Lauren Berlant’s seminal book Cruel Optimism (2011) has been chosen as a conceptual curatorial substructure for the 2021 new artists programme. Berlant’s pathbreaking scholarship is said to have defined the fields of affect theory, heteronormativity and queer theory. Cruel Optimism both as a text but also as a title seeks to offer an open conceptual beginning for artists and writers to respond to.
“Cruel optimism exists when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing. It might involve food, or a kind of love; it might be a fantasy of the good life, or a political project. It might rest on something simpler, too, like a new habit that promises to induce in you an improved way of being. These kinds of optimistic relations are not inherently cruel. They become cruel only when the object that draws your attachment actively impedes the aim that brought you to it initially."
— Berlant, Lauren. Cruel Optimism. Duke University Press, 2011.
The annual new artists programme is a core fundamental of our organisation's kaupapa to advocate for creative innovation within the field of contemporary art in Aotearoa. As an organisation we strive to actively provide a platform for emerging artists to exhibit and advance their practices with support from the Artspace Aotearoa curatorial and production team.
Breeded and birthed in Tāmaki Makaurau, this practice falls along the failures of a necropolitical factory of transgenderist-homoheterosexualising-monstrous-dissident-taniwha-of-the-western-binary-of-sexual-difference-and-an-enemy-of-the-country-colony-and-crown.
Connor Fitzgerald is an artist and writer based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, working mostly in video and poetry. A constant within their research is themself, her transness, their body, and the centering of these overlapping entities within the wider context of her surroundings. Through this they hope to open opportunities for grounding processes, both for herself and those around them.
Priscilla Rose Howe
Priscilla Rose Howe is an artist based in Ōtautahi. Her practice examines phenomenology and queerness through pencil renderings of figurative scenes that are often supernatural and otherworldly.
Xi Li is an artist from Harbin, China, based in Tāmaki Makaurau. Her multidisciplinary practice involves 3D animation, film, VR and game design to explore various experimental concepts through philosophical frameworks, with a particular interest in identity, ideology, subcultures, popular aesthetics and social commentary. Li is committed to blending Western and Eastern visual imagery, capturing the wonderful fusion of macroscopic thinking and subjective perception.
Ming Ranginui (Te Ati Haunui-a-Pāpārangi) is an artist born and currently residing in Whanganui. Her kitsch sculptural works explore transformation and autonomy. Appropriating crafts she thinks her Nana would take up, she makes tapu things that were once practical.
Obadiah Russon is an artist based in Tāmaki Makaurau. Her work centres around the spiritual and existential impact of technology and the internet. Ranging from video, imaging making and sculpture, her work uncovers the emotions and subjectivities of these influences on the body and intentions of performance.
Anto Yeldezian is an artist and designer based in Tāmaki Makaurau. He began exploring painting following a timely departure from the architecture industry at the close of 2019. The lockdown pastime that was rooted in his childhood became his full-time obsession, self-teaching through online resources. The emerging visual art practice is multi-disciplinary, framed by his design sensibility and the dualistic lens of his immigrant upbringing.
Cruel Optimism is generously supported by The Chartwell Foundation. Our core funders are Creative New Zealand, Foundation North and Auckland Council.