intraspace: the review lounge

Monday, October 22, 2007

how to make an art gallery

tauranga has never had the reputation for being a cultural centre. in fact, in the past there has been a noticeable lack of cultural activity. the city had a reputation, even 15 years ago, of being kind of a giant retirement village. i remember reading in frank sargeson's autobiography 'once is enough' a comment about 1950s tauranga that was something like, "the lights of tauranga had nothing to offer me but tidy gardens and pink flamingoes". it was, and still is, a suburban paradise.

over the last ten years small nz towns and cities have been getting themselves more culture, actively seeking out artistic activity to add 'flavour' to their municipal identity. recently this phenomenon has been catching up with tauranga. even in the time i've been living here (nearly 5 years) things have noticeably changed.

one such project is the establishment of a tauranga art gallery. incredibly, tauranga has never had one. the only galleries have been commercial galleries selling the kind of art that matches the sofa and looks nice in your beach house.

predictably, the project (which received council funding) was viewed with suspicion by a good sized chunk of tauranga's pragmatic rate-paying population. but a committed team has seen the project through to completion. on saturday, the gallery opened to the public.

as the building (designed by mitchell & stout) went up, i have to say i wasn't overly impressed with the external architecture. to me it looked a bit more like a cinemaplex than an art gallery and i was, and still am, worried that it will date ungracefully. but walking through the big glass doors, i was immediately captured by the interior space.

it is compact, but uses the space very well with a high ceiling in the entry area. this is also the first display space you enter. the ceiling height allows for big art pieces and alleviates any feeling that the gallery is cramped by its small size. for the opening, this area houses two-storey high works by tauranga-born mark braunias.

the ground floor has a number of intimate display areas including a small concrete-walled room that obviously makes use of the existing building - i really liked that room. in these areas, the gallery has pieces from its collection on display. and quite a nice little collection it is - featuring work by the usual suspects (hotere, mccahon et al - nz works). the wall space has been well utilised but it doesn't feel cluttered.

overhead there are semi-opaque aqua coloured panels which are part of the floor of the upstairs mezzanine. the shadows of people walking on these makes intriguing shapes when you look up at them from below. these panels are an excellent architectural feature.

the mezzanine is a nice space and has two film screening rooms at the end. on display was photographic work, and in particular the best images from 'world press photo 2007'. having that as the opening exhibit was a stroke of genius by the gallery staff: photography is a very accessible art form; the images were very emotive and you couldn't help being affected by them; it brought international work into the gallery.

actually, it was great to see how many people had turned out to have a look at the gallery. the place was packed. and it seemed as if people who had just come for a nosey, went away genuinely impacted by what they had seen. as far as art is concerned, that is the definition of success.

this is how you make an art gallery in a place like tauranga. i'm immensely proud that it is now a feature of our city. i knew having a gallery here was a good idea but now i'm completely sold. if you ever visit tauranga, make sure you visit the gallery. it'll only take you about half an hour to look around - unless you want to stay longer.

gallery site here. view the gallery space here.

on the stereo: '15 step' by radiohead, from the album 'in rainbows'.

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war and peace

i did it. i read 'war and peace'. my cunning plan of reading the 'books' of war and peace interspersed with other books (to keep up my interest) paid off, and about nine months after starting, i finished.

my pleasant surprise was that war and peace is actually a cracking good book. it is such a vast and masterful work of art - combining the society intrigues of victorian novels (by austen and hardy etc) with gritty narratives about napoleonic warfare.

to quote tolstoy (from an article that he published about the novel), "I have spent five years of uninterrupted and exceptionally strenuous labour under the best conditions of life [on this work]." tolstoy doesn't hold back, and he achieves a work of grandeur that succeeds in holding the reader's attention through action and character studies.

my tactic of reading other books in between probably helped, but i actually found that i was pleased to get back to war and peace.

for tolstoy the reason for writing such a book was not mainly to entertain his readers. he had a theory about history that he was evidently very committed to demonstrating.

tolstoy says that war and peace "is not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less an historical chronicle" [although it quite clearly contains elements of all these]. "War and Peace is what the author wished and was able to express in the form in which it was expressed."

the concept that tolstoy wants to communicate is this:

"The movement of nations is caused not by power, nor by intellectual activity, nor even by a combination of the two ... but by the activity of all the people who participate in the events... Morally the wielder of power appears to cause the event, physically it is those who submit to the power. But as the moral activity is inconceivable without the physical, the cause of the event is neither in the one nor in the other, but in the union of the two." (from the epilogue)

this is why war and peace has a cast of over 500 characters. each of them has a role to play in history, actions have ramifications. but at the same time the characters are also swept along by the events of history - participants and victims, as it were.

the only time when the narrative really slows in the book is at the end when tolstoy puts together all his thoughts about history in essay form, just in case the reader has missed the point. this break from narrative is a bit of an anticlimax but i suppose it is necessary given tolstoy's primary aims for the book. this ending shouldn't stand in the way of you reading it if you're not a history student - it comes at the very end as an epilogue, so doesn't interfere with the narrative.

all up, brilliant. highly recommended.

read more about 'war and peace' on wikipedia.

warandpeace-o-meter: finished!

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

In Rainbows - that's how we can see the music world, thanks to Radiohead

The Band of the 90's, was not short-lived Nirvana - but ground-breaking Radiohead. Written off as one-hit wonders after 'creep', they moved onto an album of perfect but un-heralded britpop ('the bends') before releasing the monumental 'ok computer', the album that brought rich desolation, rock and art to the mainstream. So good was it that they've been able to do what they like since - including the jagged electronic rock of 'Kid A' and 'Amnesiac', the lesser 'hail to the theif', and now their new album 'in rainbows' thats been released as a download first - its also a first for the music industry in that you can buy it for - whatever you like - whatever you think its worth.

I paid 1 pound actually! For this I got every track (Radiohead don't allow for the album to be bought as seperate tracks ala most downloaded music) at a just average quality 160kbps MP3, and without artwork. Like many, I expect I'll buy the real cd wth full quality tracks at a future date, but for now, being able to get the tracks so soon and try them out is brilliant.

So did I get what I'd paid for? No - I got a lot more - 4 stars for this one - beneath the 5 of 'ok computer', but it is really good - with a combination of their jagged electronica and desolate but rich rock - it has jarring moments, but they make the soaring ones so much better - particularly on 'weird fishes', 'jigsaw' and 'all i need'. Some parts sound like bjork, or even some other band doing 90's as the retro sound it'll be in a few years.

So why not drop them a pound yourself, even if just to stick it to the music industry big wigs. For more opinion on the album and its unique release, I'd reccomend the comments at my favourite music blog, horse latitudes, from where you can also find the link to buy the album.
Go here:

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

eyewitness accounts of a historic rugby loss

it's been ages since anything was posted on intraspace. but i think apologies for that kind of thing are a bit lame, so i won't bother.

instead, i've asked a couple of my uk-based mates to pass on their thoughts about the all blacks' loss to france in the quarter finals of the rugby world cup.

a few days ago, my aussie mate jonathan (jnxyz) and i compared notes about who australia and nz were meeting in the quarter finals and matter-of-factly decided that we would be playing each other in the semis. i did, however, call france our 'bogey team' as they have a history of upsetting the all blacks. and i recalled aaron saying that the english might possibly upset the aussies.

on sunday morning, before i left for church, i checked the internet and saw that the aussies had gone down to england. i was about to fire off a quick email to jonathan when i suddenly thought - better wait until after the all blacks game before i do that... probably just as well in hindsight.

anyway, here is a match report from john butterworth, who was at the game in cardiff:

I actually felt sorry for the Aussie supporters as I watched their team lose while I ate lunch in the Cardiff pub. I thought how crap they must be feeling as they sat in their seats in the stadium and I tried to imagine what it must be like. It's a good thing that's unlikely to happen to us....

Earlier, the streets were filled with black. It was about mid-day and there were kiwi's everywhere. There was a smattering of Red White and Blue but I wondered where the French foreign legions were? A bunch of Maoris crossed the road from Cardiff Castle in single file dressed in black complete with gumboots - Cardiff was was one big New Zealand icon. Suddenly the French arrived. Brightly clad and gloriously noisy, their good natured but fierce support was inspiring and they made friends everywhere.

The stadium roof was closed and French songs filled the arena. Occasionally the All Black chant went up - you know the one: "All Blacks" clap clap clap. Childish, and pathetically delivered, it was each time drowned out by a magnificent chorus of French singing that could have made a Welshman proud (but probably not quite). Insert all sporting adjectival cliches here:___________________. This was the atmosphere. This was the greatest rugby stadium in the world. The view of the pitch from one of the worst seats in the house (if there are any) was more than good. The noise in the stadium - deafening and the rivalry between supporters though very real was very fun. It promised to be a great night for the All Blacks to win. Bugger.

A fairly sound first half you would have to say - and we dared to think it was in the bag. The AB's looked sharp and in control (sort of). The half time break disappeared and we settled down to watch the All Blacks gradually extend the lead and put their foot on the throats of the hapless french. The ridiculously high prices we had paid on ebay would soon be distant memories and we would return to London that week to boast to our English colleagues of how we will take them apart in the semi's - no more All Black choking this time mate!

Sometimes you wonder what a coach said at half-time. This was one of those games where you wondered what both coaches said. We watched unsettled as the French went to fourth and then fifth while the AB's seemed intent on coming fourth or fifth - or worse! Surely we would sort it and come back - the nervousness on the pitch - the complete and sudden lack of faith in their ability would only last for a bit and then everything would be all right again - yeah?

5 minutes to go - camped inside the 22. Righto, well done boys - drop goal time. Left it quite late but you're in the right place now. Just center up a bit and throw it back's freaking there?!! Drop goal guys - it's gotta be a DROP GOAL !!!!!!....... Yeah but wait on - not now - hang on to it now!, don't do it now!, don't.....

I can hear the laughter of the French supporters around me as - I only hear 'cause I'm no longer looking, I'm just waiting for the roar after the ball will be inevitably kicked into touch.

Kiwi blokes are actually in tears. Most of us just sit and stare at nothing in particular. Another monumental mental collapse - a sporting mind meltdown of the highest degree. I guess we kind of expect it now - maybe this team does too.

Oh well, as they say, c'est la vie. Bollocks it is!

meanwhile, luke and patrick were watching the game on a big screen in london:

I watched it at a venue called The Grand, at Clapham Junction in London. It's an old theatre and has a screen that is 40 square metres in area. Fantastic picture and great atmosphere.

Up until the final loss of possession a win was still very much a possibility, so it was then that it hit. I just put my head in my hands for a while. Patrick starting kicking things. I then suggested we leave. We went to the pub over the road for a two-hour de-briefing.

Oh well. It's very hard to swallow and you kinda wish you didn't emotionally involve yourself in the All Blacks success or failure.

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