John Vea


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Kia ora,

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)

John Vea


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 the waterfront.

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

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