Take Five: Including Battle Royale and Len Lye: The New Yorker

by Guy Somerset / 20 December, 2012
Battle Royale; Len Lye: The New Yorker; and Granta 121: The Best of Young Brazilian Novelists.


Battle Royale
Battle Royale

At the risk of appearing huffy, I note New Zealand didn’t get a special edition of Granta magazine devoted to it after being announced as guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair, yet here is next year’s guest country fêted to the rafters in GRANTA 121: THE BEST OF YOUNG BRAZILIAN NOVELISTS. What do you mean, they’re hosting the 2014 football World Cup and 2016 summer Olympics as well? I suppose if you put it like that. Next year sees the latest instalment of Granta’s once-a-decade anointment of a new list of Best of Young British Novelists, but the reading here should be a much more enlightening experience, featuring as it does (let’s be honest) writers familiar to few of us.


A Len Lye exhibition at New Plymouth’s Govett-Brewster Art Gallery? Surely not. LEN LYE: THE NEW YORKER focuses on the “important but often overlooked period” between his arrival in the Big Apple in 1944 and his first kinetic sculptures in the early 1960s. It is a “transitional phase” that takes in both experimental films following on from Lye’s London years and “early, tentative steps” as a kinetic sculptor, as well as paintings, drawings, photograms, writings and personal objects. Running simultaneously at the gallery is SINGULAR COMPANIONS: SCULPTURE FROM THE COLLECTION, which features new Australasian acquisitions and works not exhibited for many years, from artists such as Bill Culbert, Don Driver, Andrew Drummond and Lisa Reihana. Until January 27. While at the gallery, and especially if you missed the exhibition that gave rise to it, you might also want to pick up a copy of LAURENCE ABERHART: RECENT TARANAKI PHOTOGRAPHS, a beautifully produced monograph that is a must for anyone who owns the 2007 Aberhart career retrospective from Victoria University Press.


Long before The Hunger Games pussyfooted around the subject, there was BATTLE ROYALE (Madman). There is no averting the camera’s gaze here, as high school teenagers fight each other to the death in this R18 Japanese cult classic from 2000, based on a novel of the same name. Declared “my favourite movie of the last 20 years” by Quentin Tarantino on the cover of the new director’s-cut DVD version, Battle Royale is both blood-thirsty and brilliant – but most definitely not for younger viewers given to going all gooey over Katniss and Peeta or fighting back the tears over Rue.


A somewhat more benign environment for the young can be found at Lower Hutt’s Dowse Art Museum this summer in its exhibition PLAY: INTERNATIONAL DESIGN FOR CHILDREN. Parents, however, might well find themselves lamenting the gap between some of the crap they bought their kids for Christmas and the high-end offerings on display in a show that “celebrates the importance of quality design for children” and “demonstrates the value the world’s greatest designers place on free play and the imagination”. Until April 1.


According to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, “America’s Top Source for Pure Heirloom Seeds” (okay, okay, I’ve been googling), the Russian heirloom tomato Paul Robeson “has almost a cult following among seed collectors and tomato connoisseurs. They simply cannot get enough of this variety’s amazing flavour that is so distinctive, sweet and smokey.” At Te Tuhi in Auckland, over 200 of the plants are now in full flourish in the arts centre’s courtyard as part of Ruth Ewan’s Them that plants them is soon forgotten, one of three artists’ works in BETWEEN MEMORY AND TRACE, an exhibition exploring alternative forms of memorial, as opposed to those “all around us [that are] often cookie cutter versions of each other”. Them that plants them is soon forgotten, which also features a collection of empty record sleeves from singer, actor, athlete and activist Robeson, is more a case of clippers than cookie cutters, as visitors are welcome to pick the fruit, “thus actively engaging with the project, and enacting a form of commemoration”. And hey, this year is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, so you could always serve with a commemorative iceberg lettuce. Until February 10.
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