Cutting edge of artistic creativity

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 14:26 14/11/2012

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Another group of talented Bachelor of Arts and Media degree students is preparing to graduate from the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology. Anna Pearson spoke to six of them about their works in BAM, the school's end-of-year show.

John D Roughan

John D Roughan wants to encourage people to appreciate everyday life above the din of consumerism, digital media and the internet.

Easier said than done, you say? Well, there's a list of ideas in one of six zines (small magazines) the 29-year-old has created for the end-of-year BAM show.

How about imagining every breath is your last or trying a total recall of what you have done in the past hour?

"Attempt to make a moment last" and "Invent other lives for yourself" are in there too.

There's another booklet with more suggestions, such as high-five a stranger and make a human statue.

Roughan says his zines, which are "small, accessible, artistic documents", are inspired by the DIY aesthetic of an influential 1960s revolutionary group based in Europe.

Situationist International were "art rebels and revolutionaries, punk before punk", and were critical of growing consumerism and capitalism.

Roughan says their ideas are still relevant today, especially with the development of the internet and digital media.

Zines, which are normally freely distributed, bring art out of white-walled galleries and into people's day-to-day lives.

Roughan has created drawings, graphics, slogans and a film "collage", using appropriated footage from things such as commercials and standup comedy shows.

He says he is part of a generation that is "all about" the internet, media, video games and Facebook, which are "distractions that take you away from a true experience".

His project is "an irreverent and playful look at contemporary society, consumerism, capitalism and technology, and where it's brought us today", and encourages people to appreciate everyday life.

Joel Whitwell

Joel Whitwell went to the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) from Nelson College and had no idea it would lead him down the jewellery path.

"I was really interested in graphic design and mechanical engineering. I never thought I was going to be a jeweller. I thought I was going to be a graphic designer," he says.

The 21-year-old says his final project is focused on the mass production of jewellery and "people spending a lot of money on things that are not a one-off".

He says he gets a lot of comments about a ring he made, and could make 100 from the same mould, but it would no longer be special. "A print of a painting is not as valuable as the original."

So what did he do for the BAM show?

"I started destroying jewellery."

Whitwell, who is designing brooches for his fellow graduates to wear at their end of year show, reinvented jewellery that was either mass-produced or stuff he had made which had the potential to be.

He melted, rolled and hammered them into new, original, pin and brooch designs.

Whitwell says he learnt a lot in his three years at NMIT. He was thinking about trying to find a jewellery apprenticeship next year, "but they don't come along often".

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He is also building a workshop in his garage, "just to do some things for me".

Jason McCormick

In a little cupboard-like space, off a hallway in NMIT's arts and media building, is Rupert's Room.

There you will find a Lego man wearing a Murdoch-themed paper bag on its head and an inviting white chair. Sit in the chair and you will see a stop-motion animation video made by BAM student Jason McCormick.

The 45-year-old was a painter before taking on three years of study at NMIT, but it has extended his art practice.

"It gave me a chance to play with digital technology and experiment with other mediums," he says. "I have really enjoyed the course. As an older student, I have found it very open."

Rupert's Room illustrates his concerns about modern-day media, particularly media corporations such as Rupert Murdoch's and television news.

His stop-motion animation features a newsroom with an anchorman, scenes from the Pentagon in the United States, a news reader reporting on the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks, US president Dwight Eisenhower's 1961 farewell address and the "literary dynamic trio" - Noam Chomsky, Jean Baudrillard and John Pilger - protesting against US foreign policy.

McCormick says the animation is based on serious concerns - about society being controlled through impartial media - but it is done in a satirical and humorous way.

He plans to do further study next year, with a view to eventually teaching art at tertiary level.

Christine Daubney

Christine Daubney's house is missing five doors, because they are in a shipping container at NMIT. The 42-year-old has used them in an artwork entitled Night Walk, as part of a project focusing on transience.

Daubney, who grew up in Nelson, has lived in 19 different places in New Zealand in about 20 years for family reasons.

The former probation officer and primary school teacher started at NMIT after returning to Nelson, and has used her experiences as subject matter for her end-of-year project.

The five doors have been arranged in a layout similar to places she has lived in the past, like a remembered space.

"It's about that feeling of loss that we all have when we move from known environments to new places and the people we leave behind."

Daubney says she wouldn't have been able to put Night Walk together without the help of two Nelson companies - Boxman, which lent her the container, and Lift N Shift Ltd.

"I had the idea earlier in the year and they both came to the party [for free]. It's amazing really. I think people in Nelson are really supportive of the arts."

She painted in high school but, with all the moving around, her art took a back seat.

It has been a "full-circle" experience, coming home and getting back into her art.

The BAM course encouraged her to try things she would have never tried before and she now hopes to teach art in schools.

Night Walk is complemented by two other works, which are also based around the idea of transience. They use old wooden floorboards, wax, eight years of family photographs and a looped projection.

Donna Davison

Donna Davison used her final year to find her identity through her art practice and discovered "there is no one true self".

The 20-year-old former Garin College student has a photographic series of six nearly life-sized self portraits in the BAM exhibition.

She appears as a pregnant woman, business woman, beach chick, church-goer, glamour girl and housewife.

"I had to be in the room on my own when I took the photographs. Self-timer is a great thing.

"I picked these stereotypes through my friends. It's their personalities and how they dress and show themselves to each other," she says.

Davison wanted to see if she fitted any of the roles, in a "construction of self" process to try to determine her identity.

"I haven't worked out how I'm portraying myself to be perceived by others. I feel kind of hidden beneath this false facade.

"I'm not necessarily portraying what I want yet."

The cutouts are stuck to a wall with adhesive signage, with "paper doll tabs" on them.

"In the morning, you can pick which one you are going to stick on your blank canvas. If you remove all the stereotypes, what have you actually got left?"

Davison left Garin College with interests in textiles and fashion, and her studies led her to photography.

"I didn't know what I wanted to do when I first started. All I knew was that I loved art."

She hopes to get experience in the industry by assisting other photographers now the BAM course is over.

"I was using this year to find my identity through my art practice. What I found out is there is no one true self. Identity is an ever-changing continuum. Any one of these could be me, depending on who is viewing it," she says.

Kirsten Fitzsimons

Kirsten Fitzsimons' works explore the role of social networks such as Facebook in identity formation.

The 26-year-old's acrylic, oil and pencil paintings are based on photographs of strangers, which she found on public profiles.

"I noticed there was one type of image that was quite ubiquitous on Facebook. It was as if everybody was doing the exact same thing," she says.

The "one type of image" was a self-portrait, which was made to appear as if someone else had taken it.

"I kind of focused in on that type of photo. It is as if it's natural, when it is totally contrived."

Fitzsimons says she is interested in the idea of identity, which is why she spent so much time trawling Facebook.

She found images of people "performing", and "creating a personal brand, but they are all branding themselves as the same person".

Her discoveries tied in with the idea of "microcelebrity", which is the phenomenon of being very well known to a small group.

Fitzsimons says the people whose images she used were using their profile photos to try to understand themselves better.

She has enjoyed the research side of her final project and hopes to continue her art practice next year. "I love painting. I feel like I have come away with something that I'm truly passionate about.

"I love what I do every day, so I don't really want to stop."

To view Fitzsimons' work, visit: flickr.com/photos/kirstenmaree.

  • BAM 2012, G-block, Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, November 24 to 26, 9am to 4pm; November 27, 9am to 8pm.

- Nelson

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