One hot February night, after a long day at the Salient office, I made my way down to Thistle Hall to do my usual art review. I walked in and immediately thought, ‘Oh, no! Not scenesterville again!’ It seemed like every trendy person from Cuba Street was there. I soon found out why – some hipster band, Zombie Fuck, were playing some live art rock gig there – I was told it was their ‘art’. Unfortunately, the art was shit, due to it being clichéd and extremely pretentious. There were dark curtains over the windows, some old TV sets randomly put against one wall with static on the screens, and unoriginal images which I struggled to make out.
Against another wall there was a projector illuminating lots of tiny little images, resembling yet another Massey University of Wellington Design School end of year exhibition installation. Continuing the lack of originality, there was some kind of random geometrically shaped wire sculpture on the wall near the entrance. Further up at the end of the Hall, I found heaps of tiny portrait photos that would not have looked out of place in a Saloon from an old Western.
The opening band got underway. I was told they were originally from Dunedin, which impressed me because of that whole Flying Nun thing. Like most bands from down south, they were very DIY – which is cool – but the beginning of their opening song (if you could call it that) ripped off Pink Floyd’s classic Syd Barrett-era ‘Astronomy Domine’, complete with the distinctive Morse Code.
It was obvious that there was no underlying philosophy to this art piece.
Was it a revival of an earlier era? It wasn’t entirely clear. Was there some kind of postmodern media analysis with the TV screens and projector? Who would know? It quickly became apparent that it may have just been a glorified gig for their friends and hanger-ons. In my strong opinion, there was little artistic merit evident at all. I had no idea what I was supposed to think or feel about the art. This can be forgivable when the art in question is beautiful to look at, but, unfortunately, the only eye candy there consisted of several audience members.
During the break, I satisfied my thirst with the tasty yet trendy beer, Bushman. One thing the organisers got right with this opening was that the beer didn’t run out too soon. However, there was no food – not even the usual cheese or crackers. This may have been due to the fact that the opening was later in the evening than usual. The lead act, Zombie Fuck, then made their appearance. Ex-Dunedinites who formed when they came to Wellington, I suppose you could call them noise art, rock art, thrash, DIY and/or posers. They certainly looked something like the Velvet Underground, but lacked their energy. At times they did sound interesting, and it became apparent that they make up their music as they go along – which can be a good thing. But they did seem to be more interested in looking cool than actually playing decent music. Having said that, they are an okay band – so, if you are into that genre and just want to chill out with a beer, I definitely recommend them. I’d expect you’d usually find them at Happy, San Fransisco Bath House or anywhere else on Cuba Street, but they’re definitely not an art gallery band of any real substance It seemed that the bands managed to base their whole show around coming up with a whole lot of clichés to justify being there. This is not the first time that rock bands have created shit art; although usually they limit their indulgences to pretentious films (The Who’s Tommy, The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour and The Rolling Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil being obvious examples). In those attempts, despite missing the mark in a cinematic sense, there were at least some good ideas and great music.
Unfortunately, with this visual art piece at Thistle Hall, there was nothing edgy, philosophical or even camp about it. Nor was was there any really great music. The music, like the art, would be forgotten within a week or two. Which I consider to be unfortunate, as when I go to a gallery, I like to see some kickass art every now and then.
As I was beginning to feel caught up in the ‘coolness’ of it all, I slipped away into the night to find something to eat. Drunk as usual after these openings, I noticed that it was a balmy February night, and I was hungry for something to fill the gap in my soul. I hadn’t found it tonight, but luckily there was a steak in the fridge at home, to quell the hunger in my belly.