Monday, January 26, 2015

Auckland Museum and the vanishing of Michael Parekowhai

You'd think, wouldn’t you, that a museum by its nature would be kind of committed to the keeping of history thing. So what’s going on with the Auckland Museum and Michael Parekowhai? And why is the Museum trying to remove all traces of the exhibition Pare Kawakawa by Parekowhai from its website?

Let’s back up a bit. Early December last year the Auckland Museum announced 'a new exhibition from renowned New Zealand artist Michael Parekowhai.' It was to open this year on 17 April in the Sainsbury Horrocks Gallery as part of the much touted First World War Centenary Programme. According to the media release Parekowhai had already been working with the museum for about a year so the project was well advanced. Auckland University was behind it and Creative NZ had put in $174,000 into the project via the WW100 co-commissioning fund [link 3 December]. Pare Kawakawa by Parekowhai was also lined up for an international tour.

So why has the Auckland Museum suddenly decided to make this exhibition disappear? A quick search for it on the Museum's site brings up a series of ‘Page not found’. Page not found is like telling someone you can’t find the cat when you’ve just drowned it in a sack. What they really mean is ‘Page removed' which is quite a different thing. More disturbingly the media release circulated on 11 December 2014 has been removed from the Auckland Museum media archive (aka the historical record). But welcome to the internet - you can read it here or here.

For a century New Zealanders have struggled to deal with the trauma of our involvement in WWI. It has been distorted, idealized and manipulated. Ironic then that the same history-bending games are now being played out via the commemoration of that very event. In one final twist, the Auckland Museum theme for the year’s programme that included the proposed Parekowhai exhibition is ‘Death of Innocence’.

Images: top, now you see him. Bottom, now you don’t