Monday, June 25, 2012

The unkindest cut

 Creative New Zealand is often puzzled as to why it doesn’t attract more publicity and profile from the Venice Biennale. It’s not so surprising really. Virtually every time CNZ heads into one of these hugely complicated events it does so with staff with little or no previous experience of the event. 

 And then there is the commitment problem. To date neither the Arts Council nor the Minister have publicly supported NZ’s long term participation in the Biennale beyond next year. From the record then, next year's outing with Bill Culbert will be the last to be funded. There was a flurry back in 2009 about setting up a Foundation to take over from CNZ but hard to find any reference to it now. As for the Cultural Philanthropy Taskforce, which might have looked to the future of our commitment to the Biennale, doesn't mention specifics like Venice in its ideas about how to grow the pie. So as it stands, it looks like independent rich people/ philanthropists will be expected to stump up with the million plus – good luck with that. 

A textbook example of CNZ’s ambivalence about its participation at Venice is summed up in a recent press release (you can read it here) announcing the venue for Bill Culbert’s contribution next year. It turns out CNZ has secured the same space that was used for the et al. installation in 2005 plus the use of the church that backs onto it. Makes sense. It's very well positioned on the way to the main Biennale site and a well-known venue. So good news. 

But could they bring themselves to even name the et al installation in the main copy? No, they couldn't. Although The Fundamental Practice has proved to be a major part of New Zealand's history at Venice it is described in the press release as a generic “New Zealand presentation in 2005”. Evidently nervous that resurfacing the media storm that surrounded et al.'s selection seven years ago might reflect badly on Culbert's participation CNZ chose to edit their own history.

You can read a full account of the et al. media issue here