Matt Ritani, If you have nothing nice to say, 2019

If you have nothing nice to say Matt Ritani

4 May 2019 - 8 June 2019

Blue Oyster is pleased to present If you have nothing nice to say, a new solo exhibition by artist and designer, Matt Ritani. Developed over the course of 18 months, this exhibition spans across both gallery spaces to include sculpture, installation and sound, all developed through the manipulation of text found in public spaces, and includes existing fragments of poetry, pop songs, journal articles and novels. The central, conglomerate text created by Ritani with support from Gregory Kan is presented as an audio recording performed by Neenah Dekkers-Reihana, please click here to listen. Accompanying the exhibition we are proud to present new writing from Jessie Puru, a poet based in Tāmaki Makaurau, please click here to view.

If you have nothing nice to say considers the notion of empathy in public spaces; text and audio are used to explore the act of public platitude, as seen on people’s bodies, clothing and transportation. Here, public platitude can be read as an acknowledgement of a love, or deep care for someone or something or a cry for interaction. For those who self identify through text in the public realm, whether the wearer or driver of this self-expression, If you have nothing nice to say seeks to see, acknowledge and respond.

Matt Ritani (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Irish) is a Pōneke-based artist and designer who graduated with a Master of Architecture (Professional) from Victoria University of Wellington, School of Architecture and Design, Aotearoa in 2015. Recent exhibitions include: The house we built, play_station, Te Whanganui-a-tara (2018); Laminal Interfaces, with Hannah Hallam-Eames, Window Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau (2016), Belly of the Beast, Brick Bay Folly, Brick Bay Sculpture Trail, Matakana (2015).

Jessie Puru is a Māori/Pākehā poet from Tāmaki Makaurau. She is currently studying a Master of Creative Writing degree at Auckland University of Technology and is working on her first collection of poems. Jessie’s work has been published in journals including Landfall, Blackmail Press, Ika, and Poetry Magazine.  

Public Programme

On Empathy: A Workshop Panel
Saturday 8 June, 2019
Dunningham Suite, level 4, Dunedin Public Library
Workshop: 1:00 pm–1:45 pm, followed by tea and coffee
Join the Facebook event
Free to attend, all are welcome.

Please join the artist, Matt Ritani, at Blue Oyster Art Project Space, 16 Dowling St, Dunedin, at 12:00 noon to view the exhibition prior to walking to the Dunedin Public Library for the workshop.

To accompany If you have nothing nice to say, a new solo exhibition by artist and designer Matt Ritani, Blue Oyster invites you On Empathy: A Workshop Panel. The concept of empathy in public spaces, explored by Ritani in a contemporary art context, will be further considered by three speakers, Chris Ford, Pip Laufiso, Jackie McMillan, and chaired by Aaron Hawkins.

Understood as the ability to see the world as others see it, empathy is both a tool and attribute which when put into action can enact social change. Can we learn to be more empathetic? In a discussion-led workshop these speakers will consider some of the practices employed to strengthen the culture of empathy.  

Chris Ford established Fordwrite in 2001. Based in Dunedin, New Zealand, the business has provided professional writing and consultancy services to many clients both domestically and globally since that time. 
A significant component of his writing practice has centred on disability issues. In this context, he has written on the need for greater tolerance and empathy towards disabled people and other marginalised groups within society. Ford’s work in this area has been informed by his own lived experience of mobility and other impairments. He will be talking about how we can build more empathy towards disabled people within our community at the workshop. Currently, he also works part-time as Senior Kaituitui (Community Networker) for Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA) New Zealand and as their Dunedin Kaituitui.

Aaron Hawkins was born in Invercargill, and has lived in Dunedin since enrolling at the University of Otago in 2002. In 2013 he was elected to the Dunedin City Council. He was actively involved in the development of Ara Toi Otepoti, Dunedin’s arts and culture strategy, both before and after that election, and is the inaugural chair of the Creative Dunedin Partnership.
His focus in the past three years has been on social wellbeing outcomes in the community, sitting as the chair of both the Mayor’s Task Force for Housing and the Dunedin (Former) Refugee Steering Group.
Before becoming a politician Aaron worked as a broadcaster and freelance writer. While working at Radio One, he took a lead role in the ultimately successful campaign to stop the OUSA from privatising their student radio station. He is an active supporter of, and occasional participant in, the local arts community, chairs the Dunedin Fringe Arts Trust, and has previously sat on the board of Blue Oyster Arts Trust.

(Pip) Philippa Agnes Laufiso
Talofa lava. This city has birthed me, schooled me and employed me. It has challenged me to find my place and make my place in this world. I honour the mothers, the matriarchs who are my teachers, my guides and my sisters. My Samoan and Tongan bones are from another part of the Te Moananui a Kiwa connected to ancestral homelands by the ocean waters along the coast from Taieri to Karitane. As a southern city of Polynesia I see how much Ōtepoti has shaped me, taught me and loved me. I did not choose this place for it has chosen me.
Love the place you live. Live the place you love.

- Our Women: 125 of Dunedin's Extra-ordinary Women, Otago Museum, 2018.

Jackie McMillan is the Children’s Collection Specialist at Dunedin Public Libraries, which means she buys children’s books for a job. Jackie’s love of reading as a child saw her volunteering in school libraries from standard four onwards, and she began working in libraries in 1990. Jackie runs a quarterly discussion group for adults who love reading children’s books and has seen how books help grow empathy.