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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Costello, workbooks

MFA, Feb 22-26 2021

The beginning of the MFA at Massey; Response assignment.


We are located in the Old Museum building which was built in the late 1920-30's, making it nearly 100 years old. It stands as a monument to the colonisation of Aotearoa. The building is sited on Pukeahu (sacred hill), a place where people have lived since the late 13th century - nearly 900 years of human habitation. Angela Kilford, a lecturer from the Design School, took us on a hikoi around Pukeahu to encourage us to understand the history of the site, seek out marks of occupation, and question why statues of memorialisation have omitted any recognition of Maori settlement on the site.

Links: Massey University's Puke Aku Campus Initiative; Puke Ahu gallery; Ministry of Cultural Heritage Pukeahu History ; The Making of a Museum

2. RESPONSE Our first assignment is a Response to one of 7 artworks. It will comprise 3 responses - site, materiality and agency. These are the artworks proposed -

Recalibrating, Bartley & Company Art, Level 2, 22 Garrett St, Wellington

Recalibrating asks us to "readjust our sights to see differently"; to revisit the way we view our history and culture and the narratives we perpetuate (Bartley & Co Art). This is a timely exhibition "reminding us of different world views and narratives that have mostly been untold or suppressed."

Exhibition includes works from 5 New Zealand artists - Brett Graham, Joyce Campbell, Kelcy Taratoa, Lonnie Hutchinson and Roger Mortimer.


YES TOMORROW, Kate Newby, 2020, Watercolour,

YES TOMORROW is Kate Newby's artistic response to the multi-leveled, versatile gallery space of Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi which was designed by local architect Sir Ian Athfield. Kate's sculptural practice "creates subtle interventions" that antagonise and blur the building's boundaries and site. Using street debris collected locally, Kate further challenges our interpretation of location by elevating these materials and repositioning them within the building. (Adam Art Gallery).

Ben Lysaught, Tree Museum

Tree Museum, Ben Lysaught 2020, Acrylic, Toi Poneke

Tree Museum is a exhibition of paintings by Pōneke artist Ben Lysaght that "explores peculiarities within the history of botanical gardens and archives" (Toi Poneke) . Using humour and fantastical worlds, Ben exposes the dark underbelly of colonisation that exoticised and institutionalised the flora of the colonies.

Natalie Kittow and Erinn Keith Wax Wane, Grey Matter, Paper Weight, The Physics Room

A thoughtful and delicate set of three small books by local artists Natalie Kittow and Erinn Keith, titled Wax Wane, Grey Matter, and Paper Weight. It is published by The Physics Room who describes the books as "pulling the passing of time and our relation to space into focus". Subtleties of temporal and biological rhymes are beautifully captured in detailed tonal photographs that focus on two natural objects with a chimerical relation to the book's two word title. Additionally, there is a delicious playfulness with the conventions inherent in books.

Ethersonic LENS_01, Fringe Festival Blurb from Fringe - "Become immersed in the projected sonics and moving images of Ethersonic’s LENS_01. Part Expanded Cinema part Ambient / Industrial music gig LENS_01 brings together artist films from NZ, UK and Norway along with live music collaboration. "

Maverick Creations, Fringe Festival'-fringe Blurb from Fringe - "Building sites are a feast of constructional creativity... pure theatre! Your city evolves before your eyes, but do you really know what is going on behind the hoardings? "

Ataturk Memorial, Tarakena Bay Wellington

Built in 1990 to honour Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, his memorial is located above Tarakena Bay on the south coast of Wellington/ which bears a likeness to the landscape of the Gallipoli peninsula.

The memorial was designed by Ian Bowman and is constructed in marble that includes a crescent, a bust of Atatürk, inscriptions, and soil from Anzac Cove.

Choosing what to respond to! Christine and I visited Tree Museum, Yes Tomorrow and Recalibrate. I enjoyed them all but chose Recalibrate to respond to as it has lots of complex layering and meaning, is a cohesive exhibition concept and the artists are all technically proficient and novel.

Calibrate - verb.:

  • to mark units of measurement on an instrument such as a thermometer so that it can be used for measuring something accurately (Cambridge)

  • to check the measurement on an instrument against a standard instrument, and adjust the first instrument to keep it accurate (Cambridge)

  • mark (a gauge or instrument) with a standard scale of readings (Oxford)

Recalibrate - transitive verb. :

  • to make small changes to an instrument so that it measures accurately (Cambridge)

  • to change the way you do or think about something (Cambridge)

  • to calibrate (something) again … these systems gradually drift off course so that the navigator periodically needs a fresh point of reference to recalibrate the navigation system (Oxford)

Gallery - Bartley & Company Art

The gallery has just relocated to new premises in Garrett Street Wellington in February 2021 after 12 years in a small site in Ghuznee Street, Wellington. This new site is larger and more spacious "offering artists the opportunity to play with scale" and gives the gallery an opportunity to recalibrate i.e. change the way they do or think about things (Bartley & Co). This conceptual theme for their first exhibition on their new site was inspired by the title of Brett Graham's 2014 Recalibrate series.

Director Alison Bartley has a background in art history and media and communications and has been involved in the art world since the mid 1990s. Her ethos for Bartley & Co is to "value the ideas that art communicates and the conversations it engenders. We promote high-quality, critically-relevant art in all media by emerging and established contemporary artists. Touching on every aspect of contemporary life, their art stimulates and interests us" (Bartley & Co).

All artworks in the exhibition are for sale, ranging in price from $32,000 (Silence 2020, Kelcy Taratoa) to $4,500 (Recalibrate sculptures 2014, Brett Graham). White cube politics imposing economic values onto objects, yet the relationship between artist, gallery and audience/buyer is respectfully observed by Bartley & Company Art.


(i) Brett Graham - Recalibrate, 2014 Brett Graham is of Ngāti Korokī Kahukura and Pakeha descent and describes his Māori whakapapa (ancestry) as a Pasifika/Moana identity ( His large sculptural works and installations explore the politics of imperialism, power and the systematic dispossession of all indigenous people throughout the world.

There are several artworks by Brett in the exhibition, all from his 2014 Recalibration series completed during an artist residency in USA. Using contemporary and traditional methods and mark making, Brett employs redundant US Air Force calibration charts used for aerial target practice and high-tech underwater scanners to discuss the military and political mechanisms that dispossessed Native Americans - "it is about readjusting our sights to see differently, and recalculate our vision of the people who were dispossessed" (Brett Graham).

The Rukuhia sculptures are beautifully rendered traditional Maori carving on painted mdf board. The carving lends a mysterious magnificence to what is a model of underwater military scanners, however Brett recalibrates this reading by reworking their purpose as "scanners in a mythical quest for the location of Hui Te Ananui, the house of the god of the sea and original site of carving" (Bartley & Co Art).

Brett is one of New Zealand's most respected sculptors and has exhibited at Venice Biennale (2007), Biennale of Sydney (2006, 2010) and Asia Pacific Triennale in Brisbane (1996). His current exhibition Tai Moana Tai Tangata "commemorates historic relationships and political pacts between Tainui and Taranaki iwi in the face of new challenges wrought by European settlement. Tai Moana Tai Tangata revisits key events of New Zealand history as witnessed by Māori who suffered the most severe penalties of the colonial process" (Brett Graham). Te Papa CE, Courtney Johnston, describes it as offering "one of the most profound art experiences" of her life (Bartley & Co Art).

(ii) Joyce Campbell - Te Taniwha, 2010

Joyce Campbell is interested in biological and physical systems. Using handprinted photographic techniques, she captures the "minute and incremental emergence of complex form", allowing the viewer to be held in wonder at these transitory moments in nature that could so easily be overlooked. Te Taniwha artworks are "a collaboration between Campbell and historian Richard Niania from the Ruakituri Valley in Wairoa" and "draws on the mythology, history and ecology of Te Urewera' (Two Rooms).

(iii) Kelcy Taratoa - Silence, 2020

Of Ngai Te Rangi and Ngati Raukawa descent, Kelcy described himself as an “urban Maori: detribalised and culturally displaced” (Creative Giants).

His paintings are exquisitely rendered, using strong graphics, colour and symbolism which operate to displace the viewer's spatial and temporal modes. The works are simultaneously intriguing and disconcerting! Silence is Taratoa's description of his daily morning walk up Mt Maunganui as dawn breaks over the eastern horizon.

(iv) Roger Mortimer - Tiwai, 2018

Mortimer's artworks investigate humanity's swing between despair and hope as we struggle to transcend our own folly. "Mortimer’s cartographical endeavors eschew orientation of the spatial variety, mapping instead the intangible realms of ethics, psychology and the spirit. Intricate, elusive networks of signs, symbols, and code beguile viewers into lengthy inspection as they puzzle out subtleties and subtext replete with manifold allusions to political and social issues of our time" (Nadine Milne). Throughout his art practice, Roger has endeavoured to "understand Maori persepctives" (Bartley & Co Art). He was the 2014 Paramount Winner of the Wallace Art Awards.

(v) Lonnie Hutchinson

Lonnie's careful handcutting of folded black builders' paper trace delicate patterns influenced by her mixed descent of Samoan, Māori (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kuri,) and Celtic bloodlines. These works investigate genealogy and the power of symbolism, and the need for the right knowledge to unpack their meaning.


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