Tuesday, 29 May 2007
The New Zealand School Journal started out 100 years ago as a textbook-substitute, but it has evolved into a cultural and literary treasure. So many great New Zealand writers and artists got their break with School Journal.
To celebrate the School Journal's centenary, the National Library is showing a selection of original art contributed to the Journal by such big names as Rita Angus, Colin McCahon, Louise Henderson, Juliet Peter, and many others.
The exhibition takes its name from Alistair Te Ariki Campbell's description of the Journal's office as "a nest of singing birds"; A Nest of Singing Birds is at the National Library in Wellington until the 21st July. You can read more about the exhibition here. And some historical background here.
And if you want to send your own original work to the School Journal, this is the page for you.
Most wildlife photographs show the animal clearly standing out from the background, but of course standing out is exactly what animals don't mean to do - their survival depends on blending in with their environment. The pictures in this book show animal camouflage: viewing these pictures is a game of visual hide-and-seek, trying to find the creature hiding in each image. More than that, it shows how inhabited empty-seeming landscapes can be!
Forget everything you thought you knew about Witi Ihimaera. In this, his most recent novel, he steps outside his usual Maori settings, and into white Auckland of the 1990s. David Munro is a white academic, born into privilege; he is a promiscuous homosexual who is happily married with two beloved daughters. Eventually his nights of casual sex with strangers, his "Nights in the Gardens of Spain", throw his life into chaos, and threaten to destroy his family. How David deals with the conflicts within himself and with the world are the substance of the book.
Tuesday, 15 May 2007
I saw Picturing the Peninsula at the Christchurch City Gallery the other day, and it was fascinating. It's a collection of paintings, drawings and photographs of Canterbury's Banks Peninsula: you'd be amazed how diverse the images are. Standouts for me were paintings from Tony Fomison and Dean Venrooy, and a photograph from Mark Adams.
I looked online for more information on Dean Venrooy's amazing paintings, and this was about all I could find.
The Encyclopedia of Life is an incredibly ambitious project. The object is to catalogue all 1.8 million known species of organism, in a web-accessible form. Inspired by Wikipedia, public contributions and mash-ups of already-availible material will form most of the content, but experts will check it for accuracy. The EOL will take a number of years to evolve, and will be an unprecedented public resource.
This fascinating story on Public Address Science is about the rediscovery of an ancient technique: Maori and South Americans blended charcoal into soil to improve its fertility; the soil they treated hundreds of years ago is still very fertile. And, what's more, burying charcoal locks carbon into the earth, preventing its return to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.
Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado's photographs of Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula have to be seen to be believed. See them here. There's more information on Salgado and his work here. And more of his pictures here.
Tuesday, 8 May 2007
"A concrete tower - 40 storeys high - stood bathed in intense white light, a totally bizarre image in the depths of the Andalusian countryside.
The tower looked like it was being hosed with giant sprays of water or was somehow being squirted with jets of pale gas. I had trouble working it out."
Can you guess what it is? It's a solar-thermal power station, focusing beams of reflected sunlight to create steam to drive turbines. Read all about it on the BBC.
In Rwanda, the bottom of Lake Kivu accumulates methane given off by rotting vegetation. If left to build up, this methane, along with carbon dioxide, eventually forms a huge bubble which explodes to the surface, and the gas then settles over the surface, suffocating humans and animals over a huge area. It is estimated two million people are at risk around Lake Kivu. Fortunately, technology exists to extract the methane from under the lake and use it as fuel. Read the whole story on the BBC.
Banksy is an art-celebrity; his real identity is keep secret; his work sells for huge sums. However, not everyone is impressed. Cleaners this week whitewashed a work he had spraypainted on a substation.
Tuesday, 1 May 2007
Figure in the New Zealand Landscape isn't like any other landscape photography book I've ever seen! Vicotoria Ginn uses New Zealand locations in ways you won't have seen before. This is one of my favourites. And this. They're all fascinating, though.
Ginn shows dancers in staged tableaux of various kinds: some enact historical events or myths, some are visual jokes, some are evocative and enigmatic; each shot is a carefully-composed moment of stillness. Over them all is an air of drama and strangeness: the landscapes look both familiar and alien.
Ginn describes herself as an "Ethnographic Art Documentary Photographer". Her work certainly defies the usual categories! Her biography and a history of her practice is here.
On the subject of landscape, Craig Potton Publishing has recently put out this sumptuous Rob Brown book on Rakiura/Stewart Island. Brown took the jewel-like photographs over many years while tramping Rakiura's back country: beaches and forests, mountains and tussocklands. The pictures are accompanied by a thoughtful text on Rakiura's history and his experiences there.
I was fascinated to read that all the photographs were made on medium-format transparency sheet film in a fully-mechanical camera, and with the use of a hand-held light meter. He certainly hasn't taken any easy options! He says what with the heavy sheet-film in his pack and all the lenses, it was sometimes a conflict between carrying enough food or enough film. He says it's less painful to be hungry than to run out of film. :-)
"It was only by accident after her death that we found all the images, thousands of them, that she had hidden around the house. She always claimed she had destroyed them. They were a revelation...." The Guardian has the whole story.