Found in Patearoa

Below is a poem I wrote. The poem grew from some experiences I had. From this poem grew a sculpture; a sort of replica of the sandals mentioned in the poem. The poem and sculpture are currently on display in North East Valley’s Art Tardis in Dunedin.

sandals for jasmin1

Found in Patearoa

 

2012

 

After a night of drinking

in some 20 year old’s Oceania Gold-funded house

we woke up and drove

still a little smashed

Palmerston to Patearoa.

 

A relative of Tame was working there

something farm related

like lambing or fencing

I forget which.

 

I remember the house:

a lonely villa, peely paint in early settler tones

the interior décor Speights

and guns and gum boots

like a Grahame Sydney painting

except not, because it was lived in.

 

Tame and his brother (or cousin?) exchanged words

like mutual relief, to which I was a spectator

Aw the works alright but fuck

some people here never seen a Māori

 

I admit, their presence confused the picture

tourists have come to take

like the name Patearoa, one wonders why

isn’t this Anglo-Saxon?

 

2017

 

After a Wednesday of driving

around Central Otago

in a University-funded rental

with two professors of geography

I woke up and cycled through February sun

from Buccleugh St to Toitū.

 

Hunched in the archive

crawling through indices

thick books with Gold Rush on their spines

Manorburn… Matthews… Millers Flat…

 

An 80’s pamphlet on moa hunting by a Norwegian archaeologist

tells of a time before the tussock

when moa walked in abundant bush

and 13th century Māori – the Waitaha people – followed.

 

Later, when the trees and moa had departed

and hukapapa settled across lonely rocks

16th century Māori, coast-dwellers from Puketeraki from Moeraki from Mapoutahi

came for the weka

weka which I have never seen

south of Marlborough camp-grounds.

 

Upon opening a heavy black book

with TAONGA proud across its front

I find floating in the dark

void of page seventy

a pair of 17th century harakeke sandals

the accompanying text:

Found in Patearoa.

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Stumps/commons

 

peterpan

cedar-stumps

Stumps. Trees that provide a commons.

The first: a popular piece of public art in the Dunedin Botanical Gardens. Children and their families play on Peter Pan and Wendy.

Not quite like the false 60s harmony of the above image – its a bit more multicultural and sometimes play is mediated by iphone photographs – but it is still well loved, communally.

The second: I flat in a 1910 villa on Buccleugh St which overlooks the Botanical Gardens; from the kitchen I can see proud Peter Pan being climbed all over.

The properties Auckland-based landlords cut down all of the established trees. The wood lay on our banks like thickly cut home-made bread across a table.

Such an offering drew neighbors with wheel-boroughs and bags, coming to collect slices of fire wood in the long evening sun. We exchanged names and house numbers and generally befriended one another.

 

 

A reply to Ava Seymour

 

ava-seymour-protoype-1

The Dunedin Public Art Gallery and the Hocken are currently holding a retrospective of Frances Hodgkins Fellows. The fellowship has been running since the 60s, it brings artist to Dunedin to for a year of full-time art-making. It’s a wonderful exhibition to visit.

One of the works in the retrospective is Ava Seymour’s 2001 Prototype #1 (pictured above).

It shows Central Otago rock formations, with giant bones overlaid. The accompanying blurb explains that Seymour “doesn’t associate that landscape with humans… more with dinosaurs.”

To me, Seymour’s work, like Graham Sydney’s seems to hide the long history and present reality of human activity in the area.

Below is an image I made in response, featuring some of what I associate with the Central Otago landscape.

reply-to-ava-seymour

Images sourced from: The Otago Daily Times Regions Section, Willian F. Heinz Bright Fine Gold, and my family’s personal collection.

Boundlessness

An artist, Noriko Nakamura, had become angry at life’s boundaries. Frustrated at the divisions they create, she cut a clean circular hole through an art gallery’s internal wall. It was suppose to be an act of careful poetic defiance. However, in the process of doing so she revealed that inside the wall there was actually already another wall. […]

boundaries

An artist, Noriko Nakamura, had become angry at life’s boundaries. Frustrated at the divisions they create, she cut a clean circular hole through an art gallery’s internal wall.

It was suppose to be an act of careful poetic defiance.

However, in the process of doing so she revealed that inside the wall there was actually already another wall.

A wall within a wall.

Nakamura writes that upon seeing this second wall she thought, “the boundary will always be a boundary.” She then “got frustrated and started hammering the inside wall.”

No more clean lines.

A second (more violent?) act.

Gillian Rose, a philosopher, warns against the destruction of boundaries. She writes a reply to Nakamura, 3 decades before Nakamura cuts the gallery’s wall:

“A soul which is not bound is as mad as one with cemented boundaries. To grow in love-ability is to accept the boundaries of oneself and others, while remaining vulnerable, woundable, around the bounds.”

Rose warns not to make boundaries concrete, but not to make boundaries vanish either.

 

Little obsessions

wheel-of-time-1

1.

We drove down the South Island

with all our possessions.

Three of us, taking turns at sitting in the back seat

where toasters fell onto my lap occasionally

and provincial views were obscured by tramping packs.

In the back seat, I slowly became a luggage.

I even empathised with the suitcases.

2. 

We visited my mum

who was painting.

Three of us, undercoating the bedroom walls

where white paint ran onto stained wood widows

and old bedding lay across old carpet to keep it safe.

In that bedroom, my mum had slowly become a paint brush.

We all understood that.

3. 

We began writing CVs and Cover Letters

full of mostly accurate accounts of ourselves.

Two of us, proof-reading each others half-truths

where marginal ability became proficiency

and a passing hobby snuck its way into my Interests section.

At my laptop, I slowly become a Cover Letter.

Able only to speak in short and enthusiastic sentence structures.

You have to break up being a Cover Letter some how. We did this by watching Werner Herzog films, letting other peoples obsessions distract us from the mundane-ness of our own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas x2

navity

Yesterday it rained. I sat inside and wrapped Christmas presents for my family.

Just me and my Aunt’s house, with a nativity scene knitted by my Great Grandmother to keep me company.

To pass the time I listened to people much wiser than myself explain things I can’t yet understand: Rage and Donald Trump.

First I listened to Eugene Peterson here and here.

Then I listen to Judith Butler here.

Butler talked about how Trump had been able to give a voice to the rage that some people in some parts of America quite legitimately felt; people who were unemployed or underemployed or underpaid. Trump’s campaign provided a way for the rage that can accompany economic dissatisfaction to speak.

He gave it a language.

A hateful language that channelled legitimate rage towards illegitimate targets: Immigrants, women, ethnic minorities.

But a language nonetheless.

Butler pointed out that the Democrats didn’t give any alternative way for that rage to speak. Instead they moved to emphasis love over hate.

This was sort of my response too.

The day of the American election I cleaned a stranger’s house in suburban Dunedin.

My Aunt knew the owners and wanted to, as an act of altruism, help prepare their house for an upcoming birthday.

She gave me the job of cleaning the toilets.

And so as Trump was elected I was scrubbing a stranger’s shit off his toilet.

A stranger who seemed happy with Trumps win.

And at the time I thought: Maybe that’s all that’s left – small acts of altruism that we can freely give one another in the face of a hateful political situation.

Love over hate.

Being Christmas and all, that felt very Christian too.

But Butler and Eugene reminded me that that isn’t really enough.

Rage remains a part of human experience. To live is to encounter both love and hate. One cannot pretend away the existence of the less pleasant half of the relation; to do so is surely to send it underground.

To overemphasis love and positivity is to abandon the task of giving our inevitable rage a healthy expression.

To abandon the task of expression is to allow it to be monopolised by those like Trump who can provide only a twisted language of hate.

For Eugene Peterson the Psalms provide an adequate language of rage, of anger, of frustration.

The Psalms is a book in the Bible that has at once both beautiful poetry celebrating the joy of life and incredibly violent imagery. Many passages move quickly between both extremes making it difficult to pick out just the ‘good’ bits.

It is a book of both ‘From Mount Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines in glorious radiance’ and ‘How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock.’

For Peterson this is the gift of the Psalms, they offer figurative imagery to express deep rage.

Such expression allows one to live honestly through all the terrifying and delightful emotions life.

While the Psalms might not be the most appropriate language for everybody, Peterson and Butler taken together point to the necessity of some language, and Trump shows that not all languages for expressing anger are equal.

They also point to a task beyond acts of altruism and affirmations of love, which is not necessarily any less Christian, but requires much more than the Christmas nativity scene alone can offer.