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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Costello, workbooks

Art Studio Week 12 Oct 12-16

Preparing audio tape of cicadas with Mike Bridgman, printing photography with Peter Miles, writing art statement for Exposure, and researching artist Kat Austen.


This was a really enjoyable experience with Mike, finishing off the cicada audio tape of 15 cicada songs, given to me by George Gibb and collected by Charles Fleming in the field. I decided in the end to remove Charles audio and just use the cicada song and Mike introduced the reverb and speaker distortion to create a more interesting audio atmosphere in the room (rather that the flat linear sound of the original tape). We had some great laughs about the farting sounds from one cicada!

These are the audio patterns from each cicada song. It is quite stunning how complex each song is, comprising of two parts - an introduction and a coda:

Amphipsalta cingulata

Amphipsalta zelandica

Amphipsalta strepitans

Kikihia ochrina

Kikihia novus

Kikihia subalpina

Kikihia cauta

Kikihia laneorum

Kikihia muta

Kikihia tuta

Maoricicada alticola

Maoricicada mangu

Maoricicada tenuis

Rhodopsalta cruentata

Rhodopsalta leptomera

I may include these in a book titled Summer Skin for Exposure as Raul suggested. The mp3 audio tape (which I can't upload) will be played at Exposure. I am intrigued by this process of describing sound visually rather than auditorily - lines, patterns and colour.


Spent another hour with Peter preparing the photos for large scale printing. Wow they are beautiful. Who could have thought a cicada was that gorgeous? I decided on using just two - one looking into the moulted shell and the other of the moulted shell eyes looking outwards. To maintain some proportion, given one is portrait and the other landscape, I will endeavour to print them as equal area (i.e. l x w = area).


Need 70 words for Exposure 2020 marketing and images... after discussing with Shannon and Richard, this is it ...

By following the narrative of discarded natural materials collected from my local area on the eastern shore of Te Whanganui-a-Tara, I have been led to an inquiry into biological processes and our relationship with our environment.

How do we attend to human and non-human living forms, and what more do we need to know before we change how we live in the world?

We also discussed what to put in to Exposure and what to leave out - stools, stamen, cicada songs (headphones) and photography. Shannon said go back to artist statement and use this as the basis. Also, think about dividing are into 3 parts and respond to architecture and each others work.


This is a great article about Kat Austen in magazine Neural (issue 64, Autumn 2019). Kat is a multi-discipline artist with a focus on environment and science and describes her art as "a route to knowing the environment alternatively".

She succinctly describes the purpose of her work as motivating environmental action in a world paralysed into inactivity despite being inundated with scientific knowledge. She asks - "how do we need to know it? - a really important and valuable question to ask as an artist.

"Much of my work concerns itself with understanding the non-codifiable aspects of our experience. My motivation stems from a concern that we are failing to make the changes we know are necessary for an environmentally kind way of living.

Accuracy is not the most pressing problem within science. We are faced with multiple, inter-linked wicked problems, such as climate change, pervasive pollution and social inequality, and we know the kind of solutions that will help. Yet our overwhelming response is inactivity.

When we know so much about the science of these problems, the important question becomes: what more do we need to know before we change how we live in the world, and perhaps more importantly, how do we need to know it? This is the motivation behind my artistic practice.

Through my artworks, I explore our psychological, emotional and physical connections with the other(s) in the environment, and through sharing my artistic research practices, which allow me to generate knowledge from multiple disciplines including field recordings, DIY chemistry, electronics hacking and image theatre, I hope to share the sense of agency that these practices have instilled in me".

Kat Austen, Breathing. Image sourced from Neural (issue 64, Autumn 2019)

Reflection : After researching lots of artists working in the environmental/scientific area, it seems to me Kat has asked the fundamental question of how do we need to know something so that we can be motivated to change our attitudes and behaviours. If a kinder attitude is required, then the message needs to be presented with kindness, not just to humans but towards nonhuman living forms too. Aroha and compassion, not anger and recrimination. This is an important reminder to me as flashes of anger want to seep into the artmaking. Celebrating life and all its diversity, and recognising something bigger than our own small lives is at the heart of it all.


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