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Friday, September 23, 2011

Haka Peepshow: Art and Society?

It is a strange thing to see in the Octagon. I began to think about it when I dashed off my letter to the ODT which I saw was published this morning.

It is the nature of art to excite debate, questions and controversy. It does not particularly matter that a work may be considered ribald by one or puerile by another. The defence of the Rakena artwork in the Octagon by Bridie Lonie this morning (ODT 21/09/11) is a good example of how a critical defence may be made for just about anything in art and how one will bring to a work one’s own bias and various agendas, cultural or otherwise. Lonie’s claim that the ‘peepshow’ is of ‘enduring value’ is, I suspect, more an aspiration than reality.

What does matter however is the social responsibility of art (and this seems pertinent when I recall that the DCC could not find $38,000 for marginalised workers at the Recycling plant but could find $50,000 for the “Peepshow’) and how this ‘Peepshow’ speaks to or for a society in hard times. I doubt it does.

As I think further, I want to continue to argue with the Peepshow - but not because it is necessarily 'bad art' as some have claimed. What constitutes 'bad art' is surely too hard to define. Having said that I concede that the notion of art having a social responsibility is equally contentious - and one has grey and dreary visions of state sponsored statues or paintings promoting the virtues and labours of the Workers or the Great Leader! However it seems to me in this specific instance, in a city where there are so few employment opportunities and so much financial hardship, that we have this exhibit that offers so little to delight and requires us that we operate it like a slot machine. It seems, at best, insensitive.

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