‘Poetics of Music’

... a short story of an art school library

The odious proposal to cast out the library at the University of Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts brought to mind the other day my skirmish with an art school in Guildford, just south of London 45 years ago ... for the nine months of my truncated art school tenure, with complete disregard for tutors and their exasperating assignments, I hunkered down in the school’s prodigious library, kicking-off in one corner and reading my way round the shelves for months and months, anything and everything, books of photography, books about photography, and plenty beyond: Henri Cartier-Bresson images, Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’, not quite grasping either, to a swashbuckling David Douglas Duncan’s ‘Yankee Nomad’, to ‘Words and Pictures’ by Wilson Hicks, and R. Smith Schumann’s ‘Photographic Communication’, which led to Frazer’s ‘The Golden Bough’, and Koestler’s ‘The Sleepwalkers’ … Man Ray, Callahan, Minor White, Brassaï, Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Uelsmann, Koudelka, Weston, Stieglitz, Eisenstaedt, McCullin, Eugene Smith, Gordon Parks and many, many more, a bringing to light.

The ‘Poetics of Music’, a paperback book of a series of lectures delivered by Igor Stravinsky at Harvard University 1939-1940, presented itself one morning. While the philosophy of music was very far from my capacity, I flicked open the pages and read (my copy still has its underlines): “Whatever diminishes constraint, diminshes strength.” I embraced this book hard, read and re-read it, sometimes only to replace the word ‘music’ with ‘photography’, a book about the sheer miscellany of the photography and texts on these shelves, a beacon, a lexicon almost, for understanding the bounty of this uncommon library.

When I told this story to the late Pete Turner, bon vivant, exile, and very smart and quick-witted editor of the now defunct, but then important, ‘Creative Camera’ magazine out of London, he said he too went to this art school in Guildford, only a few years before me, and then the library had been meagre, until the students brawled for it during the mighty political upheavals of 1968 .. a library is worth a good dust-up.

continue reading



‘Body of Work’ review, photo-eye Book of the Week

Daniel Boetker-Smith reviews ‘Body of Work’, photo-eye Book of the Week.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

This week’s Book of the Week pick comes from Daniel Boetker-Smith who has selected ‘Body of Work’ by Bruce Connew from Vapour Momenta Books.


“Today Radiohead released their first new song in years. I’d set aside the afternoon especially to write this review of Bruce Connew’s newest publication ‘Body of Work’, with no idea that the quintet from Oxford who have crafted the soundtrack of my adult life would inadvertently tell me how to read and understand Connew’s book.

‘Street Spirit (Fade Out).’ I can remember the lurid lines: ‘Cracked eggs dead birds / scream as they fight for life / I can feel death / can see its beady eyes.’ These words have been etched into my psyche since I first heard them in 1995. Hearing these lines again today after a number of years it seems that nothing can more accurately describe Bruce Connew’s new book. Connew has been around, making books, since the late 80s, and he is somewhat of a national treasure in New Zealand; a prolific, smart and eminently generous artist. But he’s never made a work like this before, and I’m not sure he ever should or could again. This is his ‘Heart of Darkness’.

continue reading



A Vocabulary ... at the gallery

... artist book at the gallery

.. whew, the artist book is in gallery position [the shelf]! .. 13 only advance copies at the exhibition opening last weekend, and out the door in the blink of an eye .. back orders expanding @te_uru_gallery in the sans-Covid (🤞🏽) summer warmth .. more copies today, some for the gallery, some for our online shop and others as koha ♥️, wrapped with aroha, and posted here, there and everywhere tomorrow .. the calm before Kim Hill, @RadioNZ this Saturday .. 

/ with @studiocatherine after the week-long install according to her colour-coded and detailed drawings, first day open to the public / @rangihiroa photographing a plinth displaying his mihi, a poem, and excerpts from He Mōteatea The Lament and essay from the artist book / and with @psycho_andy_nz Andrew Clifford, Te Uru director and curator Chloe Geoghegan, massive support from this crew 🖤🖤

buy the book!

continue reading



St. Florentin, Bourgogne

“... spot a heathen!”

There’s a 16th century, cathedral-sized church in St. Florentin, Bourgogne, Église de St. Florentin, quite exceptional .. it was locked, but I collected the big key this afternoon, and wandered, completely alone; uncharitably, I locked the heavy, wooden door behind me to remain alone — the chapels, ambulatory, the unfinished nave, the rood screen, baptismal, sacristy, the transept, north portal, here and there, the sun cascading through the west-side, well-storied stained glass windows, although not as awesome in the Autumn afternoon sun, I recall, as Gerhard Richter’s spectacular, abstract stained glass window in the scary Cologne Cathedral (that’s another story!).

I tried three times to light a candle in this church at St. Florentin, but each time an unseen ecumenical wind took the light away. When I WhatsApp’d this phenomenon to my London-based Catholic daughter, she said: “they can spot a heathen!”

Berlin is the next stop for ‘folded eggs’, to share the @gloria__books book table with @aliceconnew, another daughter (artist book: ‘forty three’), at Friends With Books, Hamburger Bahnhof Museum .. if you’re in the ‘hood October 19-21, we’ll be there, @studiocatherine too

continue reading


‘A Vocabulary’

“The captain says, ‘hoist the flag here’, and the Union Jack flew. Wednesday, 31 January 1770, in the presence of the chief — the height of summer, ‘light winds and variable’ on Motuara, this little island, a gesture to Tōtaranui Queen Charlotte Sound, Aotearoa New Zealand — Captain Cook took ‘possession’ of the ‘mainland’ for King George III.”

view project



A Vocabulary .. book at the binders

.. artist book at the binders

.. artist book still at the binders! .. cross fingers it’s on the gallery shelf 16:00 – 18:00h, Saturday, 12 December, A Vocabulary exhibition preview .. Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi, Tāmaki Makaurau

pics: the bare artist book shelf and the south, west and north walls, with plinth .. there is an east wall of images, although my sense of direction is limited🚩

buy the book!

continue reading