NZ Art Parallels: the greatest hits of March

NZ Art Parallels is the Twitter account which reveals the hidden connections between world art history and New Zealand politics and media. Now NZ Art Parallels has joined The Spinoff for a monthly column collecting the best parallels from Twitter and exclusive Spinoff-only content.

In March there was something happening of media significance nearly every day, the highlight – and lowlight it could be said – being the visit of President Obama, here to party. There was the Pacific Mission trip, Ed Sheeran had scones with Jacinda Ardern in one of the most middle-class things ever, and Speaker Mallard held up many children, like our very own parliamentary Mufasa. Here’s some of the highlights from the @NZAHParallels account.

The Spinoff Featured Parallel of the Month

Clare Curran on Vote Chat / Pablo Picasso, Dora Maar Seated, 1938.

(Image: University of Otago Politics Department)

The Minister for Open Government was in hot water last week. The breaking news of Carol Hirschfeld and Clare Curran’s informal meeting at Astoria led many to wonder what the definition of openness was, and what was the best place to have a dodgy-sounding informal but very visible meet-up in Wellington? On Twitter, some suggested Auckland was by far the safest option, and Mr Bun got an honourable mention.

Curran is paralleled here with Pablo Picasso’s Dora Maar Seated, because Picasso liked to distort reality, or as he put it “remove all traces of reality.” Sadly, the Official Information Act didn’t remove all traces of reality for Curran and Hirschfeld, as their texts arranging the meet-up were made public.

But go Caffe Astoria! May you continue to make a killing in flat whites and ‘feta brick in crispy pastry’ going forward.

Most Popular Parallel

Tweet link: https://twitter.com/NZAHParallels/status/971603867128377344

Winston Peters’ pōtae and traditional dress on his trip to Atapare Marae was as eye-catching as his wry, all-knowing, gate-keeping smile. The explosion of colour was almost Fauvist, but the Russian Expressionist Jawlensky work seemed a nice fit. This incredible photograph by Sa Chadwick was a total stand-out of the prime minister and her deputy’s five-day Pacific Mission; this here Parallels account wouldn’t exist without such genius.

Uncanny Resemblance of the Month

Tweet link: https://twitter.com/NZAHParallels/status/963970367554400257

Jacinda Ardern’s little foray into Vogue drew different reactions; how did she account for the time spent on a photoshoot instead of running the country (pregnant!), shouted a couple of dudes over on Twitter. Yes, she did look like she was about to debut in a tedious lady-cop murder-mystery TV show, but actually, this shot portrays Ardern as quite isolated, as she actually is. There was a highly romanticised element to this Derek Henderson portrait, as there also is in the Gericault work of a small child, with the cloudscapes in both telling us part of the story too.

Competition of the Month

Tweet link: https://twitter.com/NZAHParallels/status/961857423714627584

Waitangi Day. It’s interesting how Waitangi can be found at 35.2706° S, 174.0797° E, and yet somehow on the day, Bill English and posse found themselves at 46.5996° S, 168.3457° E.

The epic photo opportunity of National MPs standing in front of the AA signs awkwardly in Bluff, all dressed the same, was perfect for a competition, and the entries were predictably hilarious. Some entries were already commenting on the impending ‘coup’ or resignation, at least, of English. Others used the drowning metaphor, like one of the winners, here. Overall, I don’t even think National would look back on this photo and think it was a memorable moment on such an important day. Even so, National’s at times unintentionally comedic social media presence is the bread and butter of this account, so thank you for all of your cringeworthy pics, Bill.

The thread of entries is here.

The David Seymour Series

Tweet link: https://twitter.com/NZAHParallels/status/968315494406107136

I sometimes wonder about Seymour’s daily routine.

  1. Get up and put the heater on, the one next to the yellow couch
  2. Dance practice
  3. Cup of Chanui
  4. Attend Orientation Week, make new friends in the Meat Club, fry some meat.

You know, that sort of thing. Seymour featured quite prominently on this account in the last two months, from attending the Pride Parade, to buying a big-arse protest speaker, to featuring on one of the very strangest pieces of political advertising I’ve ever seen, Young Act’s ‘fan art’ version of a muscle-bound Seymour. Maybe they were just trying to show how ironic they can be, that “you don’t have to be crazy to work there, but it sure helps”.

Seymour saw nothing wrong with posting an Instagram picture of himself wearing a naked-lady t-shirt. As a politician. Plenty did, but Seymour fought back with his usual First Speaker of the Affirmative Team, Premier A Division-style of arguing, thus completely missing the bus on the current dialogue around misogynistic practices in this country.

The Speaker Holds A Child Parallel of the Month

Tweet link: https://twitter.com/NZAHParallels/status/969007822192046080

Basically a new category this month for Speaker Mallard, who holds babies or children wherever possible, to the point where it’s getting annoying. However, with at least two more babies on the way in the House, let’s see just how many different artworks we can dredge up to parallel his efforts. By the end of this first term, there’ll be hardly any left to use, and Mallard will need to install extra robot arms to accommodate all the fertility.

Resignation of the Month

Tweet link: https://twitter.com/NZAHParallels/status/970870207114702849

New category!

Steven Joyce and his $11.7b magic hole. How many rounds of Twitter did the same joke get circulated. Poor Joyce, exiting Caucus and indeed politics entirely to spend time with family, something that usually translates as “I’ve been appointed to a Board”, but Joyce really meant it.

The hole will never be lived down, and Drummond’s work literally echoes that, sevenfold.

New Job Description of the Month

Tweet link: https://twitter.com/NZAHParallels/status/968274132755345408

Another new category.

Smugness was the winner on the day as Simon Bridges was voted to new-leader status by his peers. Here he’s matched with Salvator Mundi, with obvious parallels to a Messiah-figure, saviour of National and a fresh new face bringing a message of hope and ever since then, it’s been nothing but petulant snipes at the Labour-led coalition. Noticeably, Bridges is even more visible on social media platforms, and at cultural events. It’s possible he has a way to go in the cult-of-personality stakes, but in the interim, the next two years and seven months are going to be AWESOME to watch.

Outfit of the month

Tweet link: https://twitter.com/NZAHParallels/status/971952436423176192

Steve Braunias captured this marvel of tailoring at the New Zealand Festival. Journalist Matt Nippert looks like the kind of guy you’ll always find in the kitchen at parties, in a good way. The parallel was clear: crumpled, ill-fitting brown suit, so voluminous that it spills across and envelops a chair, and captures the heart of the audience.

Uncanny resemblance of the Month #2

Tweet link: https://twitter.com/NZAHParallels/status/977767991055065089

JuCo in this yellow silk jacket with statement necklace and statement “I’m about eleven steps ahead of you” expression paired well with this Gunn portrait. Or did it? Some thought otherwise, that it was too complimentary.

Gunn reinvented himself from a painter of some mediocrity and found his feet in portraiture, having been a painter of what were considered fairly pedestrian landscapes. The reinvention was also fuelled by his new wife Pauline. Here she sits, eleven steps ahead of the viewer, in full control. The Daily Mail described this as “the Mona Lisa” of its time.

No one does an enigmatic smile better than Judith Collins though. No one.


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