Monday, April 06, 2009

Art beat

Whilst visiting Che Tibby's place (for Proust fans, that would be du côté de chez Che Tibby) I came across an invective against one of Wellington's public sculptures. And I thought of Auckland's public sculptures.

And, reader, I wept. I wept tears of sardonic laughter. For, while Tanya Ashken's Albatross may not be to everyone's tastes, it is at least recognisibly a work of art. Here in Auckland, we have a statue of Freyberg in the Airfix style, one of Dove Meyer Robinson which is best described as regrettable, a novelty rock and Spiky Red Thing. But, worse still, we have the Five Rams. These were a gift from our twin city, Guangzhou. In Guangzhou, rams look like goats and have udders (or unfeasibly large testicles; take your pick). I suppose it was a gift so we couldn't say no; and it is carved from granite, so it would take an awful lot of plastic explosive to destroy it (if you have an awful lot of plastic explosive, do let me know); but it is not even original: it is a copy. And it disfigures a very pretty park; the things we do for trade preference.

I could go on, but it is difficult to know where to stop. We win this game. When it comes to unintentionally hilarious sculpture, you can't beat Auckland. They should make a tour of the city's sculptures part of the International Comedy Festival. Come, one and all! See the light sculpture in the pavement which symbolises the river which once ran where Queen street stands - the light sculpture which isn't lit. Yes, ladies and Gentlemen, before your very eyes - kitsch abstraction; out-of-service kitsch abstraction! Marvel at the big pointy thing outside Burger King, which marks where the beach once was! Take the Waterfront Art Trail and be amazed by the burning twin towers and the giant hook. Fall over the one with the seabird on a rack!

Yes folks, in Auckland a sculpture of an albatross looks like an albatross. In Auckland, all public sculptures have to represent something, either with plodding realism or wispy abstraction. We can't cope with complexity in Auckland. We don't know much about Art, but we know a lot less about urban design. We like our sculptures to represent things, plainly, without fuss or thinking. So come to Auckland, where everything is obvious!


Lyndon said...

I'm cautious about splitting hairs when you're demolishing sculptures, but perhaps the goats are a close repetition of a theme rather than a copy. I understand China is big on that sort of thing.

Perhaps, rather than an indication of content, 'Five Rams Sculpture' is a rating to indicate the number of hydraulic rams it can withstand.

Robyn said...

My favourite examples of shitmanship with Auckland public art:

- Guy Ngan's Millennium Tree sculpture, having been designed for the Parnell Rose Gardens, was moved to the Domain after Parnellites complained.

- Michio Ihara's Wind Tree, after being neglected, was dismantled ahead of the Britomart revamp, and remains in storage today.

- The Dove-Myer Robinson statue being repositioned down onto Aotea Square, despite having been originally designed for the Town Hall balcony.

- Greer Twiss's Karangahape Rocks fountain operating not as a fountain for decades.

Arrgh! Modern sculpture! If it doesn't look like something I recognise as a real world object I feel tense and uneasy!

Anonymous said...

worst. ever. public. sculpture.

objectdart said...

a friend in auckland used to refer to freyberg as "that statute of a sailor with a stiffie"

to which it is hard to add anything at all.

Peter in Dundee said...

I hear what you are saying Paul. Here in Dundee we have a life size bronze of Desperate Dan with his dog, behind him Minnie the Minx is lining him up with her catapault. Around the corner is a nicely greening bronze of a life size dragon (not cute) that the kids like climbing. In the other direction on the retaining wall around the old church is a line of penguins (bronze again), they can be viewed as a line of penguins approaching and hopping down the step or a freeze frame series of the same penguin. The tiling on the square in front of that is done to represent how a reflection of the end of the church would look.

None of that may be high art, but it is all good civic sculpture and it says at least some of our leaders have a good sense of humour. There is modern stuff on the waterfront and around the university. None of it is as striking as the bronzes in the centre.

porc-épic said...

Sailor with a stiffie? Very much in the grand old Auckland tradition of such things. Once upon a time the giant kilted & busby-wearing neon highlander that towered above Broadway flogging Dewars whiskey was known as the wanking Scotsman, on account of the ambiguous "marching" action of his jiggling kilt.