What will you see on the stages, gallery walls and festivals in 2020? Canvas talks to with new curators and leaders in the arts world who shape and ultimately decide which shows go on.
Pride Festival director Max Tweedie
Appointed to the role in May, 2019.
Auckland Pride has to strike the right balance between celebrating how far we've come and who we are, while also recognising the significant progress that needs to be made for our communities and creating space for that to happen. The festival has previously leaned too much towards celebration and, as a result, we had community feedback from more marginalised groups within the rainbow community (particularly with trans and gender-diverse people) that basically said they were feeling disillusioned with that.
Because there is so much progress to be made with regards to their rights, a large portion of our community quite rightly felt they weren't being represented - and so we had to change. The theme of the 2020 Auckland Pride Festival is Our Liberation, Our Celebration, Our Pride, which encapsulates those competing values and themes. We wanted to send a message with those values up front and positioned Auckland Pride quite firmly as an organisation that will continue to fight for our communities who aren't there yet. Across the festival we've aimed at removing barriers to entry and creating initiatives that empower our community to ensure we see the diversity and representation that is required.
It's an open-access community arts and cultural festival, so I'm not curating or influencing it in the traditional sense of an arts festival. My role is to support, uplift and empower our communities to put on events during the festival but obviously I'm making decisions every day that influences its direction, the way we're communicating our values and the initiatives we're creating. But it's artists in our community that produce the events.
Auckland Pride Festival, February 1-16.
Borni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho
Appointed director of the Auckland Fringe Festival in December 2019, having worked as a producer, director, lecturer, actor, singer and social change activist.
Fringe festivals are about celebrating otherness, encouraging marginal spaces to be ignited. I work a lot with marginal spaces in the community; I do a lot of hauroa work [Māori health] and the mahi is about being uplifting, encouraging unity, bringing communities together and, often, looking at how we can share stories authentically without being boxed in. That's important to continue to keep people excited, to allow them somewhere to explore their own identities, embrace a bit of chaos, challenge convention and long-held ideas.
The Auckland Fringe Festival is at venues all over Auckland, Tuesday, February 25 – Sunday, March 1.
Spent 15 years working mainly in South Auckland as a curator and Pacific Arts consultant. In 2019, she opened contemporary Pacific art gallery Vunilagi Vou in Ōtāhuhu.
Everyone says they want more diversity in the arts but that can feel like a "box-ticking" exercise, where indigenous content is a flavour added to mainstream content. For Vunilagi Vou, there's no box ticking because it [showcasing indigenous art] is our core business and we are an independent space. There's so much more we can explore and expand on when an artist is included in a show, less for their ethnic or cultural currency and more for the integrity of their ideas. We're less looking at where that indigenous artist contributes to the mainstream and more looking at how they are inextricably connected to indigenous people and communities; it's a different way of looking at art that privileges the artist and their people over Western art history and aesthetics.
A lot of our artists are working full-time jobs so their process is something that reflects their full lives and I like talking about their full lives – that this person is a painter but they are also a full-time WiNZ case manager, for example. We love creating a world that deconstructs and honours indigenous historical, visual, political and spiritual realities, and hope to influence Aotearoa's mainstream art world to reflect this more and more in the future.
Our first exhibition for 2020 is called Fat - we're calling the public programme around the exhibition Fat Feb: A season of radical fat positivity. The exhibition features artists working across different disciplines who positively identify with being fat. In the Pacific art space, we talk a lot about identity and that has, most often, been about ethnicity, socio-economics, religion, gender and sexuality but body shape and experience adds another dimension to the inequalities that can shape and influence our lives.
The cornerstone event is the Fat Babe Pool Party, a safe space for those who positively identify with being a fat babe. I think that's really the crux of fat positivity and fat acceptance, for me: when you can see the system of fat phobia, identify it for what it is, and realise that you can live a full and happy life and be fat. We'll be unpacking, probing and de-weaponising the language of fat to really confront the complexities of the issue, which are so deeply personal to so many of us.
Fat Feb is at Vunilagi Vou from Wednesday, February 5 – Saturday, February 29. The second show for 2020 is Safe as Houses, about the internal and external, social and cultural implications of gentrification. It is part of the Auckland Arts Festival and runs from Wednesday, March 4 – Saturday, April 4.
Chairperson of the NZ Comedy Trust Board; now manager for the World Symposium on Choral Music – this world's largest choir singing event.
I would say comedy and choral singing are similar because there's a universality to both and in New Zealand, we love to have a good laugh and we love to sing. They are traits that we really seem to value, that are vitally important to our culture and to bringing people together.
Both comedy and choir singing are collective experiences. Community is built through choral music because people are singing together; comedy is often a solo pursuit for the performer but enjoying it is about laughing together (that said, we're seeing more younger comedy groups where people form collectives and create community that way).
This year, the NZ Choral Federation is bringing thousands of the world's choral music leaders and practitioners from more than 40 countries to meet, listen to choirs and share ideas. The symposium has the theme "People and the Land/He Tangata, he whenua" so we can explore the relationship we have with the land that supports us, the sense of identity we derive from it and the tensions that arise out of it. There are 24 world-class choirs and I'm looking forward to how they respond to this theme, hearing the many conversations that will unfold and seeing connections that will be created.
I'm interested in how live performance brings people together and increases social interactions - the power of human connection.
The World Symposium on Choral Music is in Auckland, Saturday, July 11 – Saturday, July 18.
Auckland Art Gallery director Kirsten Paisley
Started her new role in June, arriving from Canberra where she was deputy director of the National Gallery of Australia. Now she's programmed her first exhibitions for Auckland.
I wanted to be in a maritime environment near the ocean because I think there's a strong relationship between culture and the geography of a place. The ability to be somewhere where you can touch the Pacific Ocean – and reflect on all who have travelled across it – is amazing.
I think the topography of New Zealand is incredibly inspiring and it's one of the reasons why we have so many strong artists. Tāmaki Makaurau, being on the Ring of Fire, is a place that is alive and the Earth is energised – it also feeds into the vibrancy and the strength of art made here. Simultaneously, New Zealand artists are impacted – and have been for a very long time – by their travels aboard. This means our artists are engaged in international conversations through residences, collaborations, attending major events and working and living overseas.
What I am trying to avoid is a dynamic that supports an "us and them", "New Zealand and the world", attitude because I think that does our artists a disservice. We're re-hanging the collection across the galleries to open up more playful conversations about who we are in New Zealand, where we have come from and how we are shaping the future; and we are commissioning new art to create opportunities for exploration by local artists and then putting these commissions in conversation with art from abroad.
We are part of the world, we are an incredibly international city and nation and I want our programme to reflect this. Along with three major exhibitions featuring contemporary New Zealand art, we're also presenting diverse international art exhibitions - from global trends in photography to master painters from Edo Japan, Monet, Picasso and the Prada Foundation's collection of international art.
Is Picasso problematic? Lives are complex and you could pick a number of artists through time whose behaviour we would consider unacceptable. However, he has made an extraordinary contribution to art. Picasso was an exceptional artist who painted and exhibited from the time he was 14 in 1895 to his death in 1973 aged 91 having supported himself through art since he was 19.
He produced work over almost a century during which he was incredibly innovative and responded, with considerable creativity, to the many changes around him. He was a printmaker who made editions because he was keen to democratise art; he also made a large volume of ceramics. He was politically active, speaking out against the Spanish Civil War and for principals of equality and peace.
The opportunity to take from the walls of the Musee National Picasso in Paris and bring some of his finest work to New Zealand, I can't stress how exciting that is. It is a chance for New Zealanders to see and feel the full force of Cubism and the intense creativity that impacted the course of art, here and around the world, ever since.
For more on Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki 2020 exhibitions, see aucklandartgallery.com
New Zealand Opera general director Thomas de Mallet Burgess
Has programmed his first season for the country's national opera company.
As NZ Opera heads into its 20th anniversary year, we are asking how we might re-imagine opera for New Zealand. The stakes are high; if we don't challenge the form and content, opera will become irrelevant. The task we have set ourselves is to lead opera from Aotearoa in a way that reimagines the art form, embraces the cultural and social identities of diverse communities and ensures a vibrant and sustainable presence for opera in New Zealand. We are starting by taking opera to places that least expect it, performing in venues most ill-equipped [like hotel rooms and community halls] to receive it, with audiences who may never have encountered it.
On this journey, New Zealand itself will become our stage - and we'll focus on nurturing the unique creative ecology we have here that also feeds our cultural diaspora. Beyond this, in the next five years we will commission and produce the largest number of new operas we can feasibly manage and then some more on top of that. If we find new voices to tell our stories, then we will find new audiences ready to discover them.
NZ Opera's Eight Songs For A Mad King stars baritone Robert Tucker performing songs derived from King George III that he played on a mechanical organ while trying to teach his bullfinches to sing. It runs in the NZ Festival in Wellington from Monday, March 2 – Saturday, March 7 and in the Auckland Arts Festival from Wednesday, March 11 – Thursday, March 19 at the Ellen Melville Centre.