As a part of Tidelines I will do a
performance that will result in the creation of a temporary
installation in Wynyard Quarter. I would like your help to make
this happen, so I will tell you more about the performance below.
This will help you understand how my art process works and how the
ideas come about. I will keep you updated on my progress as we work
towards the performance, and hope you can join us on the day. In
advance, I would like to thank you for your time and for the
donations you have given. No matter how big or small your
contribution is, I am grateful.
Malo 'aupito (thank you very much)
My art making begins with talanoa (conversations) I
gather from migrant and minority groups and their experiences with
dominant and authoritative social structures. I want to make the
overlooked realities of everyday people visible through my art and
offer a sometimes humorous and possibly powerful symbolic
counterpoint to Western perspectives.
A recent topic important to migrant workers is the
Recognised Seasonal Employment (RSE) scheme. Under this policy,
migrant workers - with priority given to those from select Pacific
Islands - are granted temporary entry to plant, harvest and
pack crops. They come, work hard and are promptly sent home after
being paid the minimum wage.
Over the past few years, I have responded to the
scheme by producing what I call 'urban taros'. Shaped and sized
like a simplified version of this common root vegetable, these
forms are cast in plaster using road cones. They allude to the
presence of Pacific workers in both the agriculture and
construction industries and to their significant but overlooked
contribution to the prosperity of New Zealand's economy.
The Wynyard Quarter is occupied by both present and
past migrant workers who either work in marine and fishing
industries or on the recent re-development of the Quarter. But
their stories are not told or reflected here. This new crop of
'urban taros' will not be a permanent or elaborate memorial, but
will act as a reminder of what is missing.
In a performance entitled Cultivate, staged with
the help of fellow artists from the H.E.P.T. collective (more about
them later), urban taros will be planted in rows, suggestive of an
island plantation, along the edge of the newly constructed Daldy
Street. The urban taros will mark the performers' brief occupation
of the empty space. They will also trace and speak of the
migration of the many Pacific Islanders who have come to Auckland,
in the same way that the story of the taro can be traces back to
its trans-Pacific origin as the South American sweet potato.
With the RSE scheme in its fifth season, this work
is growing layered with the information gathered from past and
current workers adding their experiences. I like to explore the
idea of a story within a story, and often revisit previous artworks
to respond to the new talanoa that have been collected. I hope that
new stories can soak into this work during the time it is down at
H.E.P.T. have worked together since 2008. Their
main focus is to enable others to succeed. Their name, Help
Everyone Pass Together speaks to the reason of their formation,
which came from a response to the individualistic studio culture
prevalent in arts institutions. Performing under their aliases -
Eagleman, Stallion, Wolfman, Bullman and Antman - the members'
identities and the culture of the performing bodies are neutralised
by wearing anonymous-making uniforms. The culture of H.E.P.T. is
inclusive, collaborative and beyond self, and their facilitatory
practice is kept intentionally broad to enable responsive and
adaptive methods of working.
This work will be presented on Daldy Street
on Saturday the 21st March 2015
More information about John: