Whakatāne Museum’s Volcanic Artist Residency has begun hosting creative people from all over the country. Ideas, collaborations, and new opportunities are starting to emerge in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. The latest guest at the programme's historic Harbour Master House is Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Len Lye Centre senior curator Paul Brobbel. Coming along with him from New Plymouth is a unique contemporary film and video project.
While here, in partnership with Whakamax Cinemas, Brobbel will present a selection of film highlights from the Govett-Brewster's Projection Series #11: An Oceanic Feeling, curated by London-based film scholar Erika Balsom. The public is invited to a special Whakatāne screening at 6pm on Thursday 16 August.
“The films offer an exploration of our relationship with the oceans, human presence across the seas, effects of climate change, and dystopian technological connections,” says Whakatāne Museum’s Jordan Davey-Ems, who is helping coordinate the programme, “and a unique opportunity to view some very interesting experimental films from around the world."
The screening will begin with G. Anthony Svatek's 23-minute film “.TV” that looks at climate change in the small Pacific nation of Tuvalu, as well as the global circulation of data now based on that country’s dot-tv Internet domain. Svatek crosscuts between landscape images of the island sourced from YouTube and digital devices in unknown locations playing videos hosted on Tuvalu domain websites. A voiceover frames the film’s images as relics of the past, narrating from a future time when Tuvalu has vanished beneath the ocean.
“It’s a short but powerful dystopian fable and a reaction to technology and our warming planet,” says Davey-Ems.
The second film featured on the programme is Sunstone, a 2017 video work by Filipa César and Louis Henderson. The 35-minute film is at once a portrait of Roque Pina, the lighthouse keeper at Cabo da Roca in Portugal, as well as a metaphor for something much broader. The filmmakers explore the idea of the lighthouse and the film camera—at a time when their lenses are being displaced by digital and algorithmic forms of GPS and CGI. The lighthouse becomes a figure for an ambivalent history of colonial discovery and orientation, just as 19th century camera technology is lost to digital devices and the smartphone.
“In this fascinating film, César and Henderson layer computer renderings over old 16mm film, reflecting on the role of representation, identity, and the human need to make a mark,” says Davey-Ems.
When Whakatāne Museum began talking to Brobbel about his upcoming residency at the Harbour Master House, he suggested a public programme around the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery’s work with London-based film studies curator Erika Balsam. The King’s College lecturer was hosted in New Plymouth in 2017 as International Film Curator in Residence. While there, she conducted research at the Len Lye Centre, presented her work for New Zealand audiences, and curated Projection Series #11.
“Out of that experience came a film programme and accompanying book, An Oceanic Feeling, and we are thrilled that Paul is able to bring some of Erika’s work to our community as part of his Volcanic Artist Residency this month,” says project manager Victoria Sinclair. “These films ask us to look at the oceans as connected to humanity, and from the depths they leave us with questions of politics, ethics, and environment."
Whakatāne Museum's Volcanic Artist Residency is New Zealand's only creative development programme connected to an active offshore volcano. It was developed by the museum's director, Eric Holowacz in early 2018 and provides time, space, and geothermal experiences to participating artists and cultural managers from around the world. The programme included an April test residency with Christchurch artists Edwards + Johann, and a July residency with film producer Ainsley Gardiner and writer Briar Grace-Smith. From August 2018 to June 2019 over 20 creative people will spend time in residence, make the journey to Whakaari/White Island, and build new cultural connections for the museum and its community.
"We are ecstatic and amazed by the ideas and partnerships that are forming around our Volcanic Artist Residency," says Holowacz. "From wonderful new local sponsors and partners to institutions like the Govett-Brewster, Wellington City Council, and The Dowse—there are helping us connect Whakatāne with the wider world of creative possibilities."
The 16 August screening is made possible by the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, Whakatāne Museum and the Volcanic Artist Residency, Antipodes Water Company, and Whakamax Cinema. For additional information, visit whakatanemuseum.org or contact Whakatāne Museum at email@example.com or 07 306 0505.