Image credit: From ‘Opulence Retreat’ performance at Chronophonium 2015. Photo by Phoebe Mackenzie.
- Firstly, could you explain a little bit about how the Fresh and Fruity collective operates? You seem to have a large presence outside of the physical gallery space in Dunedin.
Alannah & Kimmi: There are five of us in the collective, three in Dunedin and two in Auckland, with this dynamic due to change again in 2016. Geographical restrictions mean we communicate primarily online via Facebook, Google and Skype. Comfortability with communicating in this way is important as it’s basically central to what we do. Fresh and Fruity has always made online engagement its main priority. Our physical space is more of an opportune situation as rent in Dunedin is pretty good lol, but it’s never been in our interest to confine ourselves to this space as we ultimately want to engage with a larger audience outside of Dunedin. Being dispersed has made doing projects in various locations further possible as well. There’s been times when we’ve been involved in a few different projects, on different locations within a short timeframe, and it’s a bit funny because no one can figure out exactly where we are located. Our communication with each other online means that we’re still able to be involved in projects that some of us may not be physically present for.
Mya: Not being restricted to one physical location allows us to function as a mimicry of the way corporate brands do. We are 100% mobile and elusive. We are pure branding.
- I’ve heard a lot about your zine Dreary Modern Life that was at zinefest this year. This has been going for a couple of years now, what role does this zine play? Is it complimentary to the gallery space?
Hana & Mya: Dreary Modern Life isn’t really a zine. It’s like a journal almost, but not. Maybe more like a magazine or maybe it’s more of a publication? But what does that mean? Fresh and Fruity presented Dreary Modern Life issue IV, while Hana and Zach Williams (a previous director) co-edited the other two issues and presented them via Fresh and Fruity. It is a self-sufficient project and is more of an extension of our curatorial practice than Fresh and Fruity’s. Fresh and Fruity is a platform to present it. Conceptually, Fresh and Fruity is designed to present a multitude of different projects.
- Recently the collective’s work travelled to Pittsburgh for the Performance Art Festival, what was your experience like there? Could you explain a little bit about this project?
Hana & Mya: This was the PAF15 at Bunker projects. We didn’t travel to Pittsburgh, but rather performed a reading of our second manifesto, Fresh and Fruity manifesto volume II Part one: The trouble with art #winaman and Part two: The gallery girl via skype at the Auckland Art Gallery (unofficially). We have previously performed this online in Berlin, ST PAUL St Gallery, The Physics Room, and in Wellington. This is a two part text, which is both The Bachelor fan fiction (part one) and a crito-fictive text (both parts). The intention of the manifesto is to incorporate as many experiences of microaggressions within a fine arts context as possible. It is an ongoing text, in which we have invited other persons who identify as women to share their experiences.
- Collaboration seems to permeate a lot of your shows. Is collaboration as an idea important to you or is this just how it has played out so far?
Sev: I feel like collaboration is an idea that is really undervalued still, and you can see this made clear especially by recent art school graduates and their attitudes towards their practices. Having graduated myself in 2014, I am still surprised collaboration isn’t a part of many art schools curriculums especially in the first three years of education. I mean it is true that critique sessions at art school were not welcomed by students, and very hard to go through for some of the groups. You’d hear nonsense like: “I don’t want my work to be influenced by others”, or “I want my work to speak for itself, if you don’t get it, then you just won’t”. It is shocking to see that some people graduate with a Bachelor of Visual Arts without a broader vision of the art scene than a focus on their own practice.
So maybe Fresh and Fruity is trying to show that artists having their individual “touch” is an idea that is less and less relevant, or should be, especially in a proto-digital age, where we are all bombarded by so many images, ideas, concepts through all sorts of platforms. We have had to deal with this not so long ago, with artists feeling plagiarised by other artists we’ve been showing. I find this urge to “hold on” to one’s own “individuality” quite egotistical, even if I happen to feel that way too sometimes. I mean we are taught to develop an “identity” that is easily recognisable, for the sake of establishing a safe place in the art market. Because if people know who you are and what you do, that’s when you can start to make money. Collaboration is a difficult exercise and there are lots of compromises to make, but I think that’s what it gets down to: accepting that a few brains together can develop better ideas than a brain by itself can do, and that there is not any loss of “integrity” in doing so. Let’s just try to move on from the Modernist idea of success. I mean those recorded in art history were pretty much all white men. We can do better.
- In one of your recent interviews something that really stood out was the line “Fresh and Fruity aims to create space for people who are both excluded and exploited within the art world and market, especially under a neo-colonial capitalist framework.” I think this approach to a space is significant. What is it that you do differently to address this exclusion? Do any recent projects stand out?
Mya: We take a significant amount of time to be self-reflective and critical of our projects and their place in the arts community. I see many galleries and art spaces which consider themselves unmarked by social or economic forces and, somewhat naively, ‘pure’ spaces for ‘creativity’. We don’t sell work at our shows, we don’t charge a fee to use our space and we are interested in embodied art practices. One of our projects which has been critical to how we function as a space and collective has been the ongoing Empowerment Huis. We have held three so far – two in Dunedin and one in Auckland at RM Gallery. Empowerment Huis offer a space and guided discussion to address rape culture in arts communities (and beyond) in New Zealand. Empowerment Huis acknowledge that galleries, gigs and supposedly ‘liberal’ spheres can be unsafe while offering tools and connective power to dismantle that rape culture and empower women.
- Are there any projects from the collective that we should look out for in the coming months?
Hana: This month we are presenting three works including an Empowerment Hui at the Enjoy Feminisms show at Enjoy Public Art Gallery and are showing work as part of the ‘trans/forming feminisms: media, technology, identity’ symposium at Otago University. The latter of which will be both a reading of our second manifesto, a microaggressions workshop, and an exhibition featuring work by Layne Waerea, Cushla Donaldson, Motoko Kikkawa, and Teresa Andrew. It will be the last show in our physical space, as we are going to go online, but will continue to do pop up events. Over the summer we will be working on our long overdue website and have been asked to participate in a Neptune event out in the Huia house, which is owned by Elam.
F&F: Hana Aoake, Severine Costa, Mya Middleton, Kimmi Rindel, and Alannah Kwant. Interview by Rosa Gubay.