Seven years on, Environment Canterbury (Ecan) is yet to return to full democracy but surely its chief executive Bill Bayfield can at least pretend democracy matters by not rejecting an artistic expression of a legitimate protest.
The giant squatting statute of Nick Smith is due to be unveiled outside the Ecan building tomorrow morning.
Yes, I accept that some people will find it offensive, but the right to offend those in power is an integral part of the right to free speech and therefore an integral part of our democratic right.
I admire Sam Mahon’s art for the strength and staying power of its message.
How can we look at Nick Smith ever again without being reminded of the woeful degradation of New Zealand water under his watch?
Protest art, as a style to relay a message to the public, has a proud history.
Picasso’s 1937 mural-sized Guernica is regarded as one of the most moving and effective anti-war paintings in the world.
In April last year, a series of sculptures depicting Donald Trump in nude apperaed in five cities in the US.
The sculptures titled “The Emperor Has No Balls” showed stern looking Donald Trump with a pot belly, “saggy butt”, small penis and of course no testicles.
Through their art, the sculptures’ creators, anarchist collective Indecline, provided a powerful artistic challenge to Trump’s personal brand and his narrative as a powerful boss.
Any art that aims to affect change by raising consciousness and addressing socio-political issues has to be celebrated and encouraged.
In the past 30 years, some of the most critically effective forms of art have been displayed outside the traditional museum space.
Think of the work of political activist and graffiti artist Banksy and its impact on exposing the injustices of militarism and inequality- or the work of Chinese contemporary artist and activist, Ai Weiwei, on promoting democracy and human rights.
This new approach to art is of particular importance at the time when art is failing to reach and connect with the wider public, especially those who are disfranchised and marginalized.
Sam Mahon’s giant sculpture of Nick Smith is art at its best: it is powerful and speaks to an important issue.
I hope the sculpture will find a permanent home in a public place so it can continue to foster dialogue around the important issue of keeping New Zealand clean and green.