City Gallery City Gallery Wellington

Past exhibition

Dancing in the Streets

30 March–28 April 1985

ARTISTS Peter Black, Mark Scott PUBLICATION Street Action Aotearoa photos Peter Black, text Mark Scott

In the summer of 1984, Wellington photographer Peter Black tours the North Island with writer Mark Scott, photographing kids ‘dancing on the streets’ of Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, and Wellington, to produce a photo essay for Scott’s book Street Action Aotearoa. Shot ‘from the hip’ on a 35mm camera with a wide-angle lens, Black's black-and-white photos capture local dance teams—including the Megazoids, Te Puke United, and the Midtown Breakers—performing in malls and outside takeaway bars. In the show, Black’s laminated photos are displayed alongside quotes from Scott.

In the book’s introduction, Scott writes: ‘This book is about more than bop or break-dance, it’s about all the forgotten kids of Aotearoa and their fight for a place in the Polynesia of the 1980s.’ However, Dancing in the Streets commemorates bop just as it is disappearing from New Zealand’s streets. The irony is not lost on Evening Post critic Ian Wedde, who writes: ‘So now that it’s all over … it ends up in an art gallery.’

As part of the show, exhibition coordinator George Hubbard commissions graffiti murals by Kosmo and a performance by dancer-skater George Manakau. He also organises Friday-night break dancing competitions with prizes sponsored by local businesses. Hubbard writes, ‘Break dancing and break music are intrinsically of urban black origin. However, with the mass-commercial interest in break dancing and the technological developments over the last seven years, break music has sustained more global attention than break dancing itself … As a result, the majority of hip-hop records are released on white owned and produced labels.’

Peter Black will be a key figure in the City Gallery programme. Dancing in the Streets is his second Gallery show, and, in 2003, the Gallery will mount Real Fiction, surveying thirty-five years of his work. Hubbard will go on to curate important exhibitions, including Choice! (Artspace, Auckland, 1990) and Stop Making Sense (City Gallery Wellington, 1995).

Dancing in the Streets is shown alongside Dusty, photographic portraits of Wellington dustmen made in 1984 by freelance photographer Jan Nauta.