Artsville was a mid-2000s slot that aimed to bring New Zealand art and artists to life via documentary. The subjects ranged from composers and playwrights to comic artists, photographers and an investigation into a life drawing class. Each piece was independently commissioned and varied in duration from hour-long studies to shorter pieces, compiled into a one hour programme for a late-night TV ONE slot. Artsville was later repeated on digital Freeview channel TVNZ6 (now defunct).
This documentary looks at Christchurch-based experimental theatre company The Clinic. Since 1999 the group has been making concept-driven works - "idea[s] stemming from a dream, a conversation, or even a costume". Often characterised by global multimedia collaborations performances might take place in abandoned buildings, nightclubs or online. This excerpt explores the genesis of the company and their free-flowing ethos. It features The Peculiar Case of Clara Parsons and a show in development at Christchurch Cathedral that includes writer Jo Randerson.
If ever a Kiwi screen product merited the moniker 'Pasifika tribal fusion', it is this 1998 performance-based short. In Ahi Ataahua veteran cinematographer Warrick ‘Waka’ Attewell (Starlight Hotel, Poi-E) directs the talents of composer Gareth Farr, choreographer Mika and percussion group Strike. The title translates as ‘beautiful fire’, and Attewell’s camera circles a furnace of Strike drummers framed by harakeke and toi toi flowers. At the core of the elemental — fire, water — set is performer Mika, whose body (dressed by Pacific Sisters) channels Farr’s score.
Private Journeys / Public Signposts turns the camera on photographer Ans Westra. Dutch emigree Westra has captured iconic images of New Zealanders since the late 1950s, expressively observing Aotearoa societal changes, particularly Māori urban drift. This film explores her remarkable life and work, and includes commentary from family and friends, fellow photographers, and colleagues, as well as discussion of the Washday at the Pa controversy. Luit Bieringa, curator of Westra's retrospective photo exhibition, directed the film, his first.
Denis Glover's poems are some of the most enduring in our literary tradition. "And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle" from The Magpies is probably New Zealand poetry's best known line. Glover (1912-1980) also established the first independent literary press (The Caxton Press). This documentary, directed by Bill de Friez, takes a candid look at the poet and reveals a larger than life figure ("a great drinker, a great womaniser, a great poet") connected to all the literary personalities of his day.
Aileen O'Sullivan's and Toby Mills' documentary follows troupe Black Grace as they prepare for an appearance at the world's premier dance festival, Jacob's Pillow in Massachusetts. The film also charts the personal journey of the group's founder, choreographer Neil Ieremia, from the community halls of Porirua to the global stage, powered by an unrelenting perfectionism that makes for some heated rehearsal footage. Shortly after the US performances shown here, Ieremia fired the entire touring company, rebuilding his vision from scratch. Ken Sparks' editing won an NZ Screen Award.
Near the end of his life, the renowned English composer Elgar composed some of the greatest music of his career. This film examines the idea that Elgar's deeply emotional Cello Concerto in Em was provoked by memories of his first great love, Helen Weaver, who emigrated to New Zealand after their relationship ended. After receiving word that Weaver's son had been killed fighting in France, Elgar was moved to write a war requiem. The film mixes interviews, dramatisations, and a performance of the concerto by cellist Lynn Harrell and the NZSO.
"I love the idea of bringing sexiness into the classical arena ..." Made for TVNZ's Artsville series, documentary Farr From Heaven follows Gareth Farr composing and rehearsing a variety of musical pieces, from stage plays to a piece for percussion and orchestra. Written and directed by Roz Mason and narrated by Farr, the documentary shows the versatility of his work as a classical composer and performer (including as transvestite Lilith Lacroix). The full range of his creative process is captured, from composing and arrangement failures, to successful world premieres.
A profile of New Zealand artist Julia Morison, made in the year she became an Arts Laureate. Morison is filmed in her studio “forming order from the chaos of her materials”. She explains how her tools and materials guide her image making – which in her thirty-year career, has ranged across a variety of media. The film also features her lesser known work – her collaborations with fellow artist Heather Straka, which include a series of short films, and a project entitled Madame and the Bastard.
A documentary about the fashion industry in Dunedin - a city that seems to turn out more than its fair share of fashion designers. Made for TVNZ’s Artsville strand, the doco features designers Margi Robertson (NOM*d), Tanya Carlson (Carlson), Veronica Keucke (Keucke) and Juliet Fay (Aduki). Prominent fashion journalist (turned author) Stacy Gregg talks about how Dunedin is the source of the "dark intellectualism of New Zealand fashion". The southern styles are set to a soundtrack of Flying Nun bands, and there are excerpts from some classic Nun clips.
Mediarena was an exhibition of contemporary art from Japan on show in New Plymouth in 2004. Held at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, it showcased 17 artists and a video installation. Hosts Serena Bentley and Yuri Kinugawa travel to Taranaki for the Artsville series and find out how artists are transforming and subverting traditional images and ideas and bringing them into a contemporary form. Themes include female subservience in Japanese society, celebrity culture, the commuter experience, genetic modification and ecological sustainability.
Directed by Owen Hughes, this piece for arts show Artsville explores the feeling of being caught between cultures. Painter Prakash Patel grew up as an Indian in conservative 1970s Wanganui. As a Kiwi he didn’t feel Indian yet he didn’t belong in Wanganui either - ‘What am I doing here?’ In 2006 he was awarded a Creative New Zealand Residency at the Sanskriti Campus in New Delhi. Out of Darkness, Out of India follows Prakash on his journey from discomfort to discovery.
John Reynolds is one of New Zealand's most talked-about contemporary artists. His diverse practice takes in painting, photography, clothing, tattooing and landscaping. Director Shirley Horrocks frames the film as a series of questions. The answers reflect Reynold's exuberant personality, his strong family life, his sense of humour, and his adventurous art-making. Following a year in his life, the film observes him as he makes and debuts a work (Cloud) at the 2006 Biennale of Sydney, and takes time out to appear in an episode of bro'Town.
Gretchen Albrecht's richly-coloured large abstract paintings made her reputation in New Zealand from the late 1980s. This documentary (made for TV One's Artsville series) traces the development of Albrecht's work from her art school years through to her current interest in sculpture. Interspersed with commentary from family, collectors, writers, and art historians, the artist discusses her life, and the ideas and influences that inform her work. And in the studio, her working methods are revealed as she's filmed making new work.
New Brighton beach in Christchurch: Peter Donnelly is busy creating art, art with a lifespan that can be measured in hours. Using a rake and a piece of wood, Donnelly draws elaborate artworks in the sand - more than 700 of them to date. "I bring something to life, and then its life is over, and at the end of the four hours it wants to go, it's worn out ... it just wants to be gifted, and it goes to the sea." Beautifully shot by director Peter Young, this Artsville documentary captures Donnelly both in action, and musing on the beauty of impermanence.
Wedding photographs are attempts to create and preserve perfection, taken under pressure. Can the results be art as well as personal history, or are they neither? Such questions are the focus of this Artsville doco, which benefits from insights by a multi-cultural cast of wedding photographers. Geoffrey Heath questions the reality of glamour and romance in some of his own art photography, while labouring to capture beauty in his wedding work. Others recall the challenges of getting good shots amidst drunkenness, dysfunctional families, and grooms in their undies.
The writing and drawing of comic books has remained a little-known and under-rated area of New Zealand culture. Director Shirley Horrocks reveals it as a highly creative subculture with a rich local history. Eric Resetar, the grand old man of local comics, discusses the moral panic brought on by comics in the 1940s and 1950s; and other artists of the genre, such as Barry Linton, Dick Frizzell, Coco and Dylan (Hicksville) Horrocks, explore the wide variety of stories that have been drawn, framed and speech-ballooned since then.
Director Mark Albiston takes viewers on a magical tour of the work of artist Tanya Thompson, aka Misery. The Sticky Pictures film explores Misery's early years as a prominent but self-conscious graffiti artist on the streets of Auckland and looks at the rise of her successful art, fashion and toy empire, culminating in a visit to the Taipei Toy Festival to showcase her collectable 3D characters. Winner of Best NZ arts/festival documentary award at 2006 Qantas Film and TV awards.
This documentary turns the lens on acclaimed photographer Andris Apse. The Latvian war refugee later joined the Forest Service, where he was inspired by lensman John Johns and Fiordland; a chance break taking scenic shots for Air New Zealand empowered Apse to pursue his passion: wilderness photography. From his Okarito home and in the wild, Apse muses on the rugged demands of capturing an image and the "stubborn determination" of his craft. From Time to National Geographic, his photos have helped define Aotearoa as a theatre country of epic, elemental landscapes.
This Artsville documentary (full title: Under the Skin of the Auckland Life Drawing Group) visits a group of artists who have been gathering together for over 30 years to take part in a life drawing. Group members — sculptor Terry Stringer and painters Jan Nigro, John Andrew and Mary McIntyre — talk about the inspiration that the models provide and the journeys they take the images on in terms of their own art. The early history of art schools in Auckland is discussed and the nude models break their silence to discuss the enjoyment they get from participating.
Who Laughs Last profiles Roger Hall, New Zealand’s most successful playwright. Three decades after the opening of Hall's Middle Age Spread became a hit, the original cast return for 2006 follow up Spreading Out. The Shirley Horrocks doco explores the secrets behind Hall’s successful brand of comedy (25+ stage plays, plus TV series and musical comedies) and closely explores the popularity of Middle Age Spread and Spreading Out. Among those interviewed are John Clarke, Ginette McDonald, the late Grant Tilly, and Hall himself.