by Simon Denny
(Mousse Publishing & Koenig Books $85)
Published in conjunction with Denny's wildly successful New Zealand at the Venice Biennale representation, this is a handsome, informative and, at times, screamingly funny distillation of the thinking behind his huge shows at the 15th century Marciana Library and at Marco Polo Airport this year. Secret Power, its title based on Nicky Hager's 1996 book about New Zealand's GCSB, was complex, creepy and surprisingly witty. Essays by curator Robert Leonard, critic Chris Kraus and design researcher David Bennewith lay the foundation, followed by photos of Denny's works, then source material from Hager's book and American National Security Agency creative director (who knew?) David Darchicourt. An interview with Denny and more illustrations round off a very interesting, highly professional publication which will make you gasp at the intelligent beauty of the work and at the absurdity of so much of its real-life inspiration.
The Heading Dog Who Split In Half
by Michael Brown and Mat Tait
(Potton & Burton $39.99)
A brilliantly realised retelling of seven New Zealand folk legends by writer Michael Brown and comic artist Mat Tait. The title story, taken from an episode of the NZBC Open Country radio series which ran from 1961-74, was told by Mackenzie Country musterer Don Nelson. It's a tall tale, about a heading dog travelling so fast it hit a fencing standard which split it into two halves. Its master slapped the two halves together and the dog was on its way; "What ... a little hard to believe?" writes Brown, who notes that variants of the "split dog" tale exist all around the world. Other tales include The Princess & the Come-Ashore Whaler, A Tale of Old Waihi and The Day the Pub Burned Down, accompanied by meticulous source notes and background details. As The Chills' Martin Phillipps says on the back cover, "The perfect balance of Aotearoa beauty and creepiness."
See What I Can See
by Gregory O'Brien
(Auckland University Press $34.99)
Subtitled New Zealand Photography for the Young and Curious, this is a celebration of the marvels of the medium told by one of our most accessible writers. The text is accompanied on each page by a parade of images from through the decades, dating right back to Samuel Carnell's Portrait of Susan Jury (Huhana Apiata), taken in the 1870s. The stories behind the photos are fascinating and while the title pitches for a young audience, it would appeal to all-age "curious" readers. "It's about looking beyond the obvious and finding things that are hidden away," says O'Brien.
In Pursuit Of Venus
by Lisa Reihana
(Auckland Art Gallery $75)
Published to accompany Reihana's engrossing, hugely popular 32-minute video installation at Auckland Art Gallery earlier this year. The project, destined for the Venice Biennale in 2017, is given added depth by this splendid supporting publication, which opens with an astronomical chart of the position of the sun, Mercury and Venus during the Transit of Venus as seen by Captain James Cook from Tahiti on June 3, 1769. As Dame Anne Salmond writes in the introduction, when Cook's Endeavour sailed around the New Zealand coastline, "two great voyaging traditions, one out of Asia and Polynesia and one out of Europe, met and tangled together. Sometimes explosive and destructive ('infected'), sometimes genial and creative, these were worldshifting encounters." With a sequence of essays, interviews, photos and stills, this is a superb piece of documentation.