Elisabeth Pointon is an artist who works at a car dealership. She tells of flatmates thinking her art is rubbish, being the favourite child, and really big words.
What role does the artist have in society?
My idea of that changes depending on my mood, but I guess the romantic figure of the artist may still prove useful in a world that is increasingly shaped by impersonal institutions. I really like what writer Priscilla Frank wrote in response to artist Terrence Koh’s 2016 work Bee Chapel, ‘(a)s an artist, one takes responsibility by making work, translating the darkness that plagues the world around us into brief spurts of beauty that can reach for understanding, and bring about comfort and hope’. Is that naff?
What’s the most memorable response you’ve had to your work?
The classic parental response – my mother and father walked into my show WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT. at play_station, welled up and pulled me into a group hug. I felt like I had made it, and I am definitely their favourite child.
The second is probably not so much a response, but just memorable. I was at Auckland Art Fair last year with play_station and my flatmates. I had organised a flyover of my text work BIG DEAL. across the Cloud and surrounding areas. I had to coordinate with the fair organisers to let them know that the plane was in sight so people could make their way to the viewing area. I got a panic call from my darling flatmate Haz Forrester telling me he could see my plane and to contact the organisers. So I did, and they made the announcement and people were making their way to the viewing platform. Haz, on his four hours sleep and in the middle of a meaty hangover, had mistaken a pigeon for my plane. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry but Haz made up for it though by calling me a second time when the plane was actually present and playing the song that goes with the original work down the phone line. As it was happening, I could see him dancing along.
Also, one time my friend Cooki mistook my art, which was stored in the nook between the hallway and the bathroom, for a pile of trash.
Also, someone once threw a rock through the window of my flat at my blimp which was hanging there. It’s been a year and a half, and the window is still broken. I reckon it was my flatmate Chris who did it.
What is your dream project?
I guess I have already done it. On Sunday the 20th of January 2019, I hired Auckland aerial advertising company Airbubble to fly from Papakurato One Tree Hill where it circled the area four times towing a red banner reading ‘SPECTACULAR.’.
It came out of the artist-equivalent of the ‘what would you do if you won lotto’ question which my flatmates like to discuss, basically what work or projects we’d want to do if money were no object. This work was my response. It references a project curated by Adam Shopkorn for the 2012 Art Basil Miami Beach fair titled Plane Text. It featured text works by 15 significant text artists. All but three artists were men and all but one were white.
I used the text ‘SPECTACULAR.’ as reference to the kind of stunt we were pulling, from advertisements at my workplace, and my dad who said to me while he was in hospital, ‘Now kid, go and make something truly spectacular.’ So I did.
What’s the last show that surprised you and why?
Queer Algorithms presented by Gus Fisher Gallery in Auckland. I was pretty overwhelmed to see so much queer representation in one show, and I was pretty affected by Aliyah Winter’s work Speaking without words. I first saw this video as part of the 2019 Hobiennale, and to see it again was incredible. I had a wee cry into my coffee, and was just so taken aback by how beautifully and generously executed everything about that work is. I guess it just goes to show that good art will tickle you time and time again.
How does your work comment on current social or political issues?
I draw from my experiences in the workplace at a luxury car dealership. Language, accessibility, visibility, and representation have been continued interests in my practise. As a queer, Pakeha and Indian artist, my position in a traditionally white and masculine-led environment mirrors the experiences of many minorities in the workplace, which in turn mirrors the experience of many minorities in the art world. I like to question who gets to speak, how, where, and why.
Who is your favourite New Zealand artist and why?
Lisa Martin – she makes a series of tea towel works called Dissues. Does anyone else ever look at a work and you wish you had thought of it? That’s how I feel when I see them. She hand sews them, then hand writes (with her left hand) really punchy texts and slogans. Some of them are threatening, some are commemorative, some are self-celebratory, and some are just surreal. She’s taking an extended break from art at the moment – massive power move.
Chris Ulutupu’s video works are really something, and he’s easily a favourite. His works over the past few years include family and friends, and his ethos of taking your community up with you is a real touchstone for my practice.
What quote or saying do people say that you think is complete BS?
‘My work exists at the intersection of art and technology.’
What is something your brain tries to make you do you have to will yourself not to do?
Bite the tip of Lisa’s nose.
Money is no object. Which priceless art work do you buy?
To be completely frank I would just pay Robbie Handcock for the paintings of his I have hoarded/stored in my bedroom.
Images courtesy of the artist and City Gallery Wellington