Pick up your Damn Rubbish

A large part of my practice is to be more conscious of the materials I’m using and recycle components when possible; less waste and less “stuff” being added to our personal spaces or environments. This has encouraged me to ask my community (students, friends, mentors etc) if they have materials they would like to donate and potentially save from the skip. This is not only related to my art practice but also part of my daily life. I don’t buy new chain-store clothing if possible, frequenting thrift stores or graciously accepting hand-me-downs. I try to exchange goods or trade for services and lean towards long lasting materials over plastics in our ever growing “throw away” society. I don’t own a car and will cycle, skate, walk or car share for out our town trips. Attempting to take small daily steps to reduce the resources and space I take up in my life bubble. This lifestyle also helps me be more aware of the materials around me and ask questions around what ‘can’ be used or re-used as an art medium. Noticing the scraps (their possible potential) that others discard as rubbish or unusable objects. While I understand and appreciate the use of modern technology such as 3D printing, I will always prefer more traditional methods in durable, timeless materials. 2020 has me going back to my roots of using preferred readily-available (or rescued) mediums, while remaining open to the constant motion and development required for continued experimentation. Using traditional tools and processes while developing patterns, ideas and reworking both concepts and mediums for deeper exploration and invention through art-making.

Artist Reflections

Edith Amituanai

Picnic at Starling, 2016

Edith Amituanai’s work as a documentary portrait photographer carries a heavy political undercurrent of creating a better society through challenging the viewers’ thinking of what really matters. She has an open-minded, journalistic approach to entering the lives of her subjects without a predetermined representation of her images.

Edith tells captivating stories by photographing diverse characters within the comfort of their familiar spaces, not only capturing what is subjectively “cool”, but focussing on other aspects such as lighting, frame and surrounding detail – proving that a camera is just a tool and not the only means of creating exhibition worthy art. Building comfortable relationships with each subject and relinquishing control allows Edith to reap the rewards of establishing deeper connections within the final images. For example, giving her camera to different children to photograph their families and being fully immersed without social barriers can result in a far more intimate photograph. Edith also acknowledges the importance to continuously study other artists: Jim Goldberg being a big influence in establishing her ideas on deciding when a piece is complete; time becomes irrelevant and knowing yourself as an artist becomes more important.

While I am not particularly interested in portraiture within my own practice, I did enjoy learning more about Edith’s documentation process behind the lens. I think the rules that apply to portrait photographers are good building blocks for any artist researching a project: values, space, ethics of what the artist is doing, and acknowledging the role as a guest who has been given the privilege to gain access to what can be interpreted as sensitive subjects. Edith’s age-experienced confidence when approaching people gives her the ability to push the boundaries of her own photography practice, encouraging more artists to exit their comfort zones for the chance of gaining rewarding results without fear of failure.

Richard Orjis

Photo credit – The Spinoff

Richard Orjis is an interdisciplinary artist, curator, and educator who studies Queer Ecology: environmental justice in relation to urban environments, combined with Queer theory which disrupts the social norms of using essential singular terms. Ecology is the network of relations in any systems and Richard also looks at Queerness in nature through biological evolution.

Richard’s study of Rangipuke’s (Albert Park’s) rich history from volcanic ash to Pā site – all the way through to the first Gay Liberation Front protest in 1972 led by university students, has been a fascinating educational story about the importance of times changing and the symbiotic relationships between places, spaces, people and other organisms. How humans, in particular, like to separate themselves from what they consider lower life forms, not only in the plant and animal world but the religious or western world’s influence of inflicting their superiority over gender and race.

Interesting to discover how this is all interlinked and the irony that ‘baby boomers’ entitled voices during past GLF protests have pushed forward the social movement of accepting diversity with the support of women’s liberation and Māori activists. Allowing the LGBTQ community to reclaim the word Queer from a social slur into a socially acceptable umbrella term for any sex and/or gender diverse person. I enjoyed learning more about Ngahuia te Awekotuku, her role as a central figure to these movements and educational researcher – rediscovering and reclaiming the word Takatāpui as the umbrella term for being Queer and Māori.

As a newly out genderfluid (yet straight) person, I’m still trying to work out how to prevent people from placing me in a ‘monolithic bisexual camp’ because they don’t fully understand the term queer and that my preferred day-to-day gender does not define my sexual preferences. Hopefully, with the increasing support of like-minded communities helping to educate the wider public about Queer Ecology, there will be less confusion and shame around what was once considered ‘sexual deviant’ discussions.

Judy Darragh

femisphere zines

Judy Darragh is a multi-disciplined, female, feminist artist who advocates for equal opportunities between men and women. Studying her collaborative zine project “Femisphere”, a collection of publications regarding conversations around what it means to be a female artist, had me thinking about finding my own voice and how I can express my views without hesitation through artmaking.

These ongoing discussions around feminism have led me to believe that simply rejecting a person’s biased view of my own identity, whether it be gender preference or culture, does not resolve the underlying issue of establishing equality. To reject these long-established patriarchy views requires not only having a voice for expression but support through our art community to be heard. This combination through Visual Art has become a powerful tool for acknowledging the problem of representation of female artists.  

I was strongly affected by Conor Clarke’s ‘Conversating with the blind… #1’ text from the zines publication. As a female struggling in what is still very much a male-dominated world, I have on occasion struggled to find my voice when inappropriate verbal or physical situations have been forced upon me by the opposite sex. Afraid to speak up from lack of support making me want to give up altogether.

There are still double standards that I see today during our 4th wave of feminism: Galleries still showcasing a higher number of male artists. Female speakers and male speakers revising the same text but the male counterpart receiving more support and less negative comments

Recently I was in the hospital and did notice that the male nurses were more attentive and gentle compared to the female nurses. A strong indication that society shouldn’t assume qualities based on gender alone as all genders have the capacity to undertake what was previously perceived as a singular role.

Lockdown and Fear of Losing my Leg.

How to stay sane in the hospital.

Starting off the new blog with a bang. I had a bit of bad luck and was hit by a car while skateboarding to the supermarket. The driver was on her phone which resulted in me being dragged under the car and pinned by the wheel. This was my first bad accident at 33 (the day before my birthday) which is surprising as I’ve done a lot of risky stupid things. Although this time it wasn’t my fault – wrong place, wrong time and loooong recovery.

I didn’t think it was that bad and was prepared to hobble home. Adrenaline is the best pain killer. Lucky I didn’t and waited for the ambulance. My ankle was broken and needed a few screws to put me back together. I was in the hospital and ready for surgery the next day, great! I’d be home in no time. Unfortunately the news the next morning wasn’t good. My flesh wounds from the road/board/car tyre were pretty gruesome and the risk of infection after surgery was too high. They wanted to keep me in hospital for another week. Umm no thanks, one night was enough and I hadn’t slept at all (I have sound sensitivity and even with earplugs could hear the gurgling, snoring, crying of other patients in the ward. Along with all the regular hospital noises of nurses bustling down the hallways, machines beeping, torches shining in my face and random blood pressure checks throughout the night). So I played the birthday card and convinced the doc to let me go home. He agreed if I promised to take a bunch of drugs and stay in bed for the week. It was more challenging than I expected, the pain of lying around with an untreated fracture was intense and exhausting. I got through the week and went back for surgery.

Nope, still too risky. I was put on intravenous antibiotics for two weeks and tried really hard not to crack under the mental and physical pressure of being stuck in a ward with other patients in pain, some who handle it better than others. Hearing people begging God to put them out of their misery or threaten to kill themselves because of their immense discomfort is not something I could ever get used to. I have a newfound respect for the nurses and hospital staff who deal with this behaviour on a daily basis. I guess it’s a bit different when you haven’t slept in a week and are struggling with your own pain. My stupid veins also kept collapsing making injections painful and needing to replace the IV line most days. I’m not going to beat myself up for breaking down a bit. I had a few visitors which was greatly appreciated but most of my support crew was sick and my immune system was already compromised so I didn’t have a lot of distractions from my negative thoughts. How did I cope? Well initially I didn’t and needed a little help from medication but the side effects meant I had zero focus. I couldn’t read or draw or be lucid enough to be productive. This was a huge learning curve for me as my go to response when I’m anxious is to jump on my bike or board and feed on exercise endorphins. Instead I was stuck in my broken body and stuck inside my head. So I wrote. I wrote about how I was feeling, my daily struggles and creeping depression. I expelled all these negative thoughts on paper, even though a lot of what I was saying was irrational, incomprehensible and fuelled by fear and pain. I also attempted to meditate and blasted relaxing music through my headphones to drown out external noise.

Around week 4 the surgeon came to see me and said we were running out of time to set the bones. They brought in another specialist who advised cutting around the wound and left me with a vague “we will see what we can do” comment. This was right after a doctor had explained to me that rushing surgery could result in me losing my leg from the knee down. I went into my first surgery alone and terrified. I woke up alone and confused with my leg back in a cast. Eventually the doctor came to see me. Finally some good luck – the surgery was successful and I could go home…and straight into Covid-19 Lockdown. I wasn’t out of the woods yet as my wound required multiple special dressings to prevent serious infection. It did get a bit worse before it got better but it helps that I was healthy before the accident and my body seems to be fighting off any minor infections. I’ve got a couple more weeks left before I find out if there are further complications or if I can learn to walk again. It’s been a rough road but I’m grateful for my housemates assistance when I got out, standing in long police controlled lines at the supermarket to get us food and taking on my share of household chores. I miss my friends and my family but at least I’m not in lockdown alone. I’m also tremendously grateful to New Zealand’s health professionals, policemen and essential staff for their care and support. I picked a great time to break something as we are all in the same (bubble) boat. Looking forward to getting my creative mojo back and sharing my work here…watch this space!

A couple of paintings I did manage to create in hospital. “Jellyfish” (because it felt like one was living under my cast) and “Hospital Curtains” (which I hope never to see again).