IDEAschool Art Festival

29 November, EIT
By Jess Soutar Barron

A clutch of mana wahine in multi-media korowai of recycled card and graffiti, karanga to us from the paepae at the centre of IDEAschool, EIT’s art and design school. Mihi…karakia…the MC steps up: “G’day you fullas. Get in this whare, we’re bringing all our house together.”

And in one sharp moment the whole point of this night is expressed. A true coming together of cultures, ages, social groups and a seamless mash up of every type of someone who lives in the Bay. Old school, new cool, ‘mature’ students, eager teens, those who buy their labels new side-by-side with Paperbag Princesses, established and known art names standing with mum and nana, passing the pepe between them. A testament to what EIT has been and could be more.

This is a first for EIT, showing off all the streams of their IDEAschool programme in one big night. Visual Art and Design occupies four white boxes. Moving Image shares its work in a conference hall. Fashion hosts its runway show and photo shoot in the trade apprentice workshop, followed by a Music performance in this same space much later in the evening. (So much later that this review is missing a quarter of the content it should contain!)*. There’s a lot on show and a lot to take in.

It’s a shame then that there’s no cross-pollination between the threads, the sharing of work still very much four separate offerings. For an institution that prides itself on shaping industry-ready graduates, having silos like this isn’t a true mirror of the contemporary creative industries landscape. If this reflects what’s happening in the teaching and learning environment then it’s a shame, perhaps though it’s just a neater way to cut up the night for ease of engagement.

Within the visual arts stream there is a noticeable nod to devotional iconography and idolatry. This is an indicator of where these practitioners are in their careers, still exploring ego and the elevation of object to the position of ‘art’. Eyelines in portraits are slightly higher than the artist’s (or the observer’s) making the subject appear lofty and removed. Heads are rendered in extreme closeup, larger than life size or en masse to become overwhelming. The majority is carefully considered and well-executed, and I trust the rationalisation of intention lies somewhere in the backend of the works in journal and workbook form. Showing this too would have added to the offering and acknowledged this as a showing of process from those discovering it for themselves as emerging artists rather than as a series of ‘finished products’. In this respect, artists’ statements would have brought a well-roundedness to the experience. Finding these later, during the fashion section, added to this sense of something lacking in the sharing of visual art and design work.

Particular highlights of the Art Exhibition are Joseph Rowntree’s Origins, hinting at wharenui and homestead nostalgia and playing with scale: past generations twice-life size, future generations represented as miniatures; Gracen Salisbury’s Tongameha segmented and deconstructed dairy industry narrative; Julienne Dickey’s Gift 1 and Gift 2 ceramic works suggesting Hieronymus Bosch truths, with distant but charismatic figures. Phoebe Wilton-Stuart’s Overlap stands out for its disciplined yet playful approach to multi-media with interactive elements and Lye-esk animation. Translating this kind of thinking to the moving image programme would bring much value. In this work the future of that discipline is suggested, and its energy is exciting, moving image students are missing out by not tapping into that.

Overall the Film stream smacks of an antiquated idea of what moving image is in the 21st century. There’s no hint here of the intermedia, multimedia, transmedia environment we are currently living with. I wonder if the fault lies not with the students or their work but with the assignment briefs. To take the works though as they are presented, there are some delightful examples of classic documentary technique. Certainly, it doesn’t matter how hi-tech the kit a solid knowledge of angle, line and shot size are all still essential for movie making, whatever the platform. Rear View exhibits excellent interview skills and the ability to sniff out a decent story. Bob has a lovely pace and flow, and shows that simple ideas are often the best. Jordan Wood’s film noir Non Tempus is beautifully made and shows a grasp of genre and wit. Theo D’Arbois’ Milk is the pick of the night. A careful soundscape, great comic weighting, dramatic tension and a clever unpacking of contemporary domestic duty norms are all very satisfying for the audience. I would also like to see more from Ramika Fox, who is ‘one to watch’ in the moving image space. What is missing here are the adjuncts to an holistic arts practice including those artist statements and self-review. A paratextual explanation of process would have added much to the showing of work, and would have brought additional interest to visitors and to the students themselves. These statements of intent show it’s no fluke when works sing.

The Fashion stream does this well with its programme booklet, so much scope here for a cross-discipline approach but a lost opportunity, although with a staff of active arts practitioners there’s no shortage of ‘pros’ to lend a hand. A clever precursor to the show, and a tool to give the works context, is the showing of three mini collections from graduates including the redoubtable Te Orihau Karaitiana, a huge talent. After this presentation of “What becomes of our students”, seven collections are shown. Together, these display the sweep of ethnic diversity at EIT and alongside the diversity of age and stage this adds richness to the offering that shows up many of the other cultural events in Hawke’s Bay. Reuse of the workshop is a genius way to create what must be a very hard thing to find in the Bay: a large, long, affordable, interesting space to walk models, it’s a specific sort of space and a clever solution holding it here, very industro-chic!

Bravo and fist-pumps for Denise Lahood’s collection based on her Lebanese heritage and saluting the power dressing alpha business woman. Full sleeves and pencil skirts highlight the positioning of women within business hierarchies while heavy use of gold and black is emblematic of wealth and success. Vanessa Simpson’s bold use of older models in neo-retro active wear is to be saluted – more please! Tegan Winter’s collection overlays Amish staples with translucent check in a kind of quaker-stripper dichotomy. It’s a tight and clever collection that’s beautifully made. In finale, Felicity Potae’s Pikake collection is a riot; fresh and dynamic models bringing her stunning ready-to-wear pieces to life. Just as well-executed this collection is a terrific counter-point to the previous and shows great panache: big, loud and gorgeous. Throughout the Fashion show there is a real sense of ownership and traditional skills acquisition. It’s conscious: of self, of practice, of the lineage of artisans these new practitioners are joining.

In her foreword to the Show coordinator Cheryl Downie gives a context for the works. She speaks of how fashion is changing and becoming more and more about identity and communication. En pointe and sage words that I would have liked to hear echoed in other parts of the night. It’s important for all attendees – students, their families and support networks, guests, officials, industry invitees – to remember this is not just your average Art Festival, this is the culmination of learnings, considerations, contextualising, self-realisation and process, and all of that is just as important and just as essential to skite about. As an inaugural undertaking I hope testing the water’s found this a success and it’ll back in 2019. Encouraging more rangatahi to attend would help send the message that IDEAschool is the place to be.

*The music stream does perform multiple times a year as part of their assessments. Follow them on Facebook to find out when and where as they move around.



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