Wellington Scoop

Film Archive: Typical Girls – 7 video artists

Press Release – New Zealand Film Archive
Curated by Bryce Galloway
“Typical girls get upset too quickly
Typical girls can’t control themselves
Typical girls are so confusing
Typical girls – you can always tell”

That’s Typical Girls according to all-girl 70s punkers The Slits, though we’re sure they’d be delighted to hear that a show of the same name presents girls (women really) who’re more likely to perform Freddie Mercury impersonations or odd stunts with pubic hair. Typical Girls brings together seven female video artists from Wellington: Sarah Jane Parton, Bek Coogan, Gemma Syme, Emily Jolliffe, Erica Sklenars, Claire Harris and Natalie Ellen-Eliza. All are artists that curator Bryce Galloway realised had something in common. All play with gender stereotypes, consciously or otherwise, and utilise self-deprecating humour as they perform to video.

Galloway feels that increasingly mediated beauty standards, and the contemporary cult-of-youth within hypercapitalism, are mocking earlier feminist achievements. “The time is right for a show like Typical Girls, by women who twist current female stereotypes in a way that is both playful and empowering.”

Galloway, a multi-media artist and lecturer at Massey Wellington’s School of Fine Arts is perhaps best known for his work in the 90s with lo-fi art pop group Wendyhouse and his more recent fanzine Incredibly Hot Sex with Hideous People. In 2011 Galloway’s zine was anthologised into a single publication by Auckland art books publisher Clouds. Galloway also co-organizes Wellington Zinefest, held each year in November and has always been interested in things lo-fi.

Typical Girls represents Galloway’s first foray into curation. Galloway’s own videos deal with similar issues as the artists in Typical Girls, though from a male perspective. Six of the artists are graduates of Massey University’s School of Fine Arts, while the seventh is a current student. Galloway lectures at the same institution where he met many of the women whose work he is now curating into a show as the work of peers and fellow artists.

Natalie Ellen-Eliza is the 2011 DEBLYN artist-in-residence at Toi Poneke Arts Centre. Eliza completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Hons) with First Class honours from Massey University and was awarded Massey Scholar 2010.

Emily Joliffe is currently in the 3rd year of her BFA at Massey University and works across sculpture, video and performance. Her endurance based video performances usually explore physical limitations of the body and a beer can.

Claire Harris’ background is in photography and self-published indie comics. Her current practise includes narrative media such as video, installation and live performance, with an emphasis on fan made/home made objects and fan and celebrity cultures.

Gemma Syme has completed a Masters in Fine Arts at Massey University, Wellington and through her work engages with concepts of gender without holding onto lingering binarisms, playfully complicating conventional sex differences.

Sarah Jane Parton graduated with an honours degree in Timebased Art from Massey University in 2003, showing and and performing work here in New Zealand, and in Australia, Europe, Asia and the United States.

Bek Coogan holds a MFA from Massey University Wellington 2004, and a BFA from Wanganui Regional Community Polytechnic 1999. Coogan works in a variety of media, including live performance, music, video, gallery installation, photography, drawing and collage.

Erica Sklenars completed her MFA in 2011 at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand. She currently lives and works in Berlin. Sklenars works predominantly in the mediums of performance and video with a low-fi aesthetic, examining the dynamic of humour in contemporary feminism, investigating social conventions and the absurdity of human existence.

Bryce Galloway says, “I love the work of these seven artists, and once I’d recognised the commonalities in what they do, I figured they should meet under a single banner.”

The show’s title was chosen because The Slits embodied an aggressive reworking of 1970s “womanhood” with all the anarchic absurdity of early punk. The Slits are cited by many as the antecedents to more familiar female voices in popular culture.

Typical Girl’s Bek Coogan was lucky enough to interview The Slits‘ lead singer Ari Up for radio NZ before the singer’s death in 2010. A portion of this interview is transcribed for the exhibition’s catalogue, available free from the New Zealand Film Archive during the show.

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