Cultural Elsewhere

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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

THE POPE VOTE: Angels and Demons, black smoke, white smoke

23 May 2009  |  7 min read

Dan Brown's Vatican-based thriller Angels and Demons typically raises lots of questions: notably why would you buy the book now when you can just go see the movie? But to give Brown his due, he writes a cracking story which in the film fairly belts along -- and has as its backdrop the arcane mysteries of a Papal Conclave, the time when old red-frocked cardinals get behind locked doors and... > Read more

LAM CHING-YING (1952-97): The fearless vampire killer

8 May 2009  |  2 min read  |  1

Those who knew Hong Kong actor Lam Ching-ying describe him as disciplined and often severe, generous to his colleagues, but so private that when diagnosed with liver cancer in mid-1997 he didn't even tell his closest friends.  He died that November, aged 45, and his pallbearers included actor/director Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan. At his request, his ashes were flown to the United States... > Read more

Bai Hong: Listen Up

ET.AL AT THE 2005 VENICE BIENNALE: Reporting on the site office

1 May 2009  |  4 min read

Pity the Welsh, and not just for their poor rugby team. At this year’s Venice Biennale their artists were at a site so removed you probably only found it if you got on the wrong boat heading out of town. In a city of bewildering lanes, many exhibitions were as elusive. Even those from Iran and Afghanistan -- their banners draped along the Grand Canal -- proved difficult to locate.... > Read more

COLIN McCAHON IN MELBOURNE: Context is everything (2001)

2 Apr 2009  |  6 min read  |  1

It can happen anywhere: in Miami you hear OMC's How Bizarre, on late-night television in London Smash Palace turns up, in a Japanese park you come across Maori carvings, in Hong Kong a woman is wearing a bone pendant of familiar design ... This not the shock of the new, rather the frisson of the familiar.Our culture, inchoate some say, resonates powerfully to us as New Zealanders in these alien... > Read more

MADRID AND BARCELONA: Putting in the hard yards for art's sake

18 Feb 2009  |  5 min read

We should expect to suffer for our art. God knows I have for mine -- although standing in the rain outside Madrid's famous art gallery the Prado on a bitterly cold day might just have be taking it too far. It was. I quit the queue and headed back to my tiny hotel room for a warm shower, then jumped puddles to the nearby bar where I cheerfully wasted both myself and a wet Sunday. That... > Read more

JUST FIVE YEARS AGO: AMERICA IN CRISIS (2004): Land of the Free and Home of the Afraid

24 Jan 2009  |  11 min read

The cover of New York's weekly Village Voice in early June encapsulated the feeling in a single image. It was a variation on Grant Wood's famous painting American Gothic, the portrait of the elderly, pitchfork-bearing Iowan farmer and his spinster daughter. But rather than representing the Puritan ethics and hard-working dignity of the Midwest as Wood's 1930 painting intended, in the Voice... > Read more

HELLO KITTY, WANT MY MONEY?: The rise of Japanese pop culture

1 Dec 2008  |  5 min read

If you took the idea to the marketing department it would go nowhere. Imagine the pitch: “Hey guys, here’s an idea, just run with me on it for a minute. We create this little blue cat thing for, I dunno, comic books, magazines and who knows, maybe even movies. Then we put its picture on every piece of merchandising we can think up.” But blah-blah? “Yeah, good... > Read more


30 Nov 2008  |  10 min read

The Iranian-born photographer and film maker Shirin Neshat left her homeland in 1974 to work in the United States and now, after a terrifying interrogation on her last trip back six years ago, has reluctantly accepted the description, "artist in exile". Her homeland - once dominated by the Shah and politically oriented toward the West - is now an Islamist state which went through... > Read more

STEVE REICH'S CAREER CONSIDERED: From taxi driver to concert master

20 Nov 2008  |  6 min read

It’s a rare composer who can simultaneously alienate and enthral distinct sections of an audience:  Igor Stravinsky unintentionally managed it in 1913 when he premiered The Rite of Spring before an outraged crowd and there were fistfights in the aisles of the Theatre des Champs-Elysees, and so did Alban Berg the same year in Vienna with his Altenberg Lieder. But as the 20th... > Read more

NIGEL KENNEDY INTERVIEWED (2003): At last, a man for all seasons

8 Nov 2008  |  6 min read  |  1

For the former bovver-boy of classical music who gave it quite a kickin' he's, like, clockin' on a bit. Knoworrimean? He's like, 46 now. But it's cool man because, you know. Whatever, s'all cool. Awright then? Nigel Kennedy - now back to his full name after a brief rock-like digression into surname-only territory - is in the Etruscan Room of the luxurious Home House in London. It's 8pm at... > Read more


28 Oct 2008  |  8 min read

In the beginning it didn’t look like things would come together at all. The much anticipated press conference with conductor Maxim Shostakovich and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich was in doubt. Rostropovich was apparently studying his scores and Shostakovich had indicated he didn’t want to do it alone. Stalemate. Both artists were in Wellington for the 1988 International... > Read more

ELVIS PRESLEY, AN ESSAY ON THE MAN 15 YEARS GONE (1992): The once and future King

17 Oct 2008  |  6 min read

This year, 1992, Elvis Presley - the first and only king of rock’n’roll - has been gone 15 years, yet, ironically, he often seems more alive than ever these days. Living Colour may insist Elvis Is Dead and Public Enemy rightly rap, “Elvis was a hero to millions but he never meant shit to me.” But that is now - and Elvis was then. As Native American... > Read more

THE SOUND OF THE PAST COMING ALIVE: The Whittaker's Musical Museum on Waiheke

13 Oct 2008  |  4 min read  |  1

The journey takes less than an hour from downtown Auckland, but at its end you have stepped back in time. Here the sounds of the 19th century fill the air: the rich swell of notes from a theatre organ made in New York in 1877, the wheeze of an accordion from the 1820s, the rinky-tink of an 1837 fold-away ship's piano ...  At Lloyd and Joan Whittaker's museum on Waiheke Island the... > Read more

Lloyd Whittaker: If I Loved You (played on Paderewski's 1897 concert piano


13 Oct 2008  |  11 min read

If we are blunt but honest, Seoul -- the capital of South Korea -- can be a hard-edged place where commerce is ruthless and street-life sometimes bruising. That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to see in this 600-year old city, in fact quite the opposite.  The sentry outside Deoksugung Palace gate in downtown Seoul looks like he is standing guard outside the Dunkin’... > Read more

LORETTA LUX PHOTOGRAPHER: A disturbing childhood

5 Oct 2008  |  4 min read  |  1

The child looks strange somehow. There is something you cannot put your finger on. The head slightly too big, the pupils of the eyes a little too penetrating, perhaps? The image radiates silence, yet this odd little girl is about to beat a drum.  And that one over there, the child looking out of a window. It just doesn't look right, almost as if it is a photograph of a child standing... > Read more

LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND FABULOUS: Money for nothing and the chicks for free

5 Oct 2008  |  6 min read

"Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the... > Read more


26 Sep 2008  |  3 min read

Out here in this bleached-brown landscape the wine is fine, and so are the views. Gazing across the rolling Yarra Valley less than an hour from inner-city Melbourne, the eye can take in columns of grape vines marching in orderly lines over low ridges, expensively manicured golf courses, and huge steroid-expanded homes running to many millions of dollars. In the distance lie the blue... > Read more