Transcontinental hybridity

Share Embed

Descrição do Produto

Transcontinental hybridity Ian Clothier Dept. Art, Design and Media, WITT Intercreate Trust New Plymouth, New Zealand [email protected] / [email protected]

Abstract. The curated project Wai presented a complex hybridity involving Māori, artists and scientists from Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, India, and the United States including Navajo. The show was predicated on notions of hybridity, integrated systems and the building of cultural bridges. This was resolved to data in the form of sensors, internet, audio, projected video, electronic sculpture and a non-electric object: a compilation of electronic and hybrid arts. There are problematics in cultural bridging and knowledge hybridisation in trans-cultural electronic art projects. Cultural frameworks are exposed, raising questions. It can also be asked, do traditional indigenous knowledge and Western science fit together in any sense? What happens when customary practices diverge? Further, what change is needed to create a contextual framework inclusive of cultures? If culture and ideology can be connected then what is the extent of the connection? These questions are explored in the context of Wai (which means water or flow to Māori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand). Traversing cultural boundaries creates innovative spaces of interaction. New social spaces are not without tension, but do create novel sites for reviewing complexity. The Wai exhibition involved diverse media and approaches that included traditional Māori knowledge, Western science, data, internet, audio, video, animation, LED sculpture and a conceptual object. This diversity necessitated negotiation, involved destruction and innovating cultural practice – the latter an important facet of hybrid cultural communities according to Homi Bhabha [1]. The guidance of Dr Te Huirangi Waikerepuru has been central in this process, and while unplanned he also appears in several exhibited works. This paper first provides a visual essay followed by short descriptions of the works in Wai. It then examines the basis for the diversity by referencing hybridity and integrated systems. An essential component of cultural bridging is the location of commonalities in ideas across cultural borders. Certainly the general world view of Māori is one of an integrated world view which maps to Western notions of integrated systems well. Wai functioned to renegotiate our relationship to the environment, and the knowledge space between Western and indigenous peoples. In this sense it participated in the fabric of the internet mediated hybrid society in which we dwell today. Keywords: art science, indigenous cultures; integrated systems; cultural bridging; intercultural; interdisciplinary; electronic and hybrid art.



Wai is the second project that is a collaboration between and Dr Te Huirangi Waikerepuru. The works were exhibited in Albuquerque at 516Arts as part of Machine Wilderness, the International Symposium on Electronic Art 2012 exhibition. The collaboration involved establishing a cultural bridge between Māori and Western cultures and knowledge. The method applied was to seek overlaps or similarities in thinking on diverse subjects. Of course Māori and Western thinking do not map to each other, but tendrils of knowledge are shared, for example in the notion of life emerging from water. It is both natural to cultures in a state of hybridising, and unconventional (though there are many precedents) in Western academic terms to seek ideological connections across cultural boundaries. In seeking to connect cultures, an attempt was also made to connect across boundaries of discipline. A further level of integration was the inclusion of diverse media ranging from data to internet, audio, animation, video and installed objects. The data came from a living source. A concern for the environment motivates the intercultural and interdisciplinary approach that is taken in recent projects. The consequences of taking this approach and working with Dr Waikerepuru forms the core of what this paper addresses.

Supported by the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (WITT), ISEA 2012 Albuquerque, and

Fig. 1. Above is a screen capture of the audio files made by Navajo or Dineh musician Andrew Thomas. Thomas and Darren Ward (see fig. 2) contributed 40 files each. The sounds heard in the Albuquerque gallery was dependent on live data readings from a tree in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Supported by the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (WITT), ISEA 2012 Albuquerque, and

Fig. 2. A Nguru – a small traditional Maori flute that is played with the nose or mouth. It was made by Darren Ward, and used for Wai.

Supported by the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (WITT), ISEA 2012 Albuquerque, and

Fig. 3. This is a detail from a screen capture of the animation by Australians Josephine Starrs and Leon Cmielewski. The words of Dr Te Huirangi Waikerepuru appears in the landscape of his home – Taranaki.

Fig. 4. Sink by Julian Priest – a model of anthropocentric ocean acidification.

Supported by the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (WITT), ISEA 2012 Albuquerque, and

Fig. 5. This photograph of the exhibition installation by Teresa Buscemi shows a still from The Wasteland by Indian artist Sharmila Samant (on the back wall of the space). The animation by Starrs and Cmielewski is projected on the floor. The Pou Hihiri stands to the right (see fig. 8 for detail).

Fig. 6. Still photograph of water by Māori artist Jo Tito, revealing patterns in the flow.

Supported by the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (WITT), ISEA 2012 Albuquerque, and

Fig. 7. Above left and right are screen captures from the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Science video Ruaumoko. It included both Māori and Western science views of earthquakes and volcanoes.

Fig. 8. Detail of Pou Hihiri by Te Urutahi Waikerepuru.

Supported by the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (WITT), ISEA 2012 Albuquerque, and



Central to the idea of integration in the project was the collection of live data from a tree in Aotearoa New Zealand. In Te Iarere – Communication over vast distances the data controlled the audio files heard in the 516Arts gallery in Albuquerque. The audio files were created by Māori musician Darren Robert Terama Ward and Andrew Thomas a Navajo or Dineh from Albuquerque (see fig. 1 and 2). The system that facilitated this was created by Andrew Hornblow, Julian Priest and Adrian Soundy for an earlier project by the author in a botanical garden in Nga Motu New Plymouth, New Zealand. Puwai Rangi Papa (fig. 3) is an animation by Australians Leon Cmielewski and Josephine Starrs where the words of Dr Te Huirangi Waikerepuru emerge out of the slowly rotating Taranaki landscape. This was projected on the floor, perhaps unconventional but not in the context of the artists’ previous work. New Zealander Julian Priest contributed Sink a conceptual work - a model of anthropocentric ocean acidification (fig. 4). A working scale model airplane motor was mounted over a tank containing a shell in fluid, into which the motor exhaust fumes went. If this system was started up and left running, eventually the carbon fumes would acidify the fluid to the extent it corrodes the shell. This is the conceptual object. It would physically work, but it works well in the mind. It also has to be said that our current relationship with the environment does involve putting exhaust fumes into the atmosphere. So in a way, Priest’s experiment has started already. The Wasteland is a video on water by artist Sharmila Samant from Mumbai India (fig. 5). It was made while she was an artist in residence at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. Water experiences between Taranaki (the region of the gallery), and India are almost in diametric opposition. Taranaki is bestowed with water (though recently was in near drought) while much of India is not. Out of this the artist directed extraordinary shots of rivers and flow, with audio of tangata whenua (the people of the land, as Māori call themselves) including Dr Waikerepuru, shown above. Māori artist Jo Tito (fig. 6) contributed a video on Wai. It evolved from the process of journeying to wai and waiting, contemplating and videoing flow patterns in water. Tito studied science for a year, being interested in seeing connections between belief systems. Within the shots of water are contained both the scientific explanation of flow patterns, and the Maori awareness of them, as the artist has pointed out [personal correspondence]. The Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences in Aotearoa New Zealand contributed a video (fig. 7) featuring Dr Te Huirangi Waikerepuru and GNS scientists including volcanologist Brad Scott, made by the research institute. This video provided views of strong natural forces of flow such as earthquakes (Ruaumoko) and volcanoes. Dr Waikerepuru spoke of imbalances of nature forcing the earth to rise up in the context of the Christchurch earthquakes. This was followed by scientific explanations of the types of volcanoes. While no direct overlap can be found in these instances, along the way Dr Waikerepuru [2] spoke of the earth as “revolving earth”. This translation has one hundred percent agreement with the Western scientific view. There are some overlaps in thinking where aspects fit together, but these are sometimes in unexpected locations. Further and significant overlaps were located in the project Te Kore Rongo Hungaora Uncontainable Second Nature at the Cumhuriyet Gallery in Istanbul in 2011 [3]. That project was targeted to interconnections, and as it happened water was an element common to the majority of selected works. The only object standing in the four dimensional space time of the exhibition was an electronic sculptural totem Pou Hihiri by Te Urutahi Waikerepuru of Aotearoa New Zealand (fig. 8). The Pou told a story of the potential of the universe to exist in many possible states, emphasising the universe as a womb of creation. III.


The notion of cultural bridge has been used by to bring together cultures from across cultural divides. Wai was the second of three projects utilising this cultural bridge. The activity has been under the guidance of Dr Te Huirangi Waikerepuru. It was his emphasis on engaging with local indigenous cultures that led the curator to seek the participation of Navajo by working with a local indigenous consultant Gordon Bronitsky. Participation included the aforementioned audio, plus a contribution to the dawn opening ceremony. Simple cultural frameworks were exposed, for example

Supported by the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (WITT), ISEA 2012 Albuquerque, and

customary practices are revealed not as some essential component of the fabric of life, but as a behavioural guide that changes between cultures. The reference to dawn opening ceremony indicates a source of cultural dynamic. Typically – in customary practice - in the Western European cultural hemisphere, an exhibition opening is in the evening. However according to traditional Māori custom, the sacredness of the space needs to be lifted so that people can enter and view the works. This process is timed to dawn and was adopted for Wai. Also included was a special ceremony from Navajo elder Johnson Dennison. As it happened, Wai had two openings with three cultural imperatives. This was the destruction of the Western paradigm as sole context for opening practice, and an innovation in the culture of the project. There are contributions from across cultural borders – those of India, Aotearoa New Zealand, Indigenous America, and Australia. This selection of culture has some past connection where India, Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia are concerned as these are all Commonwealth countries, part of the United Kingdom global colonial experiment. Whilst colonialism has retreated (for good reason) as a cultural strategy, these three cultures today are more representative of the culturally hybrid condition of global society. While colonialism established a dichotomy of culture, hybridity nurtures diversity as does the internet. There is also a wider tension in that it is customary to consider art works from within their cultural boundary. By this, all that is meant is that it is conventional to view the work of ethnic groups according to nationality. The Venice Biennale is separated by country, for example. This is also true of most museum displays. What happens though, when creative products across cultural boundaries are brought together? Firstly it is necessary to erect a contextual framework inclusive of cultures. The inclusive framework needs to allow for indigenous cultures, so often negatively impacted in the process of engaging with Western culture, space to cohabitate. This means placing truth within cultural frameworks rather than being universally applicable. That is a considerable but necessary step on behalf of the Western audience: to step back from seeing ourselves as the sole supplier of ‘objective’ truth, and open the mind to the beliefs of other cultures being relevant and applicable in suitable contexts. It is not necessary to adopt the beliefs of other cultures, but simply to be open to their applicability where relevant. has been working with Dr Waikerepuru in a focussed way since the SCANZ 2011: Eco sapiens hui (symposium) where it was determined that Western government, science and business would not resolve global climate change, and that listening to the voice of indigenous people is a necessary step in humanity’s progression to a positive relationship with Earth. Three projects arose from the collaboration: for Istanbul, Albuquerque and SCANZ 203: 3rd nature in Aotearoa New Zealand. IV. INTEGRATED SYSTEMS AND CULTURAL HYBRIDITY Wai was founded in notions of cultural bridging, integrated systems and hybridity. These facets are dovetailed throughout the project. Their collection is partly due to some larger scale similarities between systems in a state of integration and cultures in a state of hybridisation. At cultural borders in city environments it is recognised that hybridity results from the overlap of cultural spaces. This is a fresh state of the system of the city. Similarly, nonlinearity in a physical system such as the weather, generates novel states of the system in the future, with the result that the weather is not entirely predictable beyond likelihood over a given period of time. While cultural hybridity in cities follows a discernible pattern when viewed retrospectively, prediction is less certain, mimicking the state of the weather in that context. The term hybrid is based in the Latin hybrida referring to the bastard child of a Roman and a slave according to the Wolters Dictionary [4] and wiktionary [5]. The cross breed was considered a blemish on pure humanity well into the 19th century, one of the great eras of colonisation and migration, with consequential impacts on indigenous people globally. In the age of the internet hybridities are of course celebrated. While colonisation has had negative impacts and indigenous populations continue to register poorly in socio economic metrics, in Aotearoa New Zealand a novel situation has arisen, with two official languages one of which is indigenous.

Supported by the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (WITT), ISEA 2012 Albuquerque, and

Aotearoa New Zealand could be considered almost archetypal in hybrid cultural terms, as the national anthem is sung in both Māori and English prior to games of rugby, arguably the national sport. Many Māori terms are used in everyday English language. More importantly there are legal consequences flowing from the founding document of the nation, Te Tiriti O Waitangi, which bonds the government to recognising Māori rights to resources. This has resulted in successful application for rights to language, land, radio and television spectra over the last thirty years led by Dr Waikerepuru and others, and more recently to contentions around water. As situations arise in the progression of time, innovations in the cultural fabric of Aotearoa occur and this is replicated in the way natural systems progress over time. The science of integrated systems is more detailed than the contentions around human and societal interaction, but nonetheless both result in innovative states. Integrated systems rest upon nonlinearity and are also called nonlinear systems. The key feature of non-linear systems is that their primary behaviours of interest are the interaction between parts, rather than being properties of the parts themselves, and these interaction based properties necessarily disappear when the parts are studied independently. [6]. Consequently relations between parts are studied and observed to be dynamic in time. This is also correct of both cultures as time progresses, and complex integrated systems as they evolve over time. A system in a state of complexity can react to changes in the environment or feedback from its own states. To write of culture in a state of complexity, where humans are reacting to changes in virtual, digital and spatial-temporal environments, seems to cohere well with the current human condition. However, the view from interconnection could be considered problematic as it is the opposite method to isolating and examining an object to discern its category (which is the heritage of the West). Thinking from the perspective of connections drives inevitably to considering where does interconnection end? There is a question: to what extent are things connected? To answer this question, I would like to draw attention to a certain and specific connecting point. In 1949 Jon von Neumann was working on Cellular Automata, and developed a model whereby information was treated in two ways [7]: “1. Interpreted – instructions to be executed in the construction of offspring. 2. Uninterpreted – as passive data to be duplicated to form the description to the offspring.” It would be fair to say von Neumann is deep into electronic digital processes. However, the place this process was next observed was not some distance away but rather right in the heart of what human can mean in one sense. Watson and Crick in 1953 published a paper that located the same processes in the “transcription/translation and replication” [8] in their model of DNA, in other words the unfolding of DNA over time as it is observed. If selfreplicating software and core human identity are connected then the viability of viewing all from connection rather than isolation is supported. This level of connection seems deep on reflection, but as with all ideas time will tell. Such then are some of the reflections on the process of curating Wai. This cluster of questions formed the ideological territory for selecting works for Wai, which integrated flow as a subject, with works that were interdisciplinary and culturally diverse. In the final analysis integrating traditional Māori knowledge and Western science in the context of art, may be the hybridity of greatest benefit. For within the process of opening the mind to other truths lies a potential to resolve issues around the sustainability of human habitation of Earth, probably the greatest issue facing us today. REFERENCES [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

H. Bhabha, The Location of Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 1994, p6. GNSscience, “Ruaumoko: what lies beneath,” [video] 2011. L. Aceti, “Uncontainable second nature,” retrieved, 2011 Europan, “Hybrida”, retrieved europan6/euro6_alg_e.html accessed 8 October 2002. Maer, “Hybrida” retrieved hybrida accessed 8 Novemeber 2012. C.G. Langton, “Artificial Life” in The Philosophy of Artificial Life, M Boden, Ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996, p53. Ibid. p48. Ibid. p48.

Supported by the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (WITT), ISEA 2012 Albuquerque, and

Lihat lebih banyak...


Copyright © 2017 DADOSPDF Inc.