Architecture van Brandenburg’s practice brings together the unfurling of beautiful natural forms in space with an ecological system of working
Reflecting nature; Denouncing waste
What does a local architecture firm have to do with challenging a waste crisis 10,000 kilometres away in China? Architecture van Brandenburg, which has studios in Dunedin and Queenstown, has been working on the design for the Marisfrolg Apparel Headquarters in Shenzhen, China. Professor Leoni Schmidt, Head of Otago Polytechnic’s Dunedin School of Art, was invited to reflect on Architecture van Brandenburg’s cross-disciplinary approach as part of her research into the links between architecture, visual arts and sustainability.
Inspired by Spanish Modernist architect Antoni Gaudi and ‘biomimicry’ – the process of referencing the natural world to escape from traditional geometric shapes and Eurocentric designs – the firm chose to only use waste materials as cladding for the Headquarters.
“Currently the smooth white surfaces of Marisfrolg Apparel Headquarters are being finished with waste produced in China, a country fast becoming one of the major waste accumulators in the world,” says Leoni. “Architecture van Brandenburg’s practice brings together the unfurling of beautiful natural forms in space with an ecological system of working…The waste materials add value to their work while also transforming the base materials into a higher aesthetic whole.”
Leoni’s research, which accompanied Architecture van Brandenburg’s exhibition during the 2014 Architecture Biennale in Venice titled Unfurling was so successful that the firm was invited to exhibit in San Francisco for four months in 2015. There, the exhibits and Leoni’s second article were appreciated by well over 3000 people. There is currently talk of exhibiting in Sydney in late 2016, and other venues in other parts of the world thereafter.
Schmidt, L. (2015) Architecture van Brandenburg in an Era of Waste Crisis. South African Journal of Art History, Vol.30, Number 2, 2015: 139-145.
Through collaborating with the scientists, original and often quite unexpected artwork emerged
Cross-pollination between art and science
Can the science of light be translated into an aesthetic vocabulary? This was the challenge that Peter Stupples, Senior Lecturer in Art History and Theory at the Dunedin School of Art, tasked a team of artists with, in celebration of the 2015 UNESCO International Year of Light.
Peter worked with a team of science researchers from the University of Otago, headed by Professor David Hutchinson of the Department of Physics. In conjunction with Dr Ian Griffin from Otago Museum, this nine-month project culminated in an exciting exhibition in August 2015.
“We did not aim to illustrate the science literally” says Peter. “Rather, through collaborating with the scientists, original and often quite unexpected artwork emerged, which enabled the scientists to see their work in a different context.”
The collaboration involved a group of 16 artists – including painters, printmakers, sculptors, photographers, creators of electronic installations, ceramicists and fashion textile designers – and 11 scientists from a variety of disciplines including botany, physics, anatomy, physiology and computer science. For the science community it was a unique opportunity to have the work communicated to the public in a novel way, while for the artists it provided a stimulating new focus for their work and many learnt an enormous amount about science in the process.
“We know of no other collaboration of art and science that takes the same shape as this so it was truly an exciting venture,” says Peter. “Part of the success of this was that we didn’t put too many rules or boundaries on what was possible or expected.”
Art and Light Exhibition. Otago Museum, 15 – 30 August 2015.
Surfing has always focussed the cultural beam towards California and the ripples move outward via the internet
“Surfing has always focussed the cultural beam towards California and the ripples move outward via the internet,” says Ted Whitaker, electronic arts technical teacher at the Dunedin School of Art.
Multi-media videographer and art researcher, Ted Whitaker, has long been interested in media archaeology and combining media from different devices, sources and origins. His work, Species Dysphoria, a surf film created for the Edie Stevens (Eves) New Zealand tour, was shot on two cameras in two very distinct formats, reflecting two different time periods. In addition, the video was shot in the disparate locations of Kaikoura, New Zealand and Los Angeles, California. The result is a piece which shows the “colonisation of culture and the collision between the foreign and the familiar”. Species Dysphoria unravels the layers of New Zealand’s surfing subculture identity derived from a ‘Malibu’ surfing ideology, and reflects the geographical isolation of our nation. Though mimicking elements of Californian surf culture it shows a distinctive difference inherent within Aotearoa.
The first camera, a modern DSLR provides a rich cinematic quality, representative of 2015, whereas the 90’s Sony hi8 camera shot low resolution scenes, with a lot of analogue noise from dust, a defect of the magnetic video tape. The visible difference was integral to film and the concept of dysphoria.
The project was a labour of love for Whitaker, who is a keen surfer and consumer of surf films himself. Species Dysphoria was widely accepted by surfing audiences, being selected for the Aotearoa International Surf Festival. However, interestingly, it was also appreciated by art audiences around the globe being selected for the Alchemy Moving Image Festival in Scotland. As Ted says, “This indicates that there is a cross-over and a resonance between the two audiences.”
Whitaker, T. (2014). Species Dysphoria. [Film/Video] Film selected for the Aotearoa International Surf Film Festival and Alchemy Moving Image Festival, Scotland. http://vimeo.com/80665058
The game was made up of rhombus-shaped pieces in various colours,” she describes, “that could be endlessly reconfigured in sequences to generate the illusion of three-dimensional forms
It was the chance discovery of a discarded children’s board game that inspired the works in Alexandra Kennedy’s Primary Structures (2013) exhibition, which was shown at the gallery, Factory 49, in Sydney, Australia.
“The game was made up of rhombus-shaped pieces in various colours,” she describes, “that could be endlessly reconfigured in sequences to generate the illusion of three-dimensional forms.”
Kennedy, Postgraduate Coordinator and Senior Lecturer at the Dunedin School of Art, says the pieces in this game inspired her to examine associations between 2D and 3D, concept and perception, and system and intuition.
Primary Structures was made up of a series of paintings on plywood, and one large wall-mounted work made from pieces of MDF. The large work was comprised of 400 wooden rhomboid shapes, machine-cut by a joiner and hand-painted by Kennedy in the colours of the 12-point colour wheel, and assembled rhizome-like on a wall.
“I liked the idea of starting out with a mathematical system of geometry and colour, but not carrying the system through in the creation of the work,” Kennedy says. “The arrangement of colours in the large wall work followed a system, but there was a more random use of colour in the paintings.”
The title of the show, Primary Structures, is significant, as Kennedy is making reference to artists who exhibited at the 1996 exhibition of the same name held at the Jewish Museum in New York.
“It featured so-called ‘reductive art’, characterized by plain, anonymous execution and the use of simple geometric configurations as the basis of the work,” she explains, “foregrounding the independent-object status of each work of art.
Kennedy, A. (2013) Primary Structures Solo Show, Factory 49, Sydney, Australia, 27 Nov - 7 Dec. 2013.
Painting is incredibly strong in Europe and unlike New Zealand, where history is often at the forefront of your work, it’s assumed in Europe.
Exploring Berlin’s sub-culture through art
Michael, a lecturer in Painting at The Dunedin School of Art, first visited Berlin in 2010. This city’s culture left a real impression on him. “Painting is incredibly strong in Europe and unlike New Zealand, where history is often at the forefront of your work, it’s assumed in Europe. There’s already a sense of history – so painting doesn’t necessarily have to be about that. It’s freeing.”
The residency was about interacting with the city and looking at it through historical elements or events. “I essentially went over thinking I was making small works on paper and ended up making large works on canvas,” says Michael. “My painting often develops ideas of community. In Berlin I looked at culture and subculture and how they are on a continuum or see-saw.”
He stayed in the former East Berlin suburb of Friedrichshain; an area synonymous with Berlin’s punk movement following the fall of the wall. “Berlin is a unique city – one that is still kind of split in two. When the wall came down, the people in this area moved on, mainly west, and there were all these empty buildings. Squatters and artists moved in and redefined the community.”
Michael found his time in the studio hugely beneficial. There were also a number of other residents to talk to, including lecturers and teachers from Japan, the USA, Korea and Argentina. “When you stop being a student there becomes less and less time for reflective discussion with your peers,” says Michael. “It was important to have this time and to be able to engage in this way.”
So, what came out of his time in Berlin? “The residency deepened the way I work,” he says. “Upon my return from Berlin I made several large paintings from ideas established in Germany for my most recent show at the Ashburton Art Gallery. The three months spent solely with my work while in Berlin reset my studio habits, which was refreshing.” Michael’ time in Berlin has also influenced the way he teaches. “I now stress the importance of the ‘long-game’ in painting. It’s more about teaching students to engage with the slowness of painting, understanding its amalgamation of historic and theoretical concerns and current stories, and understanding the value of exploring these things in painting.”
Kids’ bikes aren’t expensive. Unlike adult bikes, kids’ bikes are throwaway objects – so finding ones to do up wasn’t a problem
Disappointment, fun and a nuisance
After an enthusiastic reception in New Zealand, Scott Eady took his ‘100 bikes’ project to the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea.
A lecturer in sculpture at the Dunedin School of Art, Eady came up with the idea for the project six years ago. He was sourcing bikes from the tip to do up for his children for Christmas. “Kids’ bikes aren’t expensive. Unlike adult bikes, kids’ bikes are throwaway objects – so finding ones to do up wasn’t a problem.”
Eady describes the project’s central themes as: disappointment, fun and a nuisance. “I kinda promised a project that was community-minded and likeable; yet behind its interactive fun facade was an exhibition that filled the pristine gallery space with real world objects begging to be activated by the audience. The sculptures invited chaos and mess into the Museum.
Art that disappoints is sometimes very interesting. I remember back to my own childhood when my father did up a bike for me. He was always very good at DIY jobs, but the finished bike was painted a ‘poo’ brown colour. It was not my idea of cool and I was disappointed. Despite that, I had a lot of fun on that bike.”
With this in mind, each bike for the project was unique. The result was a stunning collection that elicited a different kind of disappointment. “Instead of kids being disappointed by the bikes, they were instead upset that they couldn’t take one home!”
Eady also wanted the exhibition to be fun. Unlike a lot of art, this exhibition was designed to be touched. The bikes were set up in rows according to size, like a school bike shed racks, with an adjoining space for kids to ride in. Many children learnt to ride at the exhibition.
And what about the ‘nuisance’ element? “For someone who doesn’t even like doing up one bike, this project was a bit masochistic!” Scott explains, “I didn’t really enjoy the process. I chose this project because I wanted to create an artwork that invited participation from the audience. We are taught not to touch in a gallery, but a lot of art provokes a tactile response, or can be so annoying that people want to hit or kick it. This was an exhibition that brought joy but that was also a bit of nuisance for the gallery to host.”
How much information and experience is it possible to transfer through cyberspace?
Simon Kaan and Ron Bull
It takes brave men to declare at LAX airport that they have 20 t¯it¯i, and 4kgs of tuna in their luggage.
Ron Bull and Simon Kaan did just that en route to presenting their installation Kaihaukai : An Art Project at the 2012 International Symposium of Electronic Arts in Albuquerque, New Mexico.ISEA is touted as one of the most important academic gatherings on electronic art world-wide and features the work of 100 artists and 400 presenters from 30 countries.
The original concept for Kaihaukai: An Art Project was hatched by Simon during one his art installations when he was included in a waiata via Skype. This posed the question: “How much information and experience is it possible to transfer through cyberspace?”
He collaborated with chef and muttonbirder Ron Bull jnr., and created the concept of a cultural food exchange to be both experienced and Skyped between the people of Kai Tahu in New Zealand and the Pueblo people of New Mexico.
In the six months leading up to the symposium a Kaihaukai website provided a platform for K¯ai Tahu wh¯anui to archive their thoughts and conversations around mahika kai. It included videos documenting the changing of the seasons, sharing of meals, spearing of patiki, plucking of t¯it¯i, reciting poems and storytelling. At the beginning of the project’s presentation in New Mexico, Lois Frank, a native food historian and chef, initiated a talking circle with local indigenous students. “Each person expressed a pragmatic spirituality that embraced a deep understanding of the cycles of nature,” says Ron.
Food was also shared to gain an understanding of each other’s mahika kai practices. This included piki bread made by Hopi people from corn and culinary ash; wild grass seed rice from the Ojibwa people, Muqtuk, (whale blubber) and dried seal meat from Alaska.
In the final stage of the w¯anaka participants exchanged and mixed their foods culminating in a h¯akari. Kai Tahu wh¯anui joined in to hakari by Skype. “This interaction worked really well and it took the sharing of food to an entirely new level.”
“The aim of this project was to embrace the concept of Hau- that food given has an expectation of reciprocity- through the sharing of stories, philosophies and intergenerational knowledge.”
“Hau also depicts the wind and the breeze and that this knowledge and sharing can be carried by the wind- even the wind of technology.”
Ron and Simon also gave presentations to staff and students of IAIA (Institute of American Indian Arts) and presented a paper at the ISEA Conference. They have two articles awaiting publication following the symposium and have been interviewed on Radio New Zealand.