For every creative leap there are hundreds of stumbles. But sometimes you make and make and make and at the end of it all everything you’ve made still needs work. So do you stop? Or do you nag yourself to keep on going?
Based around five years of obsessive daily to-do lists; constructed of ancient timber from a defunct mental institution and some very tricky wiring; set to a soundtrack on a gramophone and entirely powered by vintage racing bicycles, Nag mixes obsession, sweat, light, text, visual art, implicit statistical failure and humour into a coherent whole.
Presented by previous Fringe Visual Art award winners afterburner as part of The Performance Arcade 2011, Nag is an installation powered by the artists themselves that focuses on creative self-propulsion and takes sustainability to a bizarre and kafkaesque level. Nag first premiered in Fringe 2010, was nominated for best in both Visual Art and Design, and has since been re-engineered, redesigned and rebuilt to be more efficient and less prone to catching fire.
During the day Nag uses it’s mix of vintage technology and electronics to explore the obsessive desire to create, and during the afternoon and evening the artists will use the installation itself as a studio to produce and produce and produce non-stop, and even to create things for their audience. All the while riding vintage bicycles to power the installation and their equipment, and so running the risk of failure if they slow down.
Ceaseless self-propulsion being one way to deal with projects that never finish, with drawings that never look right, with ideas that go nowhere. Don’t examine. Don’t slow down. Just nag yourself to make and make and make and make.
The Performance Arcade
On the sea-side of Te Papa
Well, if all thoz darkies workin 80 hour weeks in call centres & saving for scooters or wotever wanna call us up for once & ask us how we got our jobs when we’re too thick to speak Bengali, if they want our 4wds, ipads, townhouses, weekends & degrees in making up the rules, if they wanna reverse the charges or the tables on us well it’s too late, mate, innit? Cos they have to stop bein selfish now wid their exploding populations & tiger economies & wotnot becuz the worlds fucked & we all have to share the responsibility togetha, eh?
In some arts circles “Craft” is a dirty word. Circles of idiots, I fear. If you wish to understand a medium, work with it. There is no way in which working with your hands makes the work your head does less valid & the best practicioners of the things we term fine arts speak of what they do as their craft. I don’t trust architects who can’t build, writers who don’t read, or artists who can’t realise their own work. Those who scorn craft scorn it in the same way that the illiterate scorn literature. It’s not scorn. It’s ignorance.
THERE IS A WAR ON BETWEEN RIGHT & LEFT, CONSERVATIVE & LIBERAL, OLD & NEW. BUT WHEN WE DRAW OUR BATTLE LINES OVER ECOLOGICAL DIVIDES AS WELL AS IDEOLOGICAL ONES WE FORCE PEOPLE TO CHOSE IDEOLOGY OVER SENSE IN ORDER TO FIT IN. HUMANS AREN’T REALLY INDEPENDENT THINKERS, WE’RE HERD ANIMALS. WE THINK LIKE OUR FRIENDS IN ORDER TO BE THEIR FRIENDS, WE IDENTIFY WITH VEGETARIAN OR MEAT-LOVER, GREEN OR ACT, IN ORDER TO BELONG TO OUR CHOSEN TRIBE. BUT SOME ISSUES SIT ABOVE SIMPLE IDEOLOGY. NONE OF US SHOULD LIVE AS IF THERE’S NO TOMMORROW. OR THERE WON’T BE.
We pay export prices for fresh food that we produce. An avocado is now an investment & frozen food’s cheaper than fresh. Our two supermarket chains have ceased to compete and found ways to “add value” to one of the last unprocessed things in our lives. Someone’s making a lot of money out of what goes from our fields to our tables. And now our government wants to regulate farmers markets, the last chink in the wall, the last way we can meet the people who actually grow the food we eat. Who is this government? What do they eat?
Nag is open in aotea square finally. wrestling with the world’s most pathetic internet, giving, up, dying for a beer, switching to using a vodem so as to liberate us from the spastic internet that seems to be all that the edge can provide, sweating, writing, easing our asses to different parts of the seats, having stylistic arguments about writing, grumbling at each other, typing, flipping Rubber Soul back n forth on the record player, and generally being pretty silly.
The wgtn2040 project is open.
A little lumpy at first and a bit of a wobbly start last weekend, but by mid-week now most of the operational errors and quirks have been ironed out, the Nag tandem the Wellington City Council commissioned has stopped throwing it’s chain and blowing expensive lightbulbs (Not so very Eco), the final final final version of my text for all the projects has been approved by the council and printed, and none of the spelling mistakes are mine, and the only problem is fighting this dickensian weather howling through the city.
The mayor of Wellington, Celia Wade Brown, a keen cyclist herself, came down and gave the bike it’s inaugural ride to lunch the 2040 project.
So Nag is into it’s third incarnation, and if you’re around dixon street over the next month, day or night, you can come ride…
We’ve presented the performance part of Nag in the context of a sort of Edwardian adventure. As something new and amazing and exciting, although nearly everything in Nag is made of recycled materials and of old yet efficient technology.
There’s a reason for this. We all want to be people who lead exciting lives. Adventure narrative, which is often combative and colonial, is generally used to inspire people and to sell ideas. We’re told to “Discover” things that are well discovered already, to “Take up the challenge” of something laughably easy, to “Seize” things that are actually very mundane.
So we’re creating here our own little adventure for ourselves about sustainability and efficiency and art. It’s a very boys-own adventure. The sort of thing (again) that bored children dream about on hot days. Which is why what we’re doing has to be difficult. Which is why what we’re doing has to be a challenge. To be damn-near impossible. And I think it will be.
Onwards and upwards chaps! Forward, in the name of Art! Forward, into the very teeth of our own imaginations! We’re setting out to discover what we’re capable of.
It’s an expedition through the minds of Andrew Shaw and Marcus McShane with gun and camera!
This is going to be fun, however exhausting it’ll be.
So we’re playing here, and we’re also bound to fail. Play and failure are both good ways to learn things, so we’re committing to playing and we’re also committing to failure.
We’ve set ourselves up as experimenters. As art meets faux-science.
(I know enough scientists not to actually call this science. If I did I’d be in line for a scientific dead-arm)
We’re going to learn, but we’re only going to learn when things go wrong. We’re going to learn from our mistakes.
I sometimes think that people only learn from their mistakes.
If we function perfectly here, without failure, then we learn nothing. But if we fail, then we have to try again, and differently, and so learn from it.
So failure is something that we accept as a normal part of this process. In fact, most of you who are reading this will have failed to read this far. That’s normal too. This really is an exercise in literary exhaustion thinly disguised. Almost all the people who begin to read this are going to fail. Not you though. You’re amazing. Well done. You have a curious soul. So in your honour I’ll get to the point for once. Nag is an experiment in writing and drawing, and in how obsessive personalities get themselves to do such queer things. It’s going to fail, but it might be hilarious as it does so. We should learn something at least along the way, and perhaps there’ll even be a few shreds of good stuff. If you’ve got any suggestions, make them while we’re working and help us out. Otherwise we’ll just be sitting there writing and drawing about how weird it is to write and draw whilst riding a bicycle.
And who knows where that’ll end.
Nag is also a rather self-indulgent exploration of my obsessions and the things that I nag myself about. Writing, bicycles, efficiency, and old stuff.