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Anna Rankin’s Billboards of Innovative Poetry

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Anna Rankin, hail to, 2017, (installation view) commissioned by Te Tuhi, Auckland. Photo by Sam Hartnett Anna Rankin, hail to, 2017, (detail) commissioned by Te Tuhi, Auckland. Photo by Sam Hartnett Anna Rankin, hail to, 2017, (detail) commissioned by Te Tuhi, Auckland. Photo by Sam Hartnett Anna Rankin, hail to, 2017, (detail) commissioned by Te Tuhi, Auckland. Photo by Sam Hartnett

While this is surely a well worked theme, combined with the unexpected raw imagery and tentatively casual text it becomes refreshing. And even though current advertising often presents a fake rebellious ‘deconstruction' to lure in the youth market, these images on a busy street can't be mistaken for promotion. Their grungy ‘incoherence' is obviously strange for passing drivers who rarely will be aware of their status as art and/or literature.

Auckland

 

Anna Rankin
hail to

 

18 November 2017 - 25 February 2018

Poet, artist and editor Anna Rankin is a Kiwi currently living in Los Angeles.  At Te Tuhi she presents three billboards on Reeves Road that fool around with image and text, delighting in a slipperiness that undermines any creeping assumptions that you might gormlessly be about to embrace. Text and image are hard to separate, hard to determine, hard to ignore, hard to pin down to a single source. Yet blending image and text is not as radical as might think. Poets like Fiona Templeton, Leslie Scalapino, Tina Darragh and Steve McCaffery have been working in this fashion for many years.

Read from left to right, Rankin’s written-on photgraphs make an amusing, witty sequence dealing with multi-body selfhood, determined heroism, multiple layered photography and partially-articulated language, effortlessly straddling both visual nous and allusions to literature. They are scruffy looking and seem accidental.

However minimal means are used to maximum effect. The more you look the more you realise the work has been planned out very carefully. The ‘sloppy’ or ‘ad hoc’ look (such as shadow obscuring the text) has been meticulously engineered.

The first hoarding is a photograph shot through a top floor window overlooking a rooftop, the second a double exposed image of a woman’s legs and shoes, the third of a long-haired bearded man holding a camera reflected in a rectangular mirror lying on an asphalt footpath.

The first piece of writing, done with lipstick on the window glass, starts badly (the text won’t stick) and takes two attempts: broken a…     broken arm   built my tower     erect a flag      I hail myself.

To me, it seems to reference both McCahon’s Let be, let be (Elias series), 1959, with its double start and scratchy cursive script, and Bill Morgan’s well known biography of Allen Ginsberg, I Celebrate Myself (2006) which in its title quotes Whitman.

The second billboard again starts by being inarticulate. The first word is entirely indecipherable in its blurred gesturality, the second says ‘feeling,’ and the third and last says ‘cresting’, implying an exuberant ornamentation:…___feeling cresting

Rankin’s last billboard says don’t get too cocky: u are but dust and to dust you shall return. Don’t delude yourself about your importance. Your time here is brief.

While this is surely a well worked theme, combined with the unexpected raw imagery and tentatively casual text it becomes refreshing. And even though current advertising often presents a fake rebellious ‘deconstruction’ to lure in the youth market, these images on a busy street can’t be mistaken for promotion. Their grungy ‘incoherence’ is obviously strange for passing drivers who rarely will be aware of their status as art and/or literature.

Exceptionally interesting urban poetry from Te Tuhi.

John Hurrell

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