Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Massey University has been running its art school for nine years, so time for its graduates to have made some sort of mark. To look at the website you might be excused for thinking the mark is a little on the light side. On the art school’s site, of the four “success stories” highlighted the most recent graduated in 2003 (mind you, it looks like the success section was last updated about four years ago) and if the recent display by bachelor and post-graduate students is anything to go by, they’ll be lucky to have many more alumni to skite about.

Two definite possibilities are Bruno Francis-Stanton and Andy Palmer who both presented video works. The stand-out piece is by Palmer and is easy to miss as his installation is in a small room at the far end of Block 2. The work is a thoughtful and touching reflection on our memory and memorialisation of New Zealand’s scientific history. Palmer has the advantage of being older than most of the students and his work is free of the blatant idea-swiping that is a feature elsewhere. Watching Palmer speed read his way through a stack of science classics with bodice-ripper intensity, spotlights the science that made New Zealand rich and which we are so quick to shuck off in our new enthusiasm to all be creative souls.

Bruno Francis-Stanton’s work is a video in which we like to think he has had himself interviewed about his life, work, influences, inspirations etc etc. It’s strong on charm and personality and kept us watching to the end. Whether that is actually what the work is about is pure guesswork on our part but as there was no one around to give us any context on the two days we visited, but who’s to say otherwise?

From the evidence of the 2009 fine arts exhibition, the Massey teaching philosophy seems to be to get students to study an artist they admire and then reinterpret that artist’s ideas. As a result there are lots of Gregory Crewdson lookalikes, Mike Kelly is here, and so too is Cindy Sherman, Thomas Ruff would be flattered by the attention, Rohan Wealleans not so much. On the strength of what we saw Massey’s claim that it is spending its Government funding on the “latest and most innovative Fine Arts programme” doesn’t ring any bells that we can hear.
Images: Any Palmer power reading science