Wednesday, July 19, 2006

last daze in NZ

Whoa, I haven't logged on here for a couple of days and so much happened between the last log entry and now. I'll try and fill in the blanks. At the moment I'm sitting in a laundromat in Vancouver washing all the NZ mud and sand out of my clothes trying to think of what is important to log and what is not. I've read a lot of other peoples published journals and some blogs but it escapes me as to what should be "tossed out there" for all to know.

Saturday started off sunny and breezy so I spent the afternoon trying to get ready for another test flight of the Night kite later on in between all the SCANZ symposium presentations in the afternoon. It was nice to see a few new folks out for the symposium. I was sort of feeling like I might not have another chance to fly the kite so I enlisted Lylli Sue to come out out to the beach at sunset to operate the video camera. I wanted some documentation of the kite in flight and was hoping to get some shots for a video commission I have to get done by the end of the summer. The sunset was beautiful as a back drop, the surf was beautiful crashing and swelling, and the first kite flight was great. The wind was a little too gusty for the Huia sound payload again though but I was still hoping to get it all happening. Then..oh no! .. the kite crashed in the water. As I set out to retrieve it I was thinking that this was the end as the kite line was almost all the way out when it went down. I walked out on the rocks to the water line( the tide was out) and started pulling the line in slowly hoping it wouldn't break. As the kite came closer to my position I could see that the blue LEDS were still lit! The lights twinkled under the water and as the kite came closer it was looking like some kind of electric underwater creature. I sort of felt then like a fisherman in some mythic story hooking a magic creature. I slowly lifted the kite out of the water looking for damage and the wind grabbed it. As the water ran off, it slowly righted itself and lifted back into the sky! What a sight! I looked back at Lylli Sue hoping that the video was still rolling and carried on flying it. As the evening wore on, the kite crashed four more times in the water with me carrying out the same sequence of events several times over.

Sunday was spent with trying to repair the damage from the last nights final crash in hopes that the wind would come up for the evenings planned dinner, a Maori style dinner celebration with food cooked over hot stones buried in the ground. We all bussed over to a farm for the dinner watching Mt. Taranaki glow in the orange sunset. The wind didn't come up and I found before we left that I had made an error in my repairs so the kite would not have flown properly anyway, much to the chagrin of the Taranaki Daily News photographer who came out to the farm for a kite photo op. The news people seemed to be obsessed with getting a picture of the kite, but I had been dodging them all week after the first run in with them. I wasn't very keen on letting them misrepresent my work again and as the kite project is a work in progress, didn't want it to be publicized as such.

Monday was consumed with getting ready to leave New Plymouth, but I found that my flight out was not until late Tuesday evening. So I had more time to hang out, shop a bit and look around. I got lucky with another nice sunset and went out with Gillian and Justin to try and get some more shots. I had discovered after viewing the video footage that I could sort of piece together a narrative for the video and get some establishing shots for cutaways and such during the editing. There was no wind and the light was quite different. The tide was still in too. Everything was different so getting some simple shots turned difficult. Yikes... I finally got my boots soaked through and wet sand all over everything.

Tuesday I went to see the SCANZ exhibition at the Govett-Brewster Gallery in New Plymouth. What a great exhibition! And wow.. Some folks even showed the work they were doing at SCANZ. It was great to see the end results of so much hard work. Thanks!

Friday, July 14, 2006

"Did you see any Ancients?"

We all looked around at each other in silence a littled stunned at hearing such a provocative question and not really sure what he was asking. " Either you do or you don't have the ability to see them. " he continued on.
After spending the afternoon hiking to a remote less travelled part of the forest on Mt. Taranki we were sitting in the little tea room/cafe near the visitors center eating a nice lunch and drinking coffee waiting for Jim and Lyllie to return from the forest . The older gentleman who asked the question continued on telling us a little bit of his experience with the spiritual aspects and the history of the mountain. His family had been connected with Mt. Taranki for over 150 years. He talked about seeing the Ancients faces in the mist above Dawson Falls, of having to step aside as an ancient war party passed by in the forest, and of feeling pushed aside by the "angry energy" around the the north side of the mountain.
The stormy rain and wind accompanied us as we left wondering what to think of what he said. We had already been introduced to the idea that we were interfacing with the ancestors of the Maori people as we made our way around the Taranki region. It was interesting to hear another perspective on these ideas.
Later I thought of the early Sci-Fi writer H.P. Lovecrafts short horror stories which were concerned with a mythology he had made up where present day people somehow wind up encountering an unspeakable race of Ancients that came to Earth millions of years ago through a fictional sort of witchcraft and that our encounter sort of strangly felt like the begining of one of Lovecrafts stories. .........

Later as the sun was going down I hurried out to the beach to try out the Night Kite again. I had fixed the LED string and built the sound player into a payload to suspend off the tow line. The wind was a little gusty so I was little apprehensive about flying it. Diana and Janine came out to watch but were soon helping out. The wind was coming from inland and the beach area was protected by trees so it was a bit tricky trying to launch it. I had it up and was about to attach the sound player and suddenly the usually taut line went limp. I looked up and ...oh oh .. the kite was drifting out toward the water and slowly descending. The tow line had detached itself. We watched as it came to rest on the rocks out near the water line, the bright blue LEDS twinkling away marking it resting position. I headed out to retrieve it only to find that I had to traverse a sort of field of round stones and shallow water to get the dark. I managed to retrieve it with out getting a booter and when I got back to the beach I was amazed at my Blundstone boots ability to not soak through even though I had stepped in the water quite a bit.

We carried on with flying, but the wind was really up and down and the kite never really stabilized enough to attach the sound payload so I left it on the beach and the Huia song cried out into the night air along with the sound of the surf pounding the beach as I tried to keep the kite flying.

With the residency winding down and the sympsosium starting today I find my thoughts about what I have been doing drifting about leaving me a little unclear of what I actually achieved with the kite project. With my thoughts of dealing with issues back home, travel arrangements, the symposium and documentation starting to become a priority I find myself feeling like I am not done here. There's too much left to consider. I 'll have to come back.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

real -unreal

It's interesting how we get a piece of information from whatever source and tend to believe it straight up. A lot has been written around not believing everything you read. How about what you hear? In my early research concerning making a proposal to SCANZ I found a sound file that is purported to be a recording of an extinct bird, the Huia. Since I have been here the question of the provenance of the recording has been raised. The bird became extinct around the time that recording equipment was being invented . The source website does not include any notes. Although it is easy to believe the recording , there is now doubt on whether it is a real bird or a recording of a Maori fellow imitating the bird recorded long after it was gone. Here are two different recordings.

This is the documented imitation recording as whistled by Henare Hemana in 1954, a member of the Maori people who participated in the exhibitions to find Huias in the early 1900's.

New Zealand sound archives catalog

Huia imitation recording

Here is the Huia recording from the MacPherson Natural History Unit.

Huia recording

Sounds like the same guy imitating the bird to me......

Tengaruru and Herwini from the marae came by the media lab yesterday to see what we are up to. The Maori folks have been interested in our projects as some of them are referencing Maori culture. My kite project will have me broadcasting the song of the Huia from the kite in some way referencing the loss of the beloved and sacred bird. I showed them the Night Kite and the photos from the test flight the other night. Both were intrigued by the photographic results and very enthusiastic. I also played them the archival recording of the Huia which I wanted to use and discussed the relationship of Maori language to the bird call. We talked a bit about Maori spiritual beliefs in relation to kites, the birds and the sky too.

I feel kind of silly believing the bird call to be a recording of a real bird, but then again the Maori people fooled the actual birds with their whistling imitations.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Night Kite test flight.

Flew the new Night Kite tonight as a test with some simple electronics attached; a string of super bright blue LEDS. Normally I test everything by myself but this time a group of SCANZ artists came out to the field to watch. Everyone has been excited about this project since I proposed it so it was nice to have everyone around. Part of the LED string broke before we sent it up but we carried on. The kite flew well. The wind speed was almost too high to be flying so the kite was straining against the tow line flying all over the sky. Occasionally the line would hum as the wind vibrated the string like a long Aeolian harp string.
The full moon was hidden behind fast moving clouds and occasionally peeked out. As the kite was rising, it slowly lost its visibility leaving only the LEDS shining brightly. Jim took pictures for me. The digital camera shutter was set to shoot in the dark and so slow it reveals the flight path of the kite as the wind tossed it around.

Monday, July 10, 2006

sunny, cloudy, rainy, cold, hot

The weather changes so fast here. The web forecast can say that its going to be rainy and cloudy all week but we have mixed sunny, cloudy, drizzly, rainy, windy, calm, cold, hot all in one day. I went down to the beach where there was a better breeze in the afternoon to test the Night Kite. After much fussing about, the Night Kite wouldn't achieve any lift youch... It was looking good, but flying bad. My energy dropped and as I walked back my brain went into overdrive trying to figure out what was wrong. As soon as I got back , I took it completely apart. I thought about the visit earlier in the day of Te Huirangi Waikerepuru, the Maori elder. He talked about creating and singing a song to accompany any activity and that the words helped give energy to that activity.

Maybe I need a song...

I spent the Monday evening creating a new kite , thinking and working on my sound player. The new kite is based on a design similar to the Eddy kite which was created early in the 20th century by William Eddy. After an hour of adjustments it started to fly properly. My spirits started to lift as it flew. yaayyy....

Sunday, July 09, 2006

watching the sky

Western Intitute of Technology Taranaki

Spent most of yesterday sewing the sail onto the Night Kite hoping to be done before the weather changed. It was a glorious sunny breezy day but when the sun went down the wind dropped. I kept working and hoping but there was no change until about 1 am when some clouds moved in and it started to rain a bit. This morning the clouds were still overhead and there was no wind. ......

Last night we capped the first week of SCANZ off with a big wonderful dinner. Sara and crew made a fab East Indian style dinner... Yum! Everyone was in good spirits.. except Jim who caught the virus that is going around. youch..

Saturday, July 08, 2006

the best sheepherder in NZ

Yesterday I tagged along with Alex who had organized a video shoot at a farm deep in the NZ sheepland with a top notch sheepherder and his dogs. Before I left home I had a meeting with TRIP Contemporary Dance concerning doing a sound score for a dance work called Herding Instinct which is concerned with herding dogs and sheep. What a coincidence that we are working on a similar project! So I shot some footage myself (with Alex's permission) as part of my research. It was a lucky day all around. Most of the time it is raining and/or cloudy(NZ winter). It was sunny all afternoon, then as we drove back it poured buckets.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Tui songs

Every morning we as we wake up we are greeted by the wonderous songs of a bird singing. In the early morning air the sound echoes off the accomodation buildings and seems to come from several points at once. The volume and resonance that this bird is capable of is amazing. Yesterday I learned that it was a Tui and saw a pair of them in a tree. Wow.

How is it that we have to go half way around the planet to appreciate the wonders of nature?

Last night I got a good run at building the Night Kite.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Beauty everywhere

Ok.. so I have to try and get into doing this every day. I've never written anything journal or diary like ever so getting into the groove is tough. When I left for New Zealand everyone I mentioned the trip to were telling me how beautiful it is here. It's all true. Almost everywhere you look its postcard beautiful. So do you ya think I can take a decent picture with all this beauty around me? ...Haa! Here's my first and only picture after being here for 5 days.

The last couple of days have been busy with finding parts for the Night Kite; the first kite to be made with electronics incorporated. Got really lucky with Justin and Kim driving me around New Plymouth to all the shops. Found everything pretty quickly.

Yesterday I went to the Puke Ariki , a natural history museum concerned with the Taranki region and looked around. It was very interesting although I think the artifacts and displays are overwhelmed by all the framing, multi-media displays
and the buildings impressive design. I saw two traditional Maori kites, a manu patiki and a manu taratahi, displayed amongst all the other artifacts. And as well the stuffed Nga Huias, a bird of New Zealand with a really sad story of its extinction.

SCANZ artists lunch at WITT.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Settling in

Today I feel llike more myself after a couple of good sleeps, some good experiences and a few lucky moments. When I arrived in Auckland on Sunday I found that my luggage decided to go on a side trip leaving me devoid of clean clothes, tools and equipment for my projects. I was getting pretty stressed about it.

Monday morning had our group attending a powhiri held at the Waitara Marae(holy house) of the local Maori groups. The sun shone brightly on our group as we were gently brought into the ritual welcoming cermony. With much grace, generosity and humor from the local Maori elders we were introduced to their traditions, relationship to the land, sea and sky, history and philoshopy with songs, speeches, Q and A, and so on. It's hard to describe how special and magical this morning event was. We are all blessed.

Monday afternoon the baggage arrived intact!. Yaaayy.. clean undies. Yesterday I got lucky and found a shop in town that had some good raw materials for my kite building.

Over the last few evenings everyone has been introducing their art practice. Wow .. what diversity! My head is spinning.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Cultural exploitation

I'm so upset. I gave an interview to a journalist from the Taranaki Daily News describing my art work in relation to my participation in Solar Circuit Aotearoa New Zealand(SCANZ) The byline to the accompanying photo says that I am building a " traditional Maori kite" . Why not print " Canadian Artist Exploits Maori Culture!" ? How did the journalist after at least 10 minutes of discussion sum up my project like this?
I am not building a traditional Maori kite. I am not Maori. I don't speak the language. And I am like a baby learning about Maori traditions and culture. I am building a kite and I am researching kite making in the Taranki region and elsewhere in the world; both traditional and contemporary.

No more interviews with the media.