Suffering and Art
25 Aug 2014
We’ve all heard about the artists who suffer for their art; financially, emotionally and, of course, in the famous example of Vincent van Gogh, physically. Sometimes of course the boot is on the other foot and audiences/viewers can suffer too. I want to share a recent experience that had fairly equal measures of both suffering and joyousness.
Last week was one of those occasions where Wellington was at its worst weather-wise. Yes, Wellington’s worst is quite bad. There was certainly sleet, some thought snow. The southerly was rolling in via McMurdo Sound and it was beyond cold. It was also the opening night of the Lux Festival (think outdoor light exhibitions) in Wellington, beginning at the Wharewaka by Frank Kitts Park.
The good angel on my left shoulder had a long conversation with the bad angel on my right about whether, given the weather, I actually needed to turn up. After all we weren’t funding the event, and surely any sane person wouldn’t actually risk hyperthermia? However the good angel won, I had said yes to the invitation…full stop. Mercifully my treaty partner Haniko Te Kurapa said he would come too, which was great as it is much better facing adversity with a friend.
Take my word for it, the person in this photo below is Haniko. It gives some sense of the occasion.
Lighting the way
As it happens I was really glad we made the effort. Lux is fun. The Christchurch Lux event that we did support was massively successful, Nelson does its own Lux thing and this event now seems like a part of the calendar in the Capital.
Wellington’s Lux event is significantly driven by Massey University and a host of students who can merge their skills, as well as the city and sponsors contributing money for materials and their own design expertise. As we made our way around the waterfront, there were new exhibitions, existing landmarks lit in unexpected ways and a palpable curiosity about what’s next?
Experiencing the arts both inside and outside the ‘temples’
The ability to walk at your own pace, talk with strangers about the work, and to do this outdoors is liberating. I was reminded that in the formation of our Strategic Plan there were strong views that Creative New Zealand should be emphasising the importance of supporting both art and audiences in the purposed facilities as well as in the public realm. I think widening access is at the heart of this conversation, as is the good that comes from making quality art accessible as part of everyday life.
Given our mandate around “all New Zealanders” this impulse is hard to argue with. A number of Festival events already offer a combination of outdoor and indoor events in order to broaden access.
If you have the chance I urge you to check out the Lux Festival. It makes for a great whanau activity. You can download the map and see as much of it as you want. The good thing is if you like it you can linger. If you don’t you can follow the advice of the awesome Dionne Warwick and, walk on by. Several noise activated exhibits encourage people to holler, an opportunity embraced by young and old.
Early steps on a life long journey
We know that early engagement with art is a key to lifelong engagement. On a quick second sweep through the festival on Saturday it was great to see so many families engaging with the art. Kids are curious so the interactive possibilities of Jon Baxter’s Boing Boing Gloop Machine was one of a number of offerings that delighted the ‘hands on’ youngsters. I would be amazed if this event didn’t open new doorways of possibility for a lot of people.