7 September – 3 October 2009, Starkwhite, Auckland
The Middle Landscape’s aesthetic is theatrical, incorporating both landscape gardening and the brightly-coloured functionality of a sporting-goods store. Entering the space, sounds and flickering light emanate from tents pitched on the gallery floor, while drifts of pine bark soften the acoustics and give off an earthy smell. Bright yellow extension cables snake across the floor and into the tents, feeding the electronics inside.
The tents create enclosed viewing spaces, in one, a large monitor plays an endless loop of a digger drilling a hole in muddy earth, in another tent, a rear-projection shows video made with a colonoscope, strange wide-angle shots through the scope’s fibre-optic bundles. A third tent bears the names of every living Kakapo (one of the world’s most endangered animals) burnt into its fly, males on one side, females on the other. Sound leaks through the tents’ thin nylon walls. The pine bark – an industrial by-product of the timber and pulp industries – recalls playground surfaces and mulched beds of onamental flaxes. The bark piles up in corners and against the gallery’s street-window, paths are worn through it to the concrete floor below.
The work addresses our desire to come into contact with wild nature, but our inability to survive it without physical and cultural framing. The videos in the tents draw on the aesthetics of nature documentaries: the lingering macro shot and linking voice-over. Exploring notions of the natural, of biosecurity and ecological utopianism, The Middle Landscape is in part inspired by the writing of ecologist Geoff Park, his discussion of the picturesque and the importance of the Romantic tradition to our understanding of the New Zealand landscape. In his book Theatre Country Park describes Pakeha as having: “no framework for living with the indigenous, in any other form than visiting and admiring it.” The Middle Landscape investigates the idea of native landscape and what an intimacy with those spaces might possibly mean.