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Creative New Zealand media release

19 Apr 2011

This content is tagged as Creative NZ .


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Eight attendants – five pianists and three Italian speakers – have been appointed by Creative New Zealand to staff the Michael Parekowhai exhibition, On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer at the Venice Biennale between June and October this year.

They will be attending for periods of between four and eight weeks for the duration of the five month exhibition at the Palazzo Loredan dell' Ambasciatore on the Grand Canal.

The pianists will be performing a mix of New Zealand, jazz and classical music on the carved Steinway piano He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu story of a New Zealand river, one of the pieces which make up the installation.

Music is an integral part of the exhibition. “If the sculptures are a source of visual surprise for visitors, it is the music that will greet them when they arrive,” said Venice Commissioner Jenny Harper.  Michael Parekowhai’s vision is that visitors are greeted by the sound of the music before they see the object it is being performed on.

The three fluent Italian speakers, who are versed in contemporary New Zealand and European art, will be responsible for engaging with visitors and explaining the five pieces which make up the installation.


Application process

There was enormous competition for the roles and applicants were put through a demanding selection process. Interviews and auditions were held with a specialist selection panel comprising of Linda Tyler (Curator, Gus Fisher Gallery, Auckland), Megan Tamati-Quenell (Curator Contemporary Maori, Indigenous art at Te Papa), composer John Psathas, native Italian speaker Francesca Calamita and Creative New Zealand Venice Biennale Project Manager Tanea Heke.

The pianists were auditioned by John Psathas and the other candidates were assessed on their understanding of contemporary New Zealand and Māori art, had their Italian fluency judged by a native Italian speaker, and presented to the panel on the merits of New Zealand participating at the Biennale.

In addition to their other duties the attendants will blog on their experience through the New Zealand at Venice website as well as using the New Zealand at the Venice Biennale Facebook page to communicate back home. The 2009 blog by attendants was the first of its kind at the Venice Biennale and was closely followed at home and and overseas.


Biographies of attendants (in date order)

Elizabeth Lochhead holds an M.A. (Distinction) in Classics from the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts and speaks fluent Italian, French, German and conversational Spanish. A former gallery attendant at the SOFA Gallery, Elizabeth has wide ranging arts interests and has worked as a cultural ambassador while teaching in Germany.

Amy Mansfield holds an M.A. (First Class Honours) in English Literature from Auckland University and is a fluent Italian and German speaker. A lawyer by training, she has taught and performed classical piano and edited catalogues for two major Auckland Art Gallery exhibitions.

Sophie Keyse holds an M. A. (First Class Honours) in Art History from Auckland University and speaks both Italian and French. Currently a curator at the Uxbridge Creative Centre she participated in the Peggy Guggenheim Internship programme in Venice.


Biographies of musicians (in date order)

Dan Hayles holds a PGDipMus and is studying towards a Master of Musical Arts degree at the New Zealand School of Music. An experienced jazz pianist he has performed as part of the Lewis Eady ‘Emerging Artist Series’, performed alongside Dame Malvina Major and Michael Houstoun and composed and played in the support band for jazz legend George Benson. He has numerous awards including the 2004 Institute of Registered Music Teachers Young Performer of the Year.

Flavio Villani has a Bachelor of Piano Performance and is currently completing an honours degree at the University of Auckland. Flavio was a finalist with the Damase Trio in the Auckland Music Society Competition in 2010 and has extensive experience as a performer and teacher. He has also performed on Michael Parekowhai’s carved Steinway piano when it was unveiled to Patrons last month.

Catherine McKay studied post-graduate Performance Piano in Montreal and London at the Royal College of Music on completion of her Masters of Music (Dist.) with Diedre Irons and Terence Dennis. She currently is tutor for the Young Musicians Programme at the NZ School of Music, Victoria University and performs extensively in many professional chamber music recitals, interdisciplinary performances and as concerto soloist throughout NZ. In 2009 she was invited to be collaborative pianist at the Banff Centre for the Arts for six months.

Ariana Odermatt has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Performance Music and German and a BA Honours in Performance Music (Harpsichord) from University of Waikato. Currently working as a Creative New Zealand Programme Administrator she has performed as a pianist, harpsichordist and organist and also performed public concerts in London and at the 2004 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  In New Zealand she has an active role in concerts around Wellington and the Waikato.

Rose Campbell has a Bachelor of Music (Performance) and LCTL (piano) and is currently the Manager, Programmes for Creative New Zealand. Rose has previously worked as a Music Adviser for the Ministry of Education; Head of Music at Wellington College; and Director of Music at Scots College; and has performed publicly as a classical pianist.


Background to New Zealand’s 2011 Venice Biennale exhibition

Michael Parekowhai’s installation in Venice, On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer will include the following components; two grand pianos fabricated in bronze supporting two cast bronze bulls; an intricately-carved Steinway concert grand piano; a figure from the Kapa Haka series and two small bronze olive tree saplings.  If the sculptures are a source of visual surprise for visitors, it is the music that will greet them when they arrive.

2011 marks New Zealand's fifth official participation at the Venice Biennale funded by the Arts Council of New Zealand. This year the New Zealand Pavillion is in the Palazzo Loredan dell’Ambasciatore on the Grand Canal near the Accademia. This 15th-century Gothic palace once belonged to the noble Loredan family and was the birthplace of two Doges of Venice – Leonardo Loredan (1501-21) and Francesco Loredan (1752-62). This is the first time that the palazzo hosts a national pavilion for the Venice Biennale.


About the artist

Michael Parekowhai is one of New Zealand’s most important and dynamic contemporary artists. In addition to an extensive exhibition history, his work is held in many significant public and private collections in New Zealand and Australia, as well as several permanent collections across the Asia-Pacific region and in Europe.

Born in Porirua, New Zealand in 1968, Michael Parekowhai is of European and Maori (Ngati Whakarongo) descent. He graduated with a BA and MA from the University of Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts, where he is now Associate Professor in Fine Arts. In 2001 he was awarded an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate.