Screening: The Hoover Diaries, by Amanda Newall

 

As a part of Kensington & Chelsea Art Weekend — in parallel with Hotel Jaguar exhibition of works by Amanda Newall — we had a screening of Newall’s Hover Diaries film, followed by artist’s tour. Connecting three seemingly disparate events that occurred during the artists’ teenage years in 1980s Timaru, the film is a reflection on the lingering resonance of life-changing events for individuals and communities in an era of radical economic reform.

 

The Hoover Diaries is a new 45-minute film by Stockholm-based New Zealand artist Amanda Newall. Connecting three seemingly disparate events that occurred during the artists’ teenage years in 1980s Timaru, the film is a reflection on the lingering resonance of life-changing events for individuals and communities in an era of radical economic reform.

 

Made over the course of 18 months in New Zealand, Newall describes The Hoover Diaries an ‘anti-documentary’. Instead of getting close up to the crime, its personalities and their motives, the film revolves around the circumstantial evidence of what it was like to live as an adolescent girl in the small town of Timaru in the mid- 1980s. Alongside archival newscasts, live music footage and political reportage, the director revisits the town, the fishermen recount the quota system, one victims’ mother recalls the homicides, and Andrew Fagan and the People restage the 1980s matinee gig. The result is a montage of interconnected memorabilia, anecdotes and other suggestive devices, delivered by survivors who bear witness to both sides of history. Although The Hoover Diaries addresses a series of historical events, Newall says her intention was to form a background to the discussion about neoliberalism in New Zealand today. “The Hoover Diaries was made to pose questions about the shift of ownership of fish rights from local fishing companies to corporations. Today only 3% of the total New Zealand fishing rights remain with owner-operator fishermen. I wanted to make the point that these systems often benefit only large companies”.

 

Newall’s own interest in the topic stems from her father’s dual employment in the 1980s as a monumental mason (making tombstones) and a fisherman. Both of her father’s occupations were affected by a brutal murder in Timaru in which two young men were killed in a dispute over stolen pigs. The men were later chopped up on a fishing boat and dumped at sea, only to be washed up in Caroline Bay. Around the same time, the 12 year-old Newall attended her first live music gig; The Mockers matinee gig in the Caroline Bay Hall; thus bringing a series of events full circle. In The Hoover Diaries all of these events come together as a series of humorous, confusing and indelible recollections made even more ungraspable by the passage of time. Newall playfully intertwines the themes together, instigating musician, solo sailor and pop star Andrew Fagan to perform in a full-body fish suit, later being interviewed by Newall herself, also clad head-to-toe in a costume of skin and scales. Throughout Newall’s film she deals with the events of her childhood with a playful sense of wit and humour, acknowledging the events of the past as both unsettling and bizarre.

 

- Amanda Newall and circuit.org.nz

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