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Posts from the ‘Politics’ Category

Rainbow Warrior III

There’s a new addition to the Wellington skyline at the moment, in the form of the tall masts of the Rainbow Warrior III (they’re 50 metres high!). The purpose-built flagship of Greenpeace is currently moored in the Wellington harbour, and yesterday at lunchtime I took the opportunity to take a nosey on board to check out what this impressive ship had to offer and hear the environmental message it carries.

Rainbow Warrior 1

The tall masts of the Rainbow Warrior III stretch high above the Wellington harbour.

The tall masts of the Rainbow Warrior III stretch high above the Wellington harbour.

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Rules you don’t see

I came across a piece of music yesterday that I found extraordinary. It came up in a discussion between Brian Eno and Ha-Joon Chang. That these two were in discussion was peculiar to me, but more of this kind of crossover discussion is a good idea. Cross-pollination of ideas is almost always worthwhile, if only because it helps uncover the rules you don’t see.

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Forgery, Reproduction, Parody, Authenticity?

Authenticity is a fraught concept. Reproduction is a significant threat to the authentic, whether it comes in the form of fakes and forgeries, or even the authorised reproduction – in the form of a print, or a recast sculpture.

Writing in the 1930’s, Walter Benjamin discusses the effect that reproduction has on art, stating that:

“Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be. This unique existence of the work of art determined the history to which it was subject throughout the time of its existence. This includes the changes which it may have suffered in physical condition over the years as well as the various changes in its ownership. The traces of the first can be revealed only by chemical or physical analyses which it is impossible to perform on a reproduction; changes of ownership are subject to a tradition which must be traced from the situation of the original.”

Mortimer Menpes (1860-1938), special war artist

Mortimer Menpes, 1860-1938 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In other words, a reproduction can never fully replicate the original work because any copy will lack the authenticity of the original.

A crucial question, then, is it possible for a copy to recreate any of the power of an original? The answer, always difficult, probably has to be emphatically no. But still, high-quality reproductions of famous European artworks, part of the collection of Australia, are going to be displayed in the National Library of Australia, 100 years after their creation. The paintings were created by Mortimer Menpes, who made them to provide access to the artefacts of High European Art to an Australian public which could afford neither the time, nor the fare of travel to Europe to see the originals. To the extent that there is value in displaying these replicas (fakes?) even now, suggests that even a reproduction can hold some of the cultural power and authenticity of its original.

Of course, there is also the question of undetected forgeries, which might pass for original art work. History is littered with compelling frauds, fakes and forgeries, the detection of some of which made their authors all the more interesting.

I am sure that the annals are Art History are filled with these, but I am not so familiar with the subject; literary hoaxes, on the hand, are more my game. Thomas Wise, a bibliophile, funded his collection on the sale of forgeries. Interestingly, these forgeries are now themselves the focus of many collectors, to whom the story of the fakes makes these copies as valuable as the authentic pieces they originally were purported to be. The Sokal affair demonstrated the potential for mischief in some circles of literary theory, and provides comic relief to all those crazy enough to delve into the depths of deconstruction and post-structuralism, among other evils. And in Australia, the non-poet Ern Malley proved that sometimes poets produce their best work when pretending to be someone else, out of spite.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Geometry

Geometry isn’t always an inspirational subject. I remember struggling with trigonometry, eventually reaching a point where I could reliably get the correct answer, with absolutely no understanding of the mechanics underpinning the calculations. Geometry in photography though, is a much more attractive proposition.

The geometrically complex concert hall in Reykjavík, Harpa, provides a good setting for studies of geometry. The building itself, constructed of steel-framed polygonic windows was (and is) controversial. A product of the Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson, as well as Henning Larsen Architects and Batteríið, construction began before the 2008 crash which triggered world-wide economic difficulties.

The expensive building was the subject of considerable debate in Iceland, before the Parliament eventually agreed to fully fund the construction of the building. I’ve been told there was some discussion that the foundations of the building should be left unfinished, to remind Icelanders of their economic folly, and as a tribute to hubris. We can, should, and must be grateful that things turned out differently, and that we have instead a beautiful, striking building which could be thought of as a Sydney Opera House (another exercise in geometry, budget overruns, and for which we can now all be grateful) of the North.

The interaction between the mirrored ceiling, the lights — which were designed to evoke the Aurora Borealis, and the optical-illusory nature of the various internal levels are astonishing. It is hard to imagine that the designers knew exactly what effect their design would have, but the building stands, gorgeously, as testament to geometry and architecture.


Photos by PJD, on a cold evening in early September, 2012.

Weekly Photo Challenged?

Welcome back to local politics

Some of you out there might have felt the consequences of the attempts by the United States to extradite Kim Dotcom from New Zealand. His Megaupload site was widely used by many people worldwide, to the chagrin of many.

What I am now following with interest is the political saga regarding alleged illegal surveillance, and the effect this is having on the body politic. Enjoy this video (via New Zealand Herald) of Prime Minister John Key being grilled in Parliament.

There’s more here.


I have missed politics in a language I understand. Following from afar is not half so much fun, and politics is always local.

Voting, Dutch style?


The Netherlands goes to the polls today, with an early general election following the collapse of the coalition government in April this year. Will the country experience a swing to the left? It’s looking likely, but there may be as many as three parties in the new coalition government, if pre-election polls are proven right. As I was walking through Leiden this morning, on the Rapenburg I passed a stembureau (polling booth) which looked like it had attracted a voter of a different kind…


Photo by CIA, 12 September 2012, Leiden, the Netherlands.

No one sees how long it took…

A trip to Nationalmuseum in Stockholm turned into an unexpected highlight of our time in that wonderful city. Over breakfast, we planned out our day. This is not something we do very often, but there were so many things we wanted to see and experience, it seemed necessary. Our planned day required us to walk right past the building, inspired by North Italian architecture, which houses Sweden’s national collection. It seemed foolish not to have a look.

As is so often the case with these things, our intended stay of 30 minutes turned into 45, trickled into an hour, and time melted away as we were engaged, first with the general collection, then with an exhibition (briefly discussed already), and then we came upon something completely unexpected, Slow Art.

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