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New Zealand Photography: Anne Shelton « Previous | |Next »
April 28, 2009

New Zealand was the poster child of neoliberalism in the 1980s, under the Lang Labor Government, due to Roger Douglas, Labour's finance minister in the late 1980s, making it a small, open, flexible economy, emphasising negative freedoms, and shaping the shift to the politics of individualism and a minimalist conception of the state. New Zealand, under Helen Clarke then reversed direction at the beginning of the 21st century ('third way’ government?) and placed an emphasis on culture as a means of reasserting national identity.

In the process it became part of the globalised world, rather than standing outside marginalised and isolated, with photographers and artists exploring the paranoia, alienation, and unease sitting below the bi-cultural surface. This aspect of national life has seeped quietly into the music, literature and film-making as well as its visual arts practice. I'm not sure how this "seepage" relates to the modernist bias against traditionalism.

Anne Shelton, who had shifted from being a photojournalist to a photographic artist, is an example, as she photographed crime scenes that embodied deviant behaviour and female pathology.

ShetonAHangingRock.jpg Anne Shelton, Tracker, Hanging Rock, Australia, 2002, Diptych, C type prints, from the series Public Places

Hanging Rock is a classic example of this in Australia and Shelton is another example of New Zealand photographers exploring Australia. Australian photographers are less likely to explore New Zealand.

The dark undercurrent of isolation and anxiety is the flipside of Christchurch’s genteel English appearance; a city that modestly prided itself on being ‘more English than England’. Its tabloid press thunders on and on about Maori crime and the need for much tougher law and order, whilst affirming customary values in the face of twenty first century violence.

SheltonAHume_crime_Scene.jpg Anne Shelton, Doublet, Parker/Hulme Crime Scene Port Hills, Christchurch, New Zealand, 2001

Prejudice, violent abuse, and especially murder can be counterposed to the quaintly English façade of Christchurch. This undercuts the New Zealander's convention of using the otherness of the foreigner as a mirror, not so that they can discover how they are perceived but so that they can confirm their idealised image of themselves and their country. That idealised image has become a commodity for the international tourist market.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:38 PM | | Comments (2)


Even within stable nations that overwhelmingly benefit from globalization, there was a powerful feedback effect that attends the process, prompting the rediscovery and reassertion of old cultural identities. Practically, this has meant that protectionists, nationalists, and ethnocentrics have begun to force politicians to respond to
their agendas.

Winston Peters and New Zealand FIrst was the NZ example. They criticised immigration from Asian countries as "imported criminal activity" and warned that New Zealanders were "being colonised without having any say in the numbers of people coming in and where they are from."

I think its more an exploration of "the weird" as in romantic darkness or as in pathological (white women gone queer in the bush) rather than the return of the repressed old cultural identities in a globalised world.