Archive for the ‘Tao Wells’ Category

“Wayfarer Gallery Presents: The Successful Organisation of Space for the Modern Artist, after Kim Patton’s ‘Time Will Break the World'” (Artspace, Auckland, 2004, curated by Tao Wells)

Friday, December 17th, 2004

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When Tao Wells was asked to take part in The Bed You Lie In, an exhibition “in Artspace’s traditional emerging artists slot,” he asked 8 of his friends (Kaleb Bennet, Ryan Chadfield, Matthew Couper, Shay Launder, Genevieve Packer, Terry Urbahn, Wendyhouse and myself) to create “better” versions of the 8 other works in the show (by Daniel du Bern, Louise Tullett, New Artist, Rachael Grant, Finn Ferrier, Marnie Slater, Eve Armstrong and Kim Paton) and called it Winning Teacher (a show within a show). Wells then “asked the curator to rank the works in the order of her preference. This was apparently a difficult proposition for curator Tessa Giblin, who opted to position the works in alphabetical order, rather than to show favouritism for one work over another. I guess Wells was attempting to scratch below the surface of Giblin’s curatorial politics to see what was underneath, perhaps looking for a kernel of connoisseurship, or something.” (Dan Arps, Office Gossip Bastard Venting: An Interview With Tao Wells)

“The idea was simple enough: create a template/context/parameter/structure that would be seen negatively and take heat for it… to reflect some ugly reality inherent to gallery culture and then pit this against the [artworks’ attempt at] trying to communicate with each other (which is a positive generally, but hell) despite the environment in which it is received and placed. I think the relation between [their] works [and] mine is exciting and unstable; full of promise; much more interesting than the actual works; but mostly available only to those who enjoy and speak formal art qualities. It was a sucker punch, where when I got hit I would lie on the floor and collect sympathy, which worked, only (surprise!) the gallery didn’t get it, didn’t want to be hit, fought me on every little thing and ultimately made me compromise the work’s integrity to sooth their version of what I should be doing, as if they were a competing artist which is exactly how they behaved.” (Tao Wells)

My work consisted of 31 artworks by 31 different artists, from my personal art collection, packed into a small leather suitcase (a show within a show within a show). The work Tao asked me to remake/respond to was Kim Paton’s Time Will Break The World. Paton’s work (which she had produced once before in Wellington) consisted of “a perfectly gibed and painted wall” closing off the main space of the gallery, leaving only “a small passage around the perimeter of the room for people to negotiate.” (Artspace online catalogue)

“Richard Whyte has introduced his own new gallery space full of art works, called Wayfarer Gallery Presents, all inside a small suitcase. With 31 works, Whyte has in turn sublet Wells’ space to give a new insight (to a new artist) into the new gallery that Paton herself has created within Artspace. This together with… Wells’ other tenants, suggests a heterotopic locale that’s neither here nor there, but where we are and where we are not, while reflecting on the cultural capital given to the business of newness in The Bed You Lie In.” (Mark Harvey, “Tao Wells” in The Bed You Lie In, Artspace print catalogue, p39-40)

“Other works set out to criticise the art world – its galleries, its exhibitions, its difficulties and what is seen as its tired old cliches. Finn Ferrier has little bits of demolished galleries in plastic bags. Instead of a postcard you can take away a lump of concrete. Kim Paton throws up barriers between people and the gallery by crowding them against the wall and giving them nothing to see… And so it goes on – one smart, clever idea after another, with most of the young artists biting down hard on the hand that might feed them. Most gross of all is an installation by Tao Wells that references a whole lot of other artists by recreating bits of their work. It also comments on them by putting something to rot in an old filing cabinet so the whole gallery stinks, ha, ha. The gallery as rubbish dump.” (T.J. McNamara, The Galleries: Dutch Courage Goes Down A Real Treat, NZ Herald)

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“But…” (Rearrangement, 2008, photographed by Tao Wells)

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

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“1998… we were walking along together and moved some stones on a path at Victoria University. I never did finish writing my notes towards a definition…” (Alexander Greenhough, 2010)

Instructions for a rearrangement: Take any objects in a social space and rearrange them, in order to alter the perception of that space for subsequent viewers. A marker of human existence. A trace of consciousness. I think this “rearrangement” took place somewhere near ‘The Mill’ on Victoria Street in Wellington, New Zealand. Thanks to Tao Wells for being there to capture it.

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“Three Paragraphs for Tao Wells” (Space Jam 1996, Gambia Castle, 2009)

Friday, December 4th, 2009

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In 2009 Tao Wells asked me to write a short piece of writing to accompany his exhibition “Space Jam 1996” at Gambia Castle in Auckland, New Zealand. I happily agreed and after much back and forth with Tao this is what I came up with. Art critic John Hurrell later reviewed the show on Eye Contact, saying that “No meritable quality, in my view, is apparent from just looking at the exhibition.” For the record, I recommend thinking about it as well as looking, John.

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Three paragraphs for Tao Wells

Dick Whyte, November 2009

 

Tao Wells is a terrible artist. But he is a good person. It is ethics which concern me, rather than aesthetics (it is always so elegant to say what something is, followed by what it is not – it seems so final, or definitive). Morals involve any laws or codes which are imposed on you from without (religion, the legal system). Ethics are an internal model of behaviour: when morality no longer reflects our personal reality, ethics must intervene. Michel Foucault: “Ethics is the considered form that freedom takes when it is informed by reflection.”

A second definition of ethics: we must become adept at talking with ourselves. We are always two, rather than one. “I am” is merely the light, beneath the shadowy “me” and “my” (particularly when used in statements like: “Oh me, oh my, I don’t know what I am going to do”). Not knowing what to do, we turn to ethics. Of course, the other response is simply to ignore whatever is troubling: to claim that it is “not art,” “not human” or simply “not to my taste.” If Immanuel Kant has taght us anything: art has nothing to do with taste (and everything to do with time).

Problem: I am interested in ethics, not aesthetics. Solution: I am interested in both ethics and aesthetics. Firstly: how can an aesthetic shock the audience into a moment of critical thought (how do formal aesthetics prompt emotional ethics). Secondly: what does it feel like when you experience representations of people making ethical choices (how do formal ethics prompt emotional aesthetics). Problem: Tao Wells is a terrible artist. Solution: Tao Wells is both a terrible artist and a terrific artist, and this is the hardest of all concepts to grasp.

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“U.S.N.Z. Flag” (Digital Paintings, 2009, thanks to Tao Wells)

Friday, December 4th, 2009

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Designs for a new New Zealand flag representing our nations unconscious split-personality (the motherland on one side, the fatherland on the other). Inspired by Tao Wells’ Global American Flags, Michael Billig’s Banal Nationalism (thanks to Robyn Kenealy) and the Herald’s call for a new NZ flag in 2009 (given support by National leader and current prime-minister John Key, as well as 11 members of the so-called ‘Order of New Zealand’).

“The central thesis of the present book is that, in the established nations, there is a continual ‘flagging’, or reminding, of nationhood. The established nations are those states that have confidence in their own continuity, and that, particularly, are part of what is conventionally described as ‘the West’. The political leaders of such nations – whether France, the USA, the United Kingdom or New Zealand – are not typically termed ‘nationalists’. However, as will be suggested, nationhood provides a continual background for their political discourses, for cultural products, and even for the structuring of newspapers. In so many little ways, the citizenry are daily reminded of their national place in a world of nations. However, this reminding is so familiar, so continual, that it is not consciously registered as reminding. The metonymic image of banal nationalism is not a flag which is being consciously waved with fervent passion; it is the flag hanging unnoticed on the public building.” (Michael Billig, Banal Nationalism)

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“MEND” (Tao Wells and Dick Whyte, Supercomposition, 2010)

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

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The concept is simple, take two bands which are characterized as opposed (culturally, personally, ideologically) and superimpose a song from each band on top of one other (mending the rift). Concept developed by Tao Wells and myself one weekend in New Plymouth and eventually spawned my Britney Spears Best of Noise solo project.

These are not ‘remixes’, though we are interested in their relation to remixing. We have simply laid two songs on top of each other (a rhizome, a remedy) in the hope that there will be moments of connection between the layers. The points at which these two layers touch (caress) offer moments of “mending.” While mixing makes use of the cut, mending makes use of care.

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“Wells Group: The Beneficiary Office” (Tao Wells, 2010)

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

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I am pleased to announce that I have accepted a position at Wells Group Public Relations. From the 15th of October until the 3rd of November we will be located on level 3, 50 Manners Street (in Wellington, New Zealand) woking toward rebranding the notion of beneficiaries (in terms of definition and representation). After just one day of being open, we have generated a large amount of press and controversy around the project, which we hope will lead to increased productive discourse over the weeks to come. Visit the Wells Group website, join our Twitter account or our FaceBook page to keep informed about upcoming events.

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“Inuit Time” (Wells Group Production, 2010)

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

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I recently appeared, alongside Campbell Walker, Colin Hodson and Grace Campbell-Russell, as a performer/writer in the latest incarnation of Tao Wells’ play Inuit Time, once described by the National Business Review’s theatre critic John Smythe as “an insult to the fundamentals of theatre.”

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“The premise for Inuit Time is simple enough; the players write the script from their conversations, they are in control of the script (although the instruction is to write down every utterance). The resulting text is then edited together by Wells with each group’s transcript forming alternating scenes. The players form a performative intersection with the artist, who, over time pushes at the limits of their commitment to the activity through the use of repetition. Wells assumes control of the performance as he silently projects the script on an OHP for the players and audience to read and follow. Working through the sheets of dialogue he does not necessarily stop once the script has been read through once, but might keep on cycling through it endlessly, forcing the players to choose between regurgitation of their own, often banal, conversations or something else. At a point unknown this breaks down as one or more players’ rebel, refusing to continue or reading others’ parts and generally interrupting the established structure of the piece. At its best a performance like this runs the gamut from tedious to engaging, encompassing moments of hilarity and insight into how social structures and relationships operate. Like those social relationships its attempts can be abortive and banal. Yet there is even something to be gained from this because it has a built in authenticity, stemming from the anything and everything approach to content, that cannot be denied by any one iteration of the piece. The experience of Inuit Time retains the possibility of being something transformative, which lies in the occurrence of the poetic moment and in the hovering threat of conflict.” (Charlotte Huddleston, Problems)

“I have taken the elements of theatre and shifted them slightly… The original notion of the arts doing a good deed in purging dangerous emotions from a populace is reversed. I uncover these emotions, but I ask the audience to take responsibility for them, till the wheels of the theatre fall off.” (Tao Wells, read more)

“Now, this might all sound a bit wanky, but it managed to be a really enjoyable evening. While the dialogue was ordinary, the script was smart and entertaining, and the performances (or lack of) worked well with the space. The play ended with a remix of the script, with Wells jumping around the script, the actors reading what was in front of them like those crazy South American soap operas where the actors are fed lines via earpiece. And when the writer/actors tired, audience members jumped in (one of whom may have been me). The evening ended with Wells collapsing on the floor, declaring, ‘You’ve beaten me!’ Ha!” (Wellingtonista review)

“This felt like art should, as an event and an experience. Immersive, alive, challenging. The way I ended up engaging with the piece was fascinating; a suspension of thought, plus all sorts of meta-textual awareness, veering from hilarity to disbelief to other things.” (Undulating Ungulate review)

Inuit Time was directed by Tao Wells, as part of the Wells Group installation The Beneficiary’s Office. There will be a second performance on Monday 25 of October at The Frederick Street Sound and Light Exploration Society (46 Frederick Street, Wellington, New Zealand).

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“Wells Group: The Beneficiary’s Office” (Archival Videos, 2010)

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

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Archival video footage from Wells Group installation/performance The Beneficiary’s Office. TV3 news footage taken straight from their website (you can see me right at the end, holding a camera in the background). Prime News segment re-edited by Dick Whyte. Labour Day March (featuring Tao Wells and Laura Shepard) shot and edited by Colin Hodson (with Tao Wells and Dick Whyte).

“If you enjoy your job you don’t stop working after eight hours,” says the Wells Group. “We must take responsibility for what we contribute to society. Stop buying crap to make things better. Job satisfaction makes us all feel better.” (read more)

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“Right Back to the Future: Welfare Reform 1991-2011” (Tao Wells and Dick Whyte, 2011)

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

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Video produced for the Wellington benefit rights advocacy service, marking the 20th anniversary of welfare reform in New Zealand. Produced and edited by Tao Wells and Dick Whyte for the Wells Group. Footage sourced from Alister Barry’s documentary In a Land of Plenty and the NZ National party’s YouTube account.

Part of a series of detournements of New Zealand political representations and propaganda leading up to the 2011 elections. See more.

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“Concerned Citizens: Raising Money for the ‘Terror Raid’ Arrestees” (Garrett Street, Wellington, June 3rd, 2011)

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

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“More than 50 artists from around New Zealand will be exhibiting their work in Wellington at the start of next month to raise funds and public awareness for the arrestees of the 2007 October 15 “terror raids.” Exhibited works range from paintings, sculptures, and animation, to a reproduction of the assassination device police claim ‘terror raid’ arrestees planned to use – a catapult designed to launch a bus onto the head of former US president George Bush.” (Scoop: Independent News)

‘Concerned Citizens’ is taking place at Garrett Street, in Wellington (opposite Glover Park, above People’s coffee) and opens on Friday 3rd of June at 4.30pm, followed by a screening of the documentary Operation 8: Deep in the Forest at 8pm. The donated works will be on sale and display over the weekend (with all money raised going to those currently standing trial). I will be donating a couple of works, alongside more than 50 Wellington artists including Tao Wells, Campbell Kneale, Bryce Galloway, Robyn Kenealy, Ellen Rhoda, Roger Morris, Richard Meros, Arlo Edwards, Jeff Henderson and Hannah Salmon (see full list here).

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A SHORT HISTORY LESSON

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“On Monday, October 15th 2007, more than 300 police carried out dawn raids on dozens of houses all over Aotearoa/New Zealand. Police claim the raids were in response to ‘concrete terrorist threats’ from indigenous activists.” (October 15 Solidarity Website) However, the Solicitor-General was quick to reject the police bid to treat these arrests as ‘terrorism’ and the only charges laid to date have been for the possession of unlicensed firearms.

4 years later those arrested, including both Maori and Pakeha activists, are finally standing trial, but have been denied a jury; “Why have these people been denied a trial by jury? Why is there so much secrecy surrounding the legal proceedings? The police seem to be equating legitimate political and environmental activism with terrorism.” (Lance Ravenswood) Adding insult to injury, it has now been announced that the trial may be postponed another year, not taking place until 2012. Tamati Kruger speculated that the delay of the trial may have something to do with the rugby world cup being scheduled to start just as the trial would have been ending; “There may be an embarrassment with some Tūhoe action and public action while rugby and New Zealand is being showcased to the world.” (read more)

Ngai Tūhoe were one of the main targets of the ‘terror raids’, which serves to further damage the already strained relations between Tūhoe and the NZ government. In 1865 Tuhoe were falsely accused of killing the missionary Karl Volkner and, based on this accusation, the government stole 5700ha of their most fertile land. Furthermore, Tuhoe declined to sign the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, were instrumental in supporting the Kingitanga movement, and granted Te Kooti (who had been arrested and exiled by Crown without trial) sanctuary in Te Urewera in 1868. As a result, “a scorched earth campaign was unleashed against Tūhoe; people were imprisoned and killed, their cultivations and homes destroyed, and stock killed or run off. Through starvation, deprivation and atrocities at the hands of the government… Tūhoe submitted to the Crown.” (Te Ara Encyclopedia)  The way in which the most recent arrests were carried out at Te Urewera, and the subsequent abuse of the term ‘terrorist’, only adds to the very real terror visited on the Tūhoe people by the New Zealand government over the past 140 years. As Tame Iti has said, the “mana of Tuhoe that has been compromised, trampled by Pakeha [for more than 100 years]… so this is not a new experience for me today.” (read more)

Dr. Paul Buchanan points out that, “All of [the charges] can be dealt with by criminal law. There’s no reason to criminalise political dissent or to make a separate category of political crimes that constitute terrorism… In liberal democracies we have an absolute right to dissent and in dissenting we are actually allowed the absolute right to misbehave… It’s only dictatorships, authoritarian regimes that criminalise dissent and make the term terrorism synonymous with dissent.” (see more) Unarguably, owning firearms without a license breaks New Zealand law. However, in labeling political activists ‘terrorists’ it is clear that something other than ‘the law’ was at stake for both the police and the government. Even though the charges of terrorism were dropped, the association of activism (and in particular Maori activism) with terrorism has been made. The function of the term ‘terrorist’ in this particular discourse is clearly meaningful, in the sense that it undermines the legitimacy of political dissent where Maori and activism are concerned in terms of mainstream media and public opinion. The damage has been done.

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