Monday, February 16, 2009

Talk show

We’ve been thinking about Creative New Zealand’s insistence that artists representing New Zealand at the Venice Biennale are prepared to talk to the media. You will remember their puzzlement, quickly followed by indignation, when et al. refused to play the media game in 2005. Indeed on that occasion CNZ went to a great deal of trouble and expense (we heard $30,000+) to contract et al. as part of an effort to make the group front up. The talk-or-walk clause in the New Zealand Venice Biennale artist agreement this time round is the result.
The problem with chasing the media is, of course, that it can go all sorts of ways (witness Helen Clark’s gold-fishing and Tizzards backsliding when they responded to the media on et al.’s selection) as well as limit the kind of artist considered to be acceptable for Venice. There’s an interesting question to be asked about how far CNZ can push this before it becomes unacceptable discrimination. An artist like Ralph Hotere is out for a start as someone older who is unable to travel and famously unwilling to speak. So we assume is Bill Hammond who also declines to speak in public. Then there are all the artists who are no longer with us (assuming there is no Ouija board clause). If the United States stood shoulder to shoulder with CNZ, Felix Gonzalez-Torres would have to have been canned as the selection for the 2007 Biennale. He died in 1996.

It’s probably time CNZ tried to come up with other ways to promote Venice apart from the traditional artist interview. There are bound to be one or two.