The news that Headland is seeking a new Artistic Director for next year’s Sculpture on the Gulf has Waiheke’s artistic community in a state of excitement. Normally, we’d have sent Tom Payne (Presenter of the slightly popular local arts show ‘A Payne in the Arts’) along to cover this important story, but, as he’s already left for The Bienniale* we had no choice but to send Alan Knight along in his place.
Current Headland Artistic Director Dorothy Pseud has come a long way since co-founding the Condemned Garden Shed Gallery in Ostend in 2003. For the last few years she has headed up the team responsible for bringing the island’s premier sculpture exhibition to life on the hills above Matiatia. But all good things must come to an end and as the search begins for her successor I caught up with her to look back on her work over the last few years as well as contemplate what the future holds. Now it was clear from the start that I’d be lucky to get anything but pretentious nonsense from her regarding the generally ludicrous and shoddy standard of work usually presented at Headland so naturally I took the precaution of adding a generous dose of CIA approved truth serum to her cup of decaff so as to get a more realistic overview of what we can expect next year.
I began by asking her what exactly does the Artistic director do? Ms Pseud sighed heavily, “Look,” she began, “The whole thing is basically BOLLOCKS right? Sculpture? Don’t make me laugh. On Waiheke? Michaelangelo was a sculptor. Bernini was a sculptor. Frederick Hart was a sculptor. You know? Actual TALENTED people who took stone or metal and turned it into bloody ART? We, on the other hand, get fifteen or so total wankers with a scrappy grant and a few sheets of bleedin’ corrugated iron or some other crap they managed to scrounge from the transfer station. Either that or they went off their meds, had some sort of half hearted idea then got an engineering firm to do the actual construction then took all the credit. We stick it on a hillside, tack some slab of pretentious waffle about what it’s supposed to ‘mean’ in front of it and away we go. Pathetic I know but people seem to like it. Why am I being this honest?”
“I drugged your coffee.”
“Oh…..Right….That would do it I suppose…..”
“So how are the sculptures chosen?”
“Well, to begin with, you have to sort out the real stuff from the stuff submitted by people taking the piss. Now that really IS tricky. Let’s say, just as an example, we get an artwork that consists of three sheep’s skulls glued to a plank and sprayed yellow. Now if a Real Artist thought of that then obviously it’s brilliant and may win a major award, but if the same idea came from some group of blokes sitting around, drinking beer and trying to be annoying then it’s just crap. See what I mean?”
“Not really, no. If an idea is rubbish then surely it’s rubbish no matter who perpetrates it?”
“You didn’t go to Art School did you?”
“I can tell. Look, the point is, if someone has been to some sort of Art College, spent three years splattering plaster or resin or oatmeal on the walls, had some sort of distressing mental breakdown after living on pot noodles in a basement for a while then got some sort of write up in a magazine that nobody reads then you have to take their work seriously and exhibit it!”
“Ever get it wrong?”
“OK, there was the thing with the traffic cones…”
“I don’t remember that one…”
“Last Headland but one. The notable sculptor Fenton Bulstrode submitted an installation consisting of seventeen traffic cones arranged in a semi circle, right? Utter wank of course, but Bulstrode is ‘Well Known’. He’s the guy that did the pile of sponge cake thing on the Wellington waterfront back in 2004 that caused that big traffic accident. So how could we refuse? He was supposed to send us the cones by courier and then come up and spend a week or so arranging them. But then the council did those repairs on Nick Johnson Drive and put identical cones out. We thought the freight company had dropped them off so we gathered them up and put them somewhere safely. Then the real ones arrived but we thought it was a mistake and sent them back. So we had a furious sculptor who refused to work with the cones we gave him, said they had the wrong ‘feel’, plus all the fuss when that bloke drove his bicycle into the huge hole in the road that wasn’t marked properly because we’d taken the traffic cones away. Bloody nightmare that was.”
“I can imagine.”
“But, as I said, the whole thing is style over substance. You think the average visitor knows what he’s looking at? Come on! We put out a broken horse float covered in scribble and they practically salivated over the stupid thing. Most of them are half pissed and developing sunstroke by the time they get to the exhibits so who really cares? If we say it’s ART they have to believe it right? This year it will probably be a shop window dummy squatting on a child’s potty with some sea shells glued on it for all I know. As long as it’s called something ‘deep’ like ‘Intimations Of Uncertainty, Chapter Nine‘ or some such drivel then who’s going to argue?”
“Surely someone must see it’s all nonsense?”
“Well, we did get one review that called it ‘A fatuous parade of self important ugliness seemingly cobbled together at a toddler’s playgroup.’ “
“Ow. That’s harsh. Who said that?”
“So, coming next year?”
* We know it’s not until next year but Venice is a bloody long way when you have to walk and/or swim.