Re: [-empyre-] speaking of flim flam

Danny Butt (16/01/05) writes:

"we're not quite sure what to talk about when we try and account for the
"not quite fully developed" first world subjectivities that put a brake on
the cultural nationalism exhorted by the various state entities.  So we go
overseas because the locality of home in NZ is not quite "settled" for
settler culture. Locality then becomes the narration of distance between
one's implication in various other centres and "home"."

He points to the current discussion's turn to Maori culture as evidence in
support of his contention. I would like to indicate the obvious:
contemporary Maori culture in no way resembles a self-consistent bloc;
especially where it encounters new media, it diversifies and - with more and
less sophistication on the part of the individual artists and
practitioners - articulates a range of backward and forward-looking options,
often intersecting with areas of Pakeha cultural interest and investment
when not simply following the appropriative model taught in schools as
'subversion' of mainstream, main-culture, preoccupation. There are
'exhortations' from 'state entities' - these take the form of withholding or
granting financial support within a policy framework that remains at best
threadbare. The NZ government continues to fail where it fails to provide an
Arts Policy. Peer-group evaluation, alongside the market-led ideology
introduced in '84, remain uncritically challenged positions for funding

I think Danny also talked about the liberal posturing that passes for
support of multicultural enterprise. This more than anything else and not
the distinctiveness of Maori culture per se is reflected in this
discussion's inability to provide an account, outside of Maori culture, of
the overall (or under-riding) distinctiveness of NZ culture.

Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, Director of Art and Visual Culture at Te Papa,
"Culturalisms and the arts curriculum," in The Arts in Education, edited by
Elizabeth Grierson and Janet Mansfield:

"The lack of a fundamental pakeha groundedness in pakeha identity, history
and culture is a far greater problem for the shaping of our 'distinctive,
evolving national identity,' than the Maori, Pacific Islands and Asian
component of that identity because pakeha either lack an awareness of their
cultural distinctiveness or their culture is presumed to be so self-evident
as to render analysis superfluous."

However, the discussion's fluidity and wrong-end-of-the-telescope view of
new media in NZ provokes in me the recognition of an endemic attitude; an
attitude that locally finds expression in an again market-led (however
illegitimately applied the ideology) obsession with national icons
specifically as branding tools inside a world cultural topos. (Perhaps this
is what Danny is talking about?) This attitude searches Whale Rider, Once
Were Warriors and even Lord of the Rings, in order to find something, some
clue to an identity that clearly (like Osama bin Laden) is hiding. And I
believe, dreaming.

"there are limitations to the cultural vocabulary in new settler societies,
and that these limitations are constitutive of the cultural formations that
emerge within them. Which I don't want to disavow, it does do something
interesting, it's who I am, but the critical languages available for
interrorgating it are not good)." - Danny Butt (16/01/05)

There are limitations to the cultural vocabulary in any society. These
limitations are generative of the cultural formations that emerge within
them. And I largely agree with Danny - if this is what he is saying: NZ
culture exists within a self-interrogating void and lacks the critical
apparatus to establish its own legitimacy. (The kindness of strangers ...)

As for the role state entities play, divide and rule is the rule when it
comes to the Arts Council - Queen Elizabeth II rebranded at some substantial
cost as Creative New Zealand but still farming out its decision-making to
peer-groups. And as for the nationalisms we are exhorted to: two-decades
cycles and the nation is an other.

Simon Taylor

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