Friday, 2 May 2008

Miss Pokeno , still crazy after all these years

Alannah Currie, once the third leg of the 80"s brit band The Thompson Twins is once again hitting the headlines over in the UK with a controversial exhibition of art works which use armchairs, stuffed foxes and swans to make a compelling creative and political/cultural point around the nature of comfort, storytelling, food and by extension , animal ethics.

To get there she retrained as an upholster, invented the notion of armchair destruction, and on the way created the series of works , England Bloody England, which go on show at the Ragged School London SE1, from the 8th May to the 8th June.

Recently interviewed by the UK Guardian she summed up her new direction in her usual pithy style " I wanted to make something useful. Chairs are incredible objects, as well as being the place where you sit and tell stories. I decided to use them to tell dark tales, but first I had to learn the craft, so I went to London Metropolitan University and spent two years learning from the old blokes. It was physically hard, my fingers bled, my back ached and I cried a lot"

The UK Indedendent also ran a piece, which again picked up the angle of 80's pop star becomes artist of note, here. The UK Times also found her interesting , here.

Curiously, though they show a welcome willingness to acknowledge her as an artist, none make the connection that for Currie her current work, though a change to her art footprint, is also a brilliant reminder of, and extension to, her 1990's New Zealand political campaigning on genetic modification - safe food - and the role of animal ethics in global food production.

Though a lifetime vegetarian this political awareness truly took off in New Zealand when she and her then partner Tom Bailey, and kids, gave up the urban London life and headed to New Zealand and set up life up on coast of north Auckland near Matakana.

From there they froze in an old bach [beach house] while building a brilliant colonial house overlooking 18 acres of native bush and prime New Zealand coast line. I used to visit them there. It was indeed a blessed corner of the earth. A few years of the good life later, albeit with the odd croissant, they shifted into Auckland.

After a tragic episode in her wider family her long held beliefs around food, vegetarianism and diet morphed into a critique of the growing trend towards genetic modification. She found she was not alone, and with others launched MADGE, Mothers and Daughters Against Genetic Modification.

To many peoples surprise, including I might honestly say my own, she was downright brilliant as a political campaigner and did a good deal to bring the issue of consumer lead political action for healthy food into the New Zealand mainstream spotlight, including, in November 2002, organising one of the biggest street demonstration that Auckland had seen in 20 years.

This poster also caused a bit of a stir at the time. Might still do. More importantly the MADGE campaigns caught a real public mood and left most of the political mainstream in New Zealand floundering for a response beyond the bah humbug, 'they dont know how lucky we are, kind of variety.

I've trawled the archives and there are a few stray story links still around. This one from the NZ Herald. Better still , though MADGE is long since defunct, its old web site is preserved on the Internet Archive, here.

The just in case you missed the link , here's the link to John Clark on You Tube - I have a funny feeling Ms Pokeno will love it!

And in case I didn't say - I think her work is stunning. ... her own web site is of course, Miss Pokeno -


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