Inke Arns on Fri, 6 Oct 2000 18:10:07 +0200


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Syndicate: Part II -- Travel Report Hong Kong and New Zealand


Part II --Travel Report Hong Kong and New Zealand, 16 Sep - 1 Oct 2000
by Inke Arns <inke@snafu.de>



Airplane, flight from Christchurch to Auckland, 2000-09-27, 14:10 (now
actually passing the canal between the South and the North island)

Emma Bugden and Rosemary Forde from the Physics Room wait for me at the
Christchurch airport. They have written my name on a paper sign which is
barely decipherable at distance. But as they clearly are looking for
somebody I approach them. It turns out that Emma has on this very day in
the morning returned from a six week long trip to London and San Francisco. 

At night we go out for dinner, together with Jonathan and Nathan. We go to
a great Thai place where you almost have to sit in the kitchen because it
is so small. Delicious food. Outside, the temperature is down to two
degrees Celsius above zero. There?s also a strong wind. It will stay like
this for the next day as well ? well, the temperature rises to about ten
degrees Celsius during the day, but still. Hell, I tell you. And in the
Physics Room they don?t have a real heater ... 

During my first night in Christchurch in a hotel room on the 22nd floor, at
about 1 a.m. there?s strange and distant vibrations shaking my bed. I
remember thinking that it feels like back home when the house-owner did all
that renovation stuff to the house and when it was a big building site for
three years. But they wouldn?t do this in Christchurch at 1 a.m., would
they? In the morning I can see Mount Cook from my hotel room, and also the
big glaciers located north on New Zealand?s Alps. The air is very clear and
it seems as if you could see see anything at any distance. 

My two lectures in Christchurch on Monday 25 September and Tuesday 26
September at the Physics Room went on OK although there were some minor
technical difficulties. The Physics Room where I give my talks is located
on the corner of Tuam and High Street, in a former post office building. It
is a non-profit community project which is run by Emma Bugden and Rosemary
Forde. The audience that came to my lectures was not very big,
approximately 15 to 20 people, many of them art, media or film students,
but it was enthusiastic. On the second night they kept demanding that I
repeat the videos I showed during my first lecture, not only because during
that lecture the screening quality was not very good, but also because some
apparently really liked what they?d seen. The absolute favourite was Björn
Melhus? "No Sunhine" (1997, 6?). It was shown about four times in
Christchurch. Also, the tape by Herwig Weiser ("Entrée", 1999, 9?) was
repeatedly shown. "At night when all the malls are closed" by Konrad Welz
(1997, 11?) left everybody (including me) deeply impressed. I had never
seen it on a large screen actually. The video is made to look like a stream
of images taken from a surveillance camera searching for something in a
nightly city. It is a very quiet piece. We later discuss about artists
addressing the theme of surveillance systems.

After the talk on 26 September a group of about ten people went to a Lounge
to have a few drinks and listen to a really brilliant DJ. Nathan, who was
been studying film at the Christchurch Film School and who has now enrolled
into a commercial media/television education, tells me about his plans to
direct a short film. The script sounds quite brilliant, and while he tells
me I almost feel like seeing the movie. Nathan is also an artist working in
the field of installation. He recently exhibited in the High Street
Project, an independent project space that?s been running for the last
seven years, and promised to send me some documentation on his work. The
High Street Project runs two exhibitions every month, i.e. there are
openings every two weeks. Their main goal is to promote young artists who
just finished art school. Emma Bugden and I go there earlier on Tuesday,
prior to my lecture. There?s the exhibition opening of ?Cold Eyes, Hot
Lead". It?s a great exhibition featuring recent works by the artist Jared
Lane. ?Cold Eyes, Hot Lead" is done in the style of action comics (he calls
it ?comics.war.art"), telling the story of a Maori New Zealander who fights
in Vietnam with US Troops (on show until 7 October 2000; 130 Hereford St
Chch).

While we are having ?farewell drinks" in that very Lounge I talk to an
artist from Christchurch who is deeply into earthquake recordings. She?s
been hanging around with all these earthquake scientists, and is highly
interested in all that Tesla resonance stuff. Hey, I think to myself, this
is just GREAT. I always thought that it was an exclusively boyish thing to
be interested in and would have never thought that women artists do get
into that as well. She even tells me about still more women artists on the
West coast of the US who are really deeply into that thing. I tell her
about my experience during my first night in Christchurch in that hotel
room on the 22nd floor. Oh, yeah, she says, that was an earthquake, you?re
right. 

On Tuesday morning Emma, Rosemary and I drive to the university campus to
have a look at the film school. We?re supposed to meet Bill who is the
director of that department, but he has to go to the hospital unexpectedly.
He later returns, and gives us quite a heroic mega fast tour through the
whole department. All the three of us are fascinated by one student who
prepares his final year degree, working on an animation film of a failed
bank robbery. In front of the miniature animation studio are lying several
dozens of painted heads of drawing-pins depicting the different phases of a
mouth in movement ? actually a talking human mouth. These must belong to on
of the bank robbers who realizes that they somehow locked away their guns
in the back of their car ;). There?s so much precision, but also so much
craziness in the whole creation of such an animation work ... Back in the
car we have some wild ideas about the possibility of exhibiting all the
things necessary to make this animation film, all these little props, the
painted miniature mouths, the sketchbook, the script, the timecode, etc ...
oh, just brainstorming. 

Emma later suggests that we should start thinking about a possible future
cooperation. I am enthusiastic about this, and during my stay in
Christchurch there are two ideas for future exhibition/workshop projects
coming up. I?d love to come back to New Zealand anyway, and definitely for
a longer time.

We drive back to downtown Christchurch at high speed, and I get into the
hotel almost in time for that live telephone interview I am supposed to
have with an Auckland radio station at 12:30 p.m. Yep, I *am* definitely
too late, and have to call back. The interview is OK, except that the
moderator makes the mistake to read the entire title of my PhD thesis
(which is quite something, I myself never do this ;). The moderator also
asks questions like ?how can you tell, on the Internet, what net art is,
and what is not?" ? to which I answer that, basically, he was asking about
the definition of art in general which would take a little bit too much
time to answer right here and now ...

Another interesting art space I discovered in Christchurch was actually a
?kiosk". KIOSK is a permanent public art site for temporary exhibitions,
initiated by the Oblique Trust, and is located on the corner of High and
Lichfield Streets (outside Java cafe) in Christchurch. The Oblique Trust is
a charitable Trust based in New Zealand, developed with the intention of
coordinating public and non-institutional art projects, including site
specific installation, print and audio publications, and web based
projects. Trust Members are Dan Arps, Emma Bugden, Zita Joyce, Jonathan
Nicol, Warren Olds, Julaine Stephenson (chair), and Adam Willetts.

Zita actually gives me a ride to the airport on 27 September. I have to
catch my flight to Auckland. At the airport we have some tea and share a
chocolate muffin. Zita is about to finish her M.A. degree in sociology,
writing about the impact of a globalised music industry on the local music
scene. She?s planning to come to Europe as well.


Auckland (written from memory in Berlin, 3 October 2000, 0:55 a.m.)

After that first live radio interview from Christchurch I have another
interview right after my arrival to Auckland on Wednesday 27 September. I
meet Richard Pamatatau, the Auckland bureau chief of InfoTech, at 5 p.m. in
some cafe. I enjoy talking to him. He?s mainly interested in net art. He
tells me that his text should appear in either InfoTech?s sections
?e-commerce" or ?leisure". I say: ?Interesting alternatives for net art,
indeed". Unfortunately his text never made it onto the website. Perhaps it
was published in the printed version. After the interview I walk around in
?downtown" Auckland, Queen?s Road down to the harbour, and up again. I hear
lots of Japanese and Russian as well. At night I meet all the staff and
board of the Moving Image Center for dinner at some great vegan restaurant
on K-Road (which is short for Karangahape Road). Here, they serve a mix of
Italian, Japanese and other kinds of food. What I really liked about the
kiwi way of cooking and of baking pastry is that you would get the wildest
mixes, the most unsusual ingredients brought together on one plate, or in
one pastry. This is not what I know from Europe, this is real kiwi style of
life.

That night, together with Deborah Lawler-Dormer, the director of the Moving
Image Center, we continued on to another party, a farewell party, actually,
of Lara Bowen and Michael Hodgson. Lara is, if I remember correctly, a web
designer, and Michael is a musician and member of the Pitch Black group.
They do some kind of ambient minimal techno and are quite well-known in New
Zealand. Lara and Michael decided to spend the next two years in New York
and also in Europe, possibly London and eventually Berlin. Many people who
are leaving New Zealand temporarily will never come back.

The brain drain is a huge problem for New Zealand. Well, first of all,
there?s this feeling of being located ?at the end of the world". When I
said to people, wondering, marvelling about the fact, ?hey, I?ve never
travelled so far!" ? they would reply dryly with ?well, this is almost as
far as you can get." Which is true. It is not only the self-perception, but
also a hard fact. To get to any other country you have to travel really
far. To Europe, it is about 20,000 km, either way round.

On Thursday 28 September 2000 I give a live interview at Radio George, a
community based radio station located on K-Road/Ponsonby Road at 9 a.m.
Later I walk down Ponsonby Road and spend some time in a cafe, drinking
coffee and tea, eating a muffin. On K-Road and Ponsonby Road there?s a
great multicultural mix of all kinds of shops. No tourists, luckily. It is
a relief from all these shopping malls. Not that I?ve been to a lot in the
last two weeks, but still. Sitting in that cafe ? it had a Russian name,
Dizengoff or Dzengoff ? I thought that here, Auckland is a city I could be
living in. Aucklanders are complaining about the fact that there?s no
center in Auckland. Oh, well. I walk down College Hill, and pass the
Victoria Market located at the Victoria Park. Here, the tourist area starts. 

I give my last two lectures on 28 and 29 September at the auditorium of the
Auckland Art Gallery. There are about 20 - 30 people in the audience each
night. This is remarkably few, given the number of interviews that were
done previously. In my first lecture about net art I try to reflect upon
the questions that arose in earlier discussions during my trip in New
Zealand. Somebody asked: Why is net art so present in Germany? I answered
that it is not in Germany that net art is strong, but in Europe (with
Russia and Eastern Europe playing an important role). Interestingly enough
it was developed mostly by European artists, and not, as usual, by
Americans. The other question that somebody had come up with earlier was:
why was there no net art in New Zealand? -- I am sure there is some good
net art around in NZ as well. Still, I try to develop the following
scenario: During my time in New Zealand I noticed that almost everybody is
on the Web: even the smallest thrift store has got its own URL (?earl" as
they say here). The Internet has been commercialized at a very early stage,
i.e. since the late eighties or early nineties. This is a process which did
not happen in Germany or even Europe until lately. For a long time the
Internet has been an almost unused and empty space most companies were
afraid to use. In Germany it were mainly artists and other creative people
who first started to use the Internet resp. the Web and develop concepts
for this medium. In the mid-nineties artists on the Internet were
conceptually and technically really ahead of all the rest. This has changed
by now. Although, and I have to stress that point again and again, net art
is not about finding pragmatic solutions for pragmatic questions (i.e. ?how
can I get the furniture I want to sell on the Web?" ? I was indeed asked
this question in the Auckland Art gallery after my first lecture. I thought
to myself: ?My God, why has he been sitting through all this then?" I
replied: ?I think you definitely need a web designer. Don?t ask a net
artist to do this for you." And I added a smiley which of course he
couldn?t see ;-).

On Friday, which actually is my last full day in New Zealand, Deborah and I
drive out to one of the many beaches, located about 45 min. car ride out of
town. The ride is amazing because the forests we are driving through look
like from ancient times long gone when the dinosaurs where still around.
Funny there aren?t any! There are these great giant fern trees which carry
immense 2-3 m long fern-looking leaves which are unfolding slowly. There
are also these huge trees that look like giant reproductions of shave-grass
(Schachtelhalm). What a difference to forests in Europe. During the ride
Deborah and I talk about past projects and about possible future projects.
We both agree that, especially for the field of cultural exchange, it would
be much more interesting to create working situations allowing for real
exchange between participants than to ?just" organise and curate an
exhibition (although, the Moving Image Center is just moving into a new
space where there also will be an exhibition space). We get some sandwiches
on the way to the beach, and when we finally arrive we have to walk through
some old trees, and then opens up the immense bay in front of us, with
really steep and green hills forming the boundaries. We have to walk for
quite some time before we actually reach the beach. The wind gets stronger.
The sand is black. Volcanic black. The Pacific is blueish-back as well.
There are huge waves, and on these waves, so small that you can hardly
perceive them, there are small black figures on white surfboards,
disappearing and re-appearing again, sometimes even surfing on a wave. We
eat our sandwich (which is not so easy with that strong wind) and start
walking on the immense black beach. I am deeply impressed, as I?ve never
seen such a beach in my life. It is somehow pre-historic. And empty. Oh, as
we are walking I suddenly see more and more people. It is not as empty as I
had thought. But still.

We walk back to the car, as Deborah is already late. They have to work on
their house as they are in the process of selling it. We drive to her
house, and she makes me listen to some of Pitch Black?s CDs, and also of
?The Gathering". It?s both a minimal kind of Trance, with some techno
elements. Apparently in the summertime there are great trance / techno
parties with thousands of people on beaches like the one we went to,
complete with visuals, lounges, and, of course, an immense dance floor on
the black sand and under a dark sky which, by the early hours of the
morning, is getting more and more colourfully lit by the rising sun ... I
get a taxi back to downtown Auckland where I buy the new Pitch Black CD at
Real Groovy Recs (Queen Street). Great stuff, actually to be heard on one
of these neverending techno (dance) parties on the black sandy beach.

At night I give my last talk. It is the one about groups and networks.
After this lecture somebody who?s actually an architect, asks me, ?but why
is the networking culture in Europe so present, so strong, how come that
here in new Zealand there is nothing like it?" That?s a difficult one,
because it has probably to do with what I mentioned earlier: the smallness
of New Zealand and the remote location. I try to find my way through,
looking for an appropriate answer. There are, of course, small, alternative
institutions in New Zealand which would be absolutely vital for these kinds
of networks. And there are, of course, or probably, even networks. In
Europe there?s a big variety of cultures and nations crammed together on a
quite small continent. If I look at Berlin, and draw something like a
?European" circle around it, then one is likely to find such alternative
kernels in every big or medium-sized city in or outside Germany: London,
Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Paris, Zuerich, Vienna, Budapest, Warsaw and Wroclaw,
Riga, Tallinn, Helsinki, Stockholm. You can do the same from almost every
other point in Europe. There is per se a big variety already in place. The
smaller a country is the more difficult it gets. If there?s a lot of
neighbouring countries around (take, e.g., Slovenia), that?s fine, because
there?s a lot of different influences reaching that small country. If not,
it really becomes difficult. 

This is, of course, a geo-determinist (?) argumentation. You don?t need to
accept that. I do think that travelling and meeting and getting to know
people is the most important thing you can do to develop networks. It is,
after all, networks of people. Travelling, bringing experiences back and
forth, exchanging, fostering communication, building networks. Getting
invited to events and then inviting people to your own event which you have
conceived of in the meantime. Making people travel to the place where you
live and work (agreed, NZ is really far away). But still. Projects will
generate ever new projects. And thus the networks will grow.

I am leaving New Zealand on the next day. It was much too short, of course.
Sarah Baker of the MIC drives me to the airport. Flight back via Hong Kong
and Frankfurt, then 4 hrs by train. I leave Auckland at 12 p.m. (local
time) on 30 September, arriving on 1 October at 11:20 a.m. (local time) in
Berlin-Zoo, after 36 hours of travel.


Berlin, 4 October 2000, 12:10 p.m.

I want to exchange my New Zealand Dollars into German currency in the bank.
They cannot find the new 10 NZ$ banknote in their currency sample book. The
woman at the counter who was already groaning because she had so much work
to do (alas, who hasn?t) looked at me as if I were suspicious for trading
false banknotes. I ask the clerks why they don?t have an updated version of
their sample book ? ?but we get new versions every 6 months" ? ?six months?
-- c?mon, it should be the easiest in the world to just issue a new sample
when a country issues new banknotes, don?t you think so? I mean, this does
not happen every year!" ? ?but it is not my fault" ? ?of course this is not
your fault. you should complain to the management about that". 

Welcome back to Germany. Of course it is not their fault.  ;-)

I?ll use that banknote to embellish my fridge.


Epilogue

On Wednesday 4 October late at night, returning home from the 27th
mikro.lounge on the theme of ?digital data / files" by chance I meet my
neighbour Katrin in the house entrance. I mention to her that I?ve been to
Hong Kong and New Zealand for two weeks, and she looks at me in
astonishment. I ask her, ?Not bad, hey?" She says, smilingly, that she?s
about to fly to Hong Kong as well. In the beginning of November. She?ll
represent the Filmboard Berlin-Brandenburg during the Festival of Vision
Hong Kong Berlin. She asks me, ?So, you must know Vera Yu?" Well, yes, I
do. Another circle ...


Berlin, 6 October 2000



* * *

Link list

Inke Arns? lectures in HK and New Zealand
soon to be found at <http://www.v2.nl/~arns/HK+NZ>
1) Net art in the 1990s and some recent video art productions
2) Artists who appropriate corporate identities and who work with the
notions of the machinic / the machine, and networks and artists groups in
Germany and Europe (including some info about the most important festivals
and events in Europe)

Goethe-Institut Hong Kong
<http://www.goethe.de/hongkong>

Festival of Vision Berlin-Hong Kong (November 2000)
<http://festivalofvision.tom.com/start1.html> [nice graphical intro on this
site!]

seven 11, Hong Kong
<http://7-eleven.hongkong.com/zh_tw/> [wild graphics!]

Hong Kong dot com
<http://english.hongkong.com/hkdc/en/>

Hong Kong Arts Centre
<http://www.hkac.org.hk> [unfortunately no archive, or I haven?t found it]

Hung Keung, Hong Kong
<http://www.hungkeung.com>

Hung Keung, ?Human Being and Moving Images" (2 CD-ROMs and a website, 1997
- 2001)
<http://www.human-and-images.com>

Videotage, Hong Kong
<http://www.videotage.org.hk>

Microwave Festival, January 2001, Hong Kong
<http://www.videotage.org.hk/007/set.html>

Goethe-Institute Wellington
<http://www.goethe.de/wellington>

Museum Hotel (Hotel de Wheels), Wellington
<http://www.museumhotel.co.nz>

Directory Local Websites Wellington, New Zealand
<http://www.wellington.co.nz/ph0.htm>

Helen Clark: Cultural renaissance versus cultural vandalism. Friday, 5
November 1999, 12:45 pm. Press Release: New Zealand Labour Party
<http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA9911/S00141.htm>

Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand's National Museum, Wellington
<http://www.tepapa.govt.nz/>

The H.M. Ngata English-Maori, Maori-English Dictionary online
<http://www.learningmedia.co.nz/nd/index.htm>

Maori Culture on the Net
<http://maori.culture.co.nz/>

Main Maori Site on the Net!
<http://www.maori.org.nz/>

Ko nga Pakiwaitara - the Legends index
<http://www.maori.org.nz/tikanga/purakau/index.htm>

Ko nga Pakiwaitara - the Legends index: Creation (Legend)
<http://www.maori.org.nz/tikanga/purakau/creation.htm>

Hans Neleman (1999). Moko - Maori Tattoo. Hardcover. Edition Stemmle AG
(Switzerland); ISBN: 3908161967. 98 DM / approx. 50 US$. Check
www.amazon.com or www.amazon.de for more information.

Queenie Rikihana Hyland. Paki Waitara. Myths and Legends of the Maori
(Auckland 1998). I?m sure you can get this at any ebook shop.

Mye-Time Productions Ltd, Wellington
<http://www.explode.to/mokosan>

clicksuite, Wellington
<http://www.clicksuite.co.nz>

The Physics Room, Christchurch
209 Tuam St (second Floor), Christchurch, New Zealand 
<http://www.physicsroom.org.nz/>

KIOSK, Christchurch
<http://www.oblique.org.nz/kiosk>

The Oblique Trust
<http://oblique.org.nz/index.htm>

InfoTech
<http://www.infotech.co.nz>

Moving Image Centre, Auckland
<http://www.mic.org.nz/aboutmic.html>

Kog Transmission (music label), Auckland
<http://www.kog.co.nz>

- http://www.v2.nl/~arns/

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