New Zealand has been going to the Venice Biennale since 2001, declaring our internationalism. However, some of our chosen artists have taken the opportunity to tackle old themes of national identity, playing on the Biennale’s anachronistic national-pavilion structure, so reminiscent of World’s Fairs and Expos.
This Is New Zealand explores the role art has played in asserting, shaping, shifting, and questioning notions of national identity. It considers how our country has represented itself, and what those representations have included and excluded. It takes a critical look at the stories we have told ourselves—and the stories we have told others—about who we are.
This Is New Zealand re-presents Venice works (by Michael Stevenson, Michael Parekowhai, and Simon Denny), alongside New Zealand works created for World’s Fairs, Expos, and other diplomatic contexts (by Marcus King, John Drawbridge, Inia Te Wiata, Hugh Macdonald, Para Matchitt, Douglas Lilburn, and Fiona Pardington), and films, TV ads, and early tourism campaigns. There are also new projects exploring national iconography (by Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, Gavin Hipkins, and Emil McAvoy).
The show borrows its title from one of the key works—the spectacular three-screen film made by Hugh Macdonald at the National Film Unit for the New Zealand pavilion at Osaka's Expo '70.