rebuttals put forward to Nicks review.

    However it does strike me that the only comments relating to the art inquestion come from Nick; which if anything would seem to strengthen his proposition.

    Don’t get me wrong I really did laugh very heartily at the majority of comments; mean natured, venomous, derogatory, and out right rude as they are. Also based on the strength of the intellectual analysis and questionings relating to Nicks drinking behaviour and qualifications I really did find myself ‘buying in’ to the gratuitous debasing of Nick. Which of course is totally justified and wholly appropriate given the obvious intellectual credentials of those who proffered the debasements?

    However I still can’t get over the fact that only comments relating to the art come from Nick and this is a real struggle for me. Why is it that Nick, a person so demonstrably unqualified and deserving of debasement is able to put forward a view that others, obviously more qualified and undeserving of debasement, find it impossible to rebut.

    It really does make one wonder! Though I sure there is an obliviously intellectual reason for that too.

  19. Nick since you have responded, which can often be a fatal mistake, I want to say I love negative reviews there are not enough in this tiny land of ours because people are afraid of stepping on someones toes that may very well in the future be their potential boss. However after saying that if you do do a negative review you must at all costs get your facts correct.

    Any way I was joking about not doing a review at an opening, your always more then welcome, as are most people.


  20. Nick Archer says:

    Thanks for that Aaron, you are very correct with your comments, facts will be of course be 100% (not 75%, not 99% and definitely not 0%) correct in the future i.e. who exactly did the art and verifying it from the artist and gallery themselves and not from people who know them, our Music editor can relate to that considering the flak she’s been getting about the NOFX story and the Ian MacKaye (without the e at the end) interview. The problem with the art in question was there was no info there, it was dark and loud, and no I didn’t get too drunk either, Thistle Hall allways puts on interesting and lively events even though I may debate some of it’s artistic merits at times as is evidenced.

    I like art, even if my writing style can be a bit visceral at times (And Kendog I make no apologies for being visceral, I am not trying to be a Hunter S Thompson nor Charles Bukowski for that matter), next week has a good review on Martin Doyle’s Padraig at ROAR! Gallery which is intensly visceral, this is the kind of art I am into.

    I have some volunteers coming through the Salient office who are interested in reviewing art, unfortunately less people want to review visual arts than those wanting to review music, film and theatre, but that is changing this year as Salient has an open door policy for anyone to come in and submit ideas (feel free to contact Salient Editor Steve Nicoll as he is very approachable). The Visual Arts section will stay at two pages, usually with two reviews, one usually from myself and another by one of our volunteer writers. I will also be re-introducing interviews with local art personalities and profiles (e.g. The Learning Connexion).

    I want the readers (who are generally not artists, or part of that community, but students who have yet to be introduced to new art forms) to be able to get a feel for the local arts community and how it can relate to them (for example following their undergraduate studies some might actually be inspired to go to somewhere like The Learning Connexion, or a design school…)

    Also I want the readers and the arts community to have lively discussions about the art that is profiled in the pages of the Visual Arts Section, for example as a sneak preview next week I profile Vanessa Crowe (Textile designer who is studying Masters in Fine Arts at Massey) who did an interesting art project at ROAR! gallery and she spent three working weeks in their back room of the gallery and drew sqaures and coloured them in with ink (predominately office products) in an attempt to explore the tension between modernism and decoration.

    In her diary notes she noticed that she had lots of people saying “Why don’t you deviate from your original plan and colour in the background as well?” fshe found these questions quite challenging.

    Her quote: People ask me why am I just colouring inside the squares, would I let myself do other things – colour in the background perhaps? Could there be patterns within patterns? If people participate do they have to just colour in squares or can they bring new things to the work? I find all these questions quite challenging. I start to question weather I’m being a bit too controlling.

    I mention that maybe she should explore this possiblity of what could happen if she did deviate by doing a similar project again and exploring the results as this could really help her thesis…

    As for those who question my qualifications to edit the Visual Arts Section, I have a Bachelor Of Arts In Politics and Public Policy (I also studied Philosophy where the section on the Philosophy of Art inspired me to take up art), I have been an artist for around a decade, but never been officially part of the arts scene (neither are like 99.5% of students, this section this year is going to be for them). I have studied at The Learning Connexion and am a film maker. Currently I am working on a documentary on a local musician, and a modern silent film (Chaplin/Buster Keaton Style)… I also paint (expresionism and abstract) but yet to submit my works anywhere.

    Many people are requesting that the Salient website be expanded to allow more forums and debate. University is about debate, and our webmasters hopefully will look into introducing some forums our something. Who knows maybe we will be able to comment on letters to Salient (that could get quite bitchy though, but yet again the letters section of Salient usually gets a bit personal).

    Nick Arcer

  21. Peter Fanshawe says:

    I go to Aaron Lawrence gallery just so I can hear a PC white guy saying “Tena koto, tena koto, tena koto katoa”.
    Go honky go!

  22. I think it’s safe to say that today’s word-of-the-day is “visceral”

  23. crude and zombie fuck this year

    i pwomise

    more confident with sexuality

    new hobby bonsai

  24. Griff says:

    perhaps you should write fiction instead of fictional reviews

  25. erin says:

    “TV sets randomly put against one wall with static on the screens”

    these were actually monitors stacked in a grid, with hand-embroidered code.

    (hundreds of hours worth of work here, but i probably wont be able to sell this for thousands of dollars).

    There were no curtains.

    my work is sometimes about gender/identity and technology…and there is often a textile element. sometimes its about other things……………. you won’t always find an artist statement. i prefer to talk personally with people who are prepared to approach me if they see something that makes them feel or think something.

    the opening was at 8pm. Most people arrived on time, looked at the art, and then quite some time after, there was live music. the space then became very full of bodies, which obscured some of the work. (not a problem).

    i am not opposed to criticism, but i could not take much from this piece of ‘writing’.

    nick, i think we have generally different taste in art. ive looked at some of your other reviews, and i won’t be actively seeking your support for my next show.

    i am a nice person….but this doesn’t mean i am a pushover.

    thanks for all the support posted here. if people want to see images of the work and from the opening please email me.

    i will put stuff up on my website soon.


  26. rosie says:

    nick, i’m really not surprised you’ve written what you have about this show. except for the bit about not being drunk.

    the reason i’m not surprised is because i had a long conversation with you at this opening (well actually it would be more aptly described as enduring a drunken rant spewing forth from yourself) during which you explained to me at great length about how your editor had taken issue with yourself earlier in the day, done his proverbial bun at you, and that now you were in a rather bad mood. therefore, you had decided, (before, you added, you had really had a chance to go in and appraise work in said exhibition), to give the show a really really bad review. decided to rip the shit out of it. because you were in a bad mood.

    i suggested that if you were intending to go so far, that you could at least offer constructive criticism. but you offered your opinion that your upcoming review would not be fueled by the content of the exhibition at all – it was all about you and what a shit day you’d had. so some collated generalisations would be adequate.

    straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

    well. you’ve certainly fulfilled your own expectations on this one.

  27. “I go to Aaron Lawrence gallery just so I can hear a PC white guy saying “Tena koto, tena koto, tena koto katoa”.
    Go honky go!”

    Dear Peter, thanks for the sarcasm if thats what it was. I am anything but PC and I say that at my openings as a sign of respect to where we live.

    Oh and its Laurence with a U not a W. And I haven’t been called Honky since, that was my nick name for 17 years, I left school in Waitara so thanks.

  28. However I still can’t get over the fact that only comments relating to the art come from Nick and this is a real struggle for me.

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