Assay / Essay: Artist-run in Aotearoa New Zealand

"The idea was simple: a publication looking at artist-run spaces in Aotearoa New Zealand.  And even in that first statement, just in the words I used, the complexity of the territory began to reveal itself." 

Please (belatedly) welcome into glorious spiral-bound-paper-and-ink form Assay / Essay: Artist-run in Aotearoa New Zealand

With contributions from founders, trustees, curators and observers of artist-runs, Assay / Essay teases out some of the rich area that comprises New Zealand’s past and present artist-run activity, showcasing how invaluable artist-runs are to art in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Please enjoy a snippet from each of the essays below and then go buy yourself a copy from the Enjoy website by ... following this link!  It will be a graceful addition to your bookcase for decades to come.


Keir Leslie Artificial Paradises: Christchurch 2012-2016

These problems are not purely academic or personal. If an independent arts sector is to exist in Christchurch, not as a branch of social welfare work or industrial policy or urban regeneration, but as an autonomous community of practice, then it is essential that funding decisions are made based on professional artistic standards, not on feel-good vibes.


Emma Bugden Hybrid Practices: Artist-Run Spaces and Money

Perhaps shapeshifting is the point. Artists can, and do, adopt and shrug off personas with ease. Galleries, it seems, can too. And, in a neo-liberal climate that demands increasing transparency of operation, it’s the very slipperiness of these models, their refusal to be one thing or the other, that challenges us.


K. Emma Ng

Artist-run spaces are often Frankenstein in nature: mutated organisations held together by the spit, love, tears and oily rags of many, who come together in shifting configurations. As a collective endeavour, the memory of an art space can be hard to retain. Institutional knowledge ebbs and flows, and an art space’s physical archive might range from a collection of miscellaneous posters kept rolled in the cupboard, to the immaculately labelled file boxes of RM. More often than not, the history of an artist-run space is held in fragments—small books, ephemera and, now, dispersed through online event listings.


Lauren Gutsell On Board

I have often found myself in thought-provoking discussions surrounding the Blue Oyster and the community’s perception of its role and function, including: what does it really mean to be experimental? Do you have to be emerging to be experimental? Are experimental and emerging the same thing? What defines a not-for-profit space? What is the difference between a project space and an artist-run space? And what does the Board of Trustees actually do? When invited to write this text, with the aim of demystifying the role of a Board of Trustees, it seemed like a fitting opportunity to put words together in response to some of these questions.


The full list of contributors is: Grace Ryder, K. Emma Ng, Daphne Simons, Lauren Gutsell, Dog Park Art Project Space (Chloe Geoghegan and Ella Sutherland), North Projects (Grace Ryder, Sophie Davis and Sophie Bannan), Keir Leslie, Robbie Fraser, Emma Bugden and Karl Bayly, with page works by Yolunda Hickman.

Assay / Essay was designed by the clever, talented and extremely patient Ashley Keen.

Chartwell Trust and Enjoy Public Art Gallery supported me to edit, produce and publish this book.  My appreciation for the financial, editorial and personal support I received from both knows no bounds.