East 2018: An entry point

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11 August-11 November, HCAG, Hastings
By Jess Soutar Barron

Connections and reconnections, journeys along the topographical lines that link us at point A with them at point B. The moments, memories, motivations and motifs that join us, rather than us as a series of ‘I’s: individual islands. Here lies the interest, the intrigue, the invitation to EAST 2018.

The opening at Hastings City Art Gallery is a wonderful, warm illustration of this idea of the nets and networks we live within. It’s a tangle of people, cultures, drinks in hand, the careful balance of hummus on lavosh, nattering, cheek kissing, hongi, hand shakes.

As much as the ‘art’ this knot of networking selves is the ‘work’. We weave ourselves together and become one organism. Some aficionados, most appreciative, a few just here for the drinks and the mwah mwah greeting to long lost friends, but all focused on what has ceased to be single works catalogued and set alongside each other, and has instead become a body complete. Moved from a chain of single ideas to a whole conversation.

There is a whakatauki of this place that tells of a hundred people and hundred pathways that meet here in the centre of Heretaunga. And this EAST 2018 opening is that manifested in flesh and blood. But the proverb continues and tells how the true beauty of this place can only be seen from above; from the view that the kahu (hawk) is blessed with. By bringing together a conversation about this place from an overarching, removed perspective, we see ourselves in a new, fresh light. We see with awakened eyes the truths of our place here, the dark edges, the heroic moments, the origin story. We are pushed back from our usual microscopic, introspective view of self, to see how we are all connected, whether we like it or not. Our comfortable corners are set under spot lights. NIMBY’s are called out. Navel gazers questioned.

Certainly, there is safety in numbers. It is easier to consume these works as wallpaper to a party. But it’s not nearly as satisfying. There is a lot in this show: from every angle a series of layers juxtaposed and harmonised. It needs a number of visits and deserves rich and robust debate. The calibre of artists represented here is a triumph, but higher still is the value of considered curation. It is the curation that holds the opinion. With each artist contributing a point, a view, a rebuttal, a counterargument, curator Bruce E. Phillips holds the thread.

The Hook will unpack a couple of angles on this show between now and when it closes in mid-November. It’s a show that only happens every two years and deserves some focused thought. We begin with an exploration of Kauri Hawkins’ work Strong Silent Type.

 

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