Cultural Elsewhere

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THE DIFFICULT ARTS UNDER NAZISM: The uncomfortable past -- and present

22 Aug 2010  |  6 min read

Back in the early NIneties there was a modicum of good news about the career of the German rock band Endseig whose name meant Final Victory. It was that they weren’t particularly popular and their records sold fewer than a couple of thousand copies. That however may come as small comfort to anyone who scans their lyrics. “Throw them in prison of concentration camps . . .... > Read more

ANTOINE WIERTZ: Rape, damnation and the art of darkness

21 Aug 2010  |  4 min read

Antoine Wiertz was one pretty sick bastard all right. The gallery he demanded be built to house his gigantic paintings in his adopted hometown of Brussels is  testament to an artist obsessed by death, disembowelment, rape, damnation and a virulent sexuality. Everywhere flesh is impaled or torn, eyes glisten with horror, and spears drive through bodies. Over there is a beheading, on... > Read more

TODAY IN HISTORY: AUGUST 16 1977: The king is gone . . .

16 Aug 2010  |  1 min read  |  1

John Lennon was only half right when, on being told that Elvis Presley had died, said, "Elvis died when he went into the army". In part that was true: before his posting to Germany Elvis was the archetype for rock'n'roll; after the songs got soft and the Hollywood movies rolled out with increasingly dreary predictability. There were of course continuing flashes of greatness:... > Read more

The death of Elvis Presley

RHONA HASZARD: Portrait of the artist as a young woman (2004)

2 Aug 2010  |  2 min read

Popular culture loves nothing so much as the early death of an obvious talent. We are left with questions and the speculation on just what direction the gift might have moved in had the artist lived. Some of that discussion will doubtless be aired with the Auckland exhibition of works by Thames-born painter Rhona Haszard, who fell to her death from the fourth storey of a tower in Egypt in... > Read more

MARCEL MARCEAU INTERVIEWED (2001): It's all talk, talk, talk . . .

7 Jul 2010  |  7 min read

Within minutes, literally fewer than five, Marcel Marceau is back in the unadorned dressing room at Sydney's Capitol Theatre and, still in full pancake makeup, enthusiastically giving an interview after another thunderously received performance.The speed at which this private audience has been expedited and the sheer rush of words from a man whose reputation is built on silence suggests there... > Read more

BARRY HUMPHRIES ON THE RECORD: The early life of an agent provocateur

7 Jul 2010  |  5 min read

At his first Pan-Australia Dada exhibition, Barry Humphries had packages printed up bearing the name Platitox, which allegedly contained a poison to put in creeks to kill the platypus, that much-loved, much-protected and playful native animal. “So why have an exhibit which offers a pesticide to destroy these animals? Because everything was in its place in Australia,” said... > Read more

Sandy Stone: Dear Beryl

STEVE REICH INTERVIEWED (1990): The maximal minimalist

5 Jul 2010  |  5 min read

American composer Steve Reich finishes telling of his new work – an enormous three-years-in-the making multi-media project – and then reflects on the austerity of his early music which enraged audiences two decades ago. “Yeah, it’s easy to see backwards and how all these new things came from that early stuff – but it isn’t so easy to see forwards.... > Read more

SIR STANLEY SPENCER ESSAYED (2003): Of angels and dirt

28 Jun 2010  |  7 min read

Sex fascinated Stanley Spencer. But so did angels, the transcendence of the spirit through faith, and life in his home village of Cookham where, as a child, he believed biblical events had taken place and been witnessed by local folk.This confluence of religious and rural influences, and his belief that sexual and spiritual desire were entwined, were resolved in an intellectually energised... > Read more


13 Jun 2010  |  6 min read

Lazlo Moholy-Nagy would argue that our eyesight was defective and limited. He would cite the pioneering 19th-century German physiologist Hermann von Helmholtz, who told his students if an optician made a human eye and brought it to him he would say, "This is a clumsy piece of work".The punchline for Moholy-Nagy would be that we have a better optical instrument than the human eye: the... > Read more


8 Jun 2010  |  9 min read

Harry Belafonte’s voice has been his passport. It was his passage out of poverty as a young man and has allowed him access to the hearts of people as he tirelessly articulates the struggle for human rights.As he stood alongside Dr Martin Luther King, Eleanor Roosevelt and Nelson Mandela as a friend and confidant, his was a compassionate voice for equality, justice and the rights of... > Read more

PICASSO, THE FINAL MASK (2003): Into the void

24 May 2010  |  4 min read

In his last self-portrait -- a crayon on paper work done nine months before his death in 1973, at age 91 -- Pablo Picasso created a disconcerting image: the eyes wide as if terrified, the mouth taut and drawn tightly over the teeth, and the face gaunt with defined cheekbones quite unlike what his bowling ball face actually looked like. It is a portrait of the man within, the image of a man... > Read more

RICHARD MEIER'S GETTY CENTRE IN LOS ANGELES (1999): Architecture, art and anger

10 May 2010  |  6 min read

High in the hills overlooking Los Angeles, The Getty Centre offers a commanding view. “Yeah, on a clear day you can see smog forever,” says a droll Angelino as he stares into the blue-grey gauze which lies lightly over his city on this typically perfect, dry day. That said the Getty, as it is commonly known and which opened 18 months ago, is beautifully appointed on a... > Read more

UTE LEMPER INTERVIEWED (2003): The ice maiden cometh

23 Apr 2010  |  10 min read

Midnight on a warm Wednesday in New York City, the Gotham of the Great Republic. The German cabaret maven has come home early from a recording studio across town so, sure, she has plenty of time to talk."I'm not an early sleeper," she laughs, somewhat stating the obvious.This is singer and actress Ute Lemper, once memorably described as like a "Valkyrian dominatrix" whose... > Read more

FRIDA KAHLO (1907-54), THE ARTIST AS SUBJECT: The pain and passion

12 Apr 2010  |  4 min read  |  1

Pain. The word rings like a refrain in any discussion of painter Frida Kahlo. Her pain is writ large on the pages of even the most meagre of biographies: the crippling polio at age 6; the horrific bus accident at 18 and the more than 30 operations she endured as a result; the emotional wounds in her marriage to the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, 20 years her senior, whose serial... > Read more

JOHN PSATHAS INTERVIEWED (2000): Rattle of a complex man

10 Apr 2010  |  5 min read

After John Psathas won best classical album of 1999 at the New Zealand Music Awards in March, nothing happened. No arts writers called wanting to profile this prolific composer, sales of the album Rhythm Spike on the independent Rattle label didn't jump, and no critics decided to belatedly acknowledge this exceptional album which, on initial release, had only one print review. Even... > Read more

John Psathas: Calenture Part One from Rhythm Spike (piano Dan Poynton, guitar Neil Becker, percussio

LIVERPOOL AND AUCKLAND (2009): A tale of two architectures

22 Feb 2010  |  6 min read

As the vessel pulls away from the pier, the soundtrack is predictable: the 1964 hit by Gerry and the Pacemakers Ferry Cross the Mersey, Gerry Marsden’s paean to this, his hometown of Liverpool. What is less expected on this short trip across the River Mersey and back is the commentary which sketches in the fascinating history of the Wirral Peninsula opposite where thousands once came... > Read more

SPOTLIGHT ON SYDNEY ART GALLERIES (2009): Small and sometimes imperfectly formed

1 Feb 2010  |  3 min read

For a quiet suburban street in Waterloo where small workshops sit alongside brick homes and the occasional eatery, there are a few meters of Sydney’s Danks Street fascinating for their art -- and the flinty undercurrent of gossip and innuendo. When John Ioannou opened his Agathon Galleries opposite the Danks Street Depot with its excellent restaurant and art arcade -- which includes... > Read more

JACK BODY INTERVIEWED (2001): From street to string section

5 Dec 2009  |  5 min read  |  1

The music skitters off the disc as the Greek fiddle player takes to the tune at alarming speed, the notes slewing into each other. The piece is Horos Serra, recorded for a 1973 collection, and it captivated Wellington composer Jack Body so much that he transcribed it. No mean feat, given the density and difficulty of the piece which lasts a little over three minutes. "The rhythmic... > Read more

Jack Body: Long-ge

THE VENICE BIENNALE 2009: Art for art's, and its curator's, sake

26 Oct 2009  |  6 min read

Should Venice sink beneath the sea, it is possible the city could be reconstructed exactly by referring to the millions of photographs tourists have taken of every palazzo, piazza, corner and calle. On any given day -- in bitter winter or the smelly humidity of summer -- Venice is crammed with visitors snapping and filming.  Venice’s decaying elegance, arguably an art... > Read more

SIR HOWARD MORRISON; ONCE IN A LIFETIME (Rajon DVD): The bright lights and bad nights

25 Sep 2009  |  3 min read

In my blog at Public Address I noted the sad coincidence: I started watching this three-part interview with Sir Howard Morrison on Tuesday. On Thursday night I heard that he had died. I also noted there that among the things I had scribbled in my notebook while watching just the first part where he speaks of his childhood was, "When Sir Howard, now [?], passes on we will perhaps... > Read more

Howard Morrison Quartet: Sere Si Mandolino