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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Costello, workbooks

Studio Visit 2, May 12

Met with Simon and Sonya for second studio visit where I presented 3 preparatory works -

  1. scents collected for the forest project,

  2. an 'offering' installation of unfired clay pots and water; and

  3. the beginnings of a socially-engaged art project that will result (hopefully) in a combined publication of peoples' stories of embodiment with the forest.

Watching Simon and Sonya's level of engagement when smelling the essential oils was wonderful - eyes closed as they focused on breathing in the fragrances; sharing how the scent evoked childhood memories for Simon of being in his grandfather's carpentry workshop and, for Sonya, recent sampling of Japanese whisky stored in wooden barrels.

We briefly discussed the relationship between colour and scent. Sonya noted that Aotearoa's indigenous colour system, construed from localised pigments, has a different theoretical basis than the western colour theory despite using natural earth pigments too and Simon explained the colour theory for ceramic glazing is quite different also. Sarah Hudson, an indigenous artist from Whakatāne who extracts pigments from clay, soil and silt collected from her whanua. She helped established a Kauae Raro Research as a way to share collective knowledge about using these pigments "to relearning and embodying the ways her tīpuna used earth pigments as an art material, in ceremony and as rongoā (medicine)".

The second work, of water dripping into an unfired clay pot, was well received. I explained it was an offering of gratitude to nature and a response to Robin Kimmerer's provocation in Braiding Sweetgrass. Simon thought the installation held potential to voice the idea of infinite cycles of renewal and destruction, was excited by the notion of the water seeping and spreading over the floor uncontained, and suggested I explore other methods of dripping the water. He referred to artist Dane Mitchell's recent works -

  • Respiratory event (vapour whale), 2020 which Mitchell describes as 'a literal attempt to vaporize a sperm whale — in which the fragrance of the whale is dissipated over the cityscape from a rooftop'

  • Post hoc (in the Venice Biennale 2019, Aotearoa New Zealand National Pavilion) which is described on Mitchell's website as 'a mournful archive of [millions of] extinct, disappeared, obsolete, withdrawn and absent things broadcast across the city, via seven, six-metre tall cell-phone tree towers installed in public sites around Venice. The source of the automated voice was an echo-free chamber installed in the Palazzina Canonica, the former headquarters of exhibition partner Istituto di Scienze Marine (CNR-ISMAR). Simultaneously, the lists could also be listened to at trees in four public sites: Università Iuav di Venezia, The Architecture School; Ospedale Civile di Venezia, The Hospital; Sant’Elena, Parco Rimembranze; and the North Arsenale, Internal Garden'

  • his installation of newspapers piled on top of each other from oldest to newest with water slowly dripping from a discrete space in the ceiling to continuously wear away the recent newspapers to reveal older news - a playful yet poignant discussion of time and space and our memories

When discussing the socially-engaged art project Sonya referenced the post development notion of pluriverse - a new word for me to investigate, poor Craig! We discussed Sean Melon's Ethics in Agency and Authority, and Curatopia, Co-collecting in the Pacific (editor Colin McCarthy).

Simon suggested passing the questionnaire by Martin Patrick and clarifying my positioning of the trees as entities to help participants understand where I was coming from. (I have added ... If we each are entities with distinct and independent existences, then how do we embody each other?). I discussed with Simon how the definition of embodiment, as something so obvious and ordinary, is becoming more and more perplexing to me... how do I make sense of the varied states of embodiment eg. Sufi whirling dervishes disorientating the senses in order to find an ecstatic experience of God; Zen disciples meditating on emptying the senses of attachments in order to find peace; and feminism's sensual ethos of encountering the world from an almost sexual/orgasmic reference? Simon's advice ... embodiment can only be discussed from my own personal experience so start there.

Additional notes from discussion with Martin-

'Your form looks good. I am not certain what to say about your participant's point of view around the project. As for “pushing their thoughts into your exegesis” isn’t that exactly what participatory work tends to do, incorporate the thoughts and actions of others into some form of dialogical interaction? The issue of religion emerges I imagine because a common use of the term is in analysing Biblical texts “to explain” them. But this is a misreading of what exegetical writing in the academic situation is, which is different than that, and indeed, often doesn’t necessarily “explain” but as we often note as supervisors, could also incorporate reflective or poetic or descriptive writing in parallel with and complementary to the artwork.

And as your document makes clear you are collating material from residents, but making a book in this way may not align with some people’s notion of what an art project is, which might make this ambiguous for some. I might suggest option of people contributing their thoughts anonymously or under a pseudonym in case that might help them feel more secure about their contribution. Also they should be allowed ability to opt out at any point. So you could add one more question along that line in the form, but your existing ones in which people can opt in and opt out at the outset cover that for the most part.'


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