APECalypse Now

Posted on Dec 20, 2011
APECalypse Now

AGGROculture Collective was recently included in a invitational group show at The ARTS at Marks Garage titled ‘alterna-APEC‘ which ran Nov.4-20, 2011. AGGROculture, consisting of Margo Ray, Scott Yoell, Sally Lundburg and Keith Tallett, exhibited photographs from an ongoing collaborative project “The Rat and the Octopus”. The exhibition and forum was co-curated by Noelle Kahanu, Jaimey Hamilton and Rich Richardson, who’s goal was to “present alternative approaches to our regional economy, and creative recommendations to some of the world’s most powerful leaders. To coincide with the actual APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) conference (when the region’s leading businessmen and politicians will be in Honolulu to organize trade agreements, labor policies, and environmental guidelines), this exhibition and forum features art that creates a community dialog about how the APEC economy effects us and offers radical visualizations of how economic arrangements such as APEC affect us everyday. Local and internationally recognized artists and scholars will offer some explorations and possibilities for a viable ethical, culturally, and environmentally sustainable relationships in the Asia-Pacific economic community.”

LINKS

READ – David A.M. Goldberg’s review below – or at http://www.staradvertiser.com
SEE – images from AGGROculture’s collaborative project “The Rat and The Octopus”
FIND OUT – about alterna-APEC at www.globoflo.com/alternaapec/
LEARN MORE – The ARTS at Marks Garage -visit www.artsatmarks.com


“AGGROculture Collective relates APEC’s pursuit of trade liberalization to local struggles against the profit-driven and often foreign-based use of land and resources. “The Rat and the Octopus” is a triptych of photographs featuring two allegorical characters, the land speculator and the construction worker, and their magic economic ritual that turns land into a commodity. In the left panel, the phone-toting speculator wears a lime-green suit printed with a repeating pattern of handshakes and blooming dollar-flowers. The construction worker in the right panel exudes confidence in a stylized safety orange jumpsuit with reflective stripes. In between the two shake hands to seal the unspecified deal for the coastline behind them.”

David A.M. Goldberg, Honolulu Star-Advertiser – 11.20.11


APECalypse Now?

Artists explore the effects of free trade on the land and the disenfranchised

By David A.M. Goldberg / Special to the Star-Advertiser

The Nov. 9 edition of the Hono­lulu Star-Advertiser included a four-page “everything you need to know about APEC” spread: an essay, crib notes and info-graphics backed by a digital photo collage by Bryant Fukutomi. Glass fishing floats of various sizes, each one representing a “member economy,” were arranged on a local beach, with the word “APEC” written in the sand.

This arrangement of baubles at the water line is a perfect visual symbol for the arrival and departure of APEC’s representative groups. But the artists, activists, community members and scholars who collaborated on the “alterna-APEC” show at The ARTS at Marks Garage present a fundamentally different perspective on what APEC meant to Hawaii and the world.

Co-curated by Noelle Kahanu, Jaimey Hamilton and Rich Richardson, the exhibition is united by a strategy of presenting bold, accessible images and ideas through painting, sculpture, photography and graphic design. The works challenge the idea that APEC’s goal of reducing barriers to the circulation of money, labor and resources (together called “trade liberalization”) is an inherently good thing.

Keiko Bonk replaces the prayers in flags from the Tibetan and Nepalese tradition with QR codes — those patterns of dots or squares that smartphones can decode. Each is accompanied by a simple assertion, such as “corporations are not people” and “economy is not sacred.” Because QR codes are part of corporate advertising tactics that link to websites, Bonk is playing with the idea that the forces we engage and worship are economic entities, not spiritual ones.

Eating in Public also uses recognizable elements to inform its work. The collective’s public workshops encouraged participants to print anti-APEC slogans on old T-shirts. Two are on display here. One is a tie-dye pattern that evokes Mickey Mouse (and thereby Disney’s Aulani resort) with the equation “APEC = land-theft” printed over it. The other features a blond female lifeguard obstructed by the words “welcome APEC welcome PILAU.” If these sentiments seem hostile or surprising, Eating in Public’s free “SAME ENEMY SAME FIGHT” booklet offers visitors a broader context than the general media.

The AGGROculture Collective relates APEC’s pursuit of trade liberalization to local struggles against the profit-driven and often foreign-based use of land and resources. “The Rat and the Octopus” is a triptych of photographs featuring two allegorical characters, the land speculator and the construction worker, and their magic economic ritual that turns land into a commodity. In the left panel, the phone-toting speculator wears a lime-green suit printed with a repeating pattern of handshakes and blooming dollar-flowers. The construction worker in the right panel exudes confidence in a stylized safety orange jumpsuit with reflective stripes. In between the two shake hands to seal the unspecified deal for the coastline behind them.

The “Passionista! Undressing Globalization and Militarism” fashion show also address the artistic and critical role that clothing can play. APEC has a tradition of chief representatives posing for a “class photo” dressed in the traditional garb of the host economy. “Passionista!” inverts this performance by designing clothes assembled from the lives of the women who work the low-wage outsourced jobs that often emerge from free-trade agreements. Hybrids of traditional garments from countries such as Peru, Mexico, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines invite us to unite the stories of many different women in one narrative of resistance to exploitation.

Representing Papua New Guinea, the least developed of the “member economies,” painter Jeffrey Feeger addresses his country’s informal economic practices. “My Lovely Market” is a deceptively accessible portrait of a woman selling her meager stock of fruit, cigarettes and vegetables. Feeger explains that his country’s government is ill equipped to deal with the multinational powers seeking access to valuable forest products, minerals and labor. By painting these women, using an innovative technique that favors the use of hands and fingers over brushes, Feeger documents a culture at the edge of trade liberalization.

We might benefit from taking a similar look at ourselves. Now that APEC is over, we might ask, What happened? Probably before the “new nonlethal weaponry smell” in the Hono­lulu Police Department’s updated arsenal could fade, Kollin Elderts was shot and killed by U.S. diplomatic security agent Christopher Deedy. The Elderts family suffered more than we who merely coped with desert camouflage Hummers blocking streets and onramps, and the local business owners who languished in secured zones.

President Barack Obama and hundreds of business representatives, foreign dignitaries and heads of state came and went like glass floats. The visitor industry is going over the receipts, minus some of the general excise and hotel room taxes. Compared with the massive anti-APEC public responses triggered by earlier meetings held in South Korea, Japan and Australia, Hawaii’s geographic isolation proved advantageous to conference participants.

Fortunately, we have courageous artists willing to weigh their values against those that are determined exclusively by economic assessment.


David A.M. Goldberg . “APECalypse Now?”StarAdvertiser, 20 Nov. 2011.http://www.staradvertiser.com/s?action=login&f=y.