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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Costello, workbooks

Exhibition Week 8, 14-18 Sept

Marketing for exhibition, Planning for installation and opening night, Health and Safety, Socially-engaged artwork, Gallery visit Shannon Te Ao


Exhibition bio (extended version):

This exhibition uses a contemporary ecological lens to consider our relationship with nature. Held at the Thomas King Observatory, this site is an important grounding for the dialogue that each artwork will explore. Located at the top of the Botanic Gardens, the observatory stands for many things: research, education, preservation, and observation of nature, time, and space. The observatory is where knowledge is found and perspectives are formed. Every artwork in this exhibition is attempting to shift the viewer's perspective on our interconnectedness with New Zealand's nature. Locating these works inside the observatory will prompt the viewer to think about what our perspectives are influenced by and how observation can change this. The curation of this exhibition will heavily consider the site as an integral part of the work, allowing for a conversation to take place between and amongst each artwork and the site itself.

Artwork List:

Izzy Key

Materials - willow charcoal on newsprint paper

Piece - 'The hill and mountain forests went silent'

Installation - pinned horizontally to the wall using small, metal flat-head pins

Brenna Crump

Materials - A1 collaged photocopies of graphite drawings on paper

Piece - 'Untitled'

Installation - pinned to the wall

Suzy Costello

Materials - cicada shells and gold leaf

Piece - 'Summer Skin'

Installation - Resting on a small wooden plinth on the ground

Victoria Baird

Materials - x3 cyanotype matte prints

Piece - 'Ornithophobia - the fear of birds'

Installation - pinned to the wall

Please see our exhibition poster attached below. We've set up an instagram for promotional content too, but I'm happy to send through the content if this is easier for you guys! Please let me know if you need anything else :-)

Exhibition instagram: @observingtheabsurd

Artist instagrams:

Izzy Key: @izz_key

Brenna Crump: @hoonyrooney

Victoria Baird: @vicky.g.baird

Suzy Costello: @suzy_costello

Suzy’s Artist Statement

Collecting cicada (kihikihi wawa) shells, pōhutukawa stamen and wood from my local area has led to an exploration of the narrative and materiality of these discarded natural objects. I am interested in the interrelationship between art and science to further our understanding of non human living forms.

Artist Bio Suzy Costello is studying Fine Arts at Massey University, Wellington campus. She enjoys printmaking and sculpting in a variety of materials including bronze, glass and ceramics. During her time at Massey she has focused on installations.


Suzy - Forms to Mike completed including equipment requests (2 lights, audio and plinth). Will hopefully meet him Thursday arvo to go through in more detail.

Health and safety issues highlighted when going through form are:

  1. Hazard - Covid alert level changes; Action - QR sign in and book at door; To do - Suzy

  2. Hazard - Inside, Tripping hazard on inside steps to observatory; Action - There is support to climb the four steps but we could put warning sign on the door and be on hand to assist them. Bring a first aid kit To do - Suzy

  3. Hazard - Outside, inclement Weather as access to site is via a steep walk in an exposed area; Action - Site is very exposed so maybe close the exhibition if conditions are too dangerous. Provide a place to hang coats and umbrellas in entrance way so area stays dry. Be on hand to assist visitors as require. To do - all team members

  4. Hazard - Fire Action - Fire extinguisher already there – be prepared so need to have a lesson in how to use it and an evacuation plan prepared. Team members to carry mobile phone to ring for emergency. Details to provide to emergency responders to be distributed to team members prior to exhibition opening To do - Suzy

  5. Hazard - Medical event e.g. heart attack by member of the public Action - Team members to carry mobile phone to ring for emergency. Details to provide to emergency responders to be distributed to team members prior to exhibition opening. Do any of us have a current First aid certificate? To do - Suzy


Kingsley's provocation to respond to the site of the gallery got me thinking about how we could make a participatory outside artwork that spoke to the site. My idea was to reference the architecture and history of the building, the site promontory that overlooks the harbour where NZ's international maritime exports necessitated the standardisation of time in Aotearoa and the impact of colonisation.

My materials would be Lagurus ovatus (hare's tail grass, or bunny tails) collected from the eastern side of the harbour. These are old world grasses from the Mediterranean area - alien colonisers that probably arrived on the international ships coming into Wellington harbour in the early 1900s. The bunny tail is considered an escaped weed that has invaded coastal sand dunes throughout NZ and the world. The bunny tails are a part of many kiwis' summer childhood memories.

My intention was to make a grid pattern on the ground by the building and facing the harbour, making it proportional to the roof of the building but inverting the cupola to resemble a cup that receives offerings from the sky. The bunny tails would be glued to a kebab stick and pushed into the ground according to the pattern.

Unfortunately, Violette said anything outside needed permission from DOC and she was reluctant to go down this path. This was disappointing as I could see that inside there may not be enough area for me to use and I had hoped by going outside of the building I could resolve this problem.


Mā te wā

12 Sep–10 Oct 2020

Returning to Mossman Gallery for Shannon’s exhibition was a valuable curatorial experience because of the contrast in the way the space was used compared to Emma’s previous exhibition.

The first thing that strikes me is the colour on the walls and pillars - gone is the stark white cube and in its place is a warm, earthly umber that wraps around you, creating a feeling of being safely held and nurtured within this enclosed space. It seems to contain an atmosphere of mysterious, other-worldliness. Such is the power of colour to transform a space.

Once placed within the room however, it becomes apparent that this feeling of being held safely is merely an illusion. Safety is quickly replaced by confusion as I struggle to understand where to begin my reading of the work. We are taught to read from left to right, but Shannon has skillfully disrupted this notion. The 12 photographic artworks offer a time lapse of a young boy moving through a time and a place, receding and advancing as the images wrap around one half of the room. Shannon has arranged the works right to left, from crisp lines to blurred as the movements increase. This, together with the push-pull of the foreground pillars and background walls, and the disorientation of the horizon line disorientates me! It forces me to question those innate tendencies we hold. I wonder too if the boy is throwing something into the emptiness of the two remaining walls, activating its emptiness.

It occurs to me that Shannon’s previous works explore the concept of walking backwards into the future. Here it seems as if we might be walking forwards into the past. This makes sense to me later when I read about the work described on Mossman Gallery website: “The resulting photographs document a process of transition or transformation from one state to another. They are richly layered portraits that transcend specific circumstances to speak to wider histories and unfixed meanings. Mā te wā – see you later, time will tell.”

On the top left edge of each photograph is a beautiful mark that speaks to the process of filmmaking and the moving image. I assume, foolishly, the images are processed from splices of film from one of Shannon’s movies, but later discover only the background image is and the images of the boy are photographs layered over. This is a wonderful play of genres that creates a space that confuses.

Having seen the exhibition several weeks ago, I can still recall the experience of being in the room and encountering it. Someone said to me that good art leaves something to be resolved, making you ponder it even after you have stopped looking at it. This is good art, thoughtfully curated and thought provoking.

Mā te wā –see you later, time will tell


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