Thursday, December 17, 2009

Immaculate Conception

Tacita Dean, Tate Christmas Tree 2009
In sound, in text, in image - and in concept - there is a moment when the tuning seems to have found that perfect note. Without static, free from unnecessary embellishment, focussed and pure, there is the sense of an immaculate moment. Tacita Dean's Tate Christmas tree seems such a moment. Like Dean's work in film and photography, the tree embodies aspects of memory, of pasts present. The tree is an iconic Christmas tree - a Nordmann fir - decorated only with candles. Made from beeswax, the candles are calibrated to mark the diurnal fading of light. Lit at 4pm when the light fades in the gallery, they burn for precisely 2 hours until the gallery closes, underscoring the passage through twilight. The lighting of the candles, their eschewing of technology, and the image of the candlelight, suffuses the tree with the ritual of Christmas's past.
Tacita Dean: "I was struck when I arrived in Berlin by the simplicity of Christmas there. I felt the Germans had managed to hold onto something of its purity and magic despite commercial pressures. As many of my films encompass twilight and the transition from day to night, it seems appropriate to light the candles at this moment of each day."
Seasons Greetings ...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Surface Paradise

Gitta Gschwendtner, Animal Wall, Cardiff Bay, Wales

The surfaces which surround our bodies in space are imbued with a phenomenological potentiality. Surface as skin presents the possibility of intensification of moisture, dryness, gravity, lightness, being. And the surfaces in themselves breathe, inhabit, co-habit. Gitta Gschwendtner's Animal Wall provides space for bats and birds. As a faunal parallel to the adjacent housing development, 1000 nesting boxes are provided in the eerie eyrie wall. The wall of R&SIE[N]'s 'I'm lost in Paris' house infuses the surface with flora, where some 1,200 ferns are grown hydroponically, with the fruit-like glass vessels feeding them with bacteria, nutrients and rainwater. Each wall provides a dissolution of the thick black line of separation, and presents an encounter zone.

R&SIE[N], 'I'm Lost in Paris' House, Paris, France

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Beauty All Over Again

Richard Wright

Richard Wright, guitarist with Correcto, has won the Turner Prize ... with a return to beauty. Painting that is all over the wall, and painting that is soon all over. The ephemerality of the painting is fundamental to its beauty, the fleeting beauty of that which passes. Reminiscent of Oscar Muñoz's painting with water there is a poignancy in that which is made to not endure, the intensification of the experiential, such that it must be fully consumed by the senses as the mind is always already aware that this is a fleeting immersion ... somehow a counterpoint to Jorge Otero-Pailos' wall castings, the dialogue with the wall, the direct engagement. In Wright's case to always be painted over, in Otero-Pailos's to be a momentary embrace which yields the trace.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Love and Landscape

Fifth panel of Colin McCahon (1958) Northland Panels ['a landscape with too few lovers']

Tears on leaving. Not a lover, but a landscape. The childhood landscape. The one which was loved too little then. Resenting its insularity, its rurality, its lack of all that was in Other Places, let alone Overseas. Not the landscape of hill, cloud, scarred paddock, not McCahon's Northland, but the epigraph is still apt. Instead it is mountains, sea, one road in, one road out. On this last visit the landscape sulked, the mountains hid behind the curtains of cloud. The sea glowered and slopped about, uncooperative. However much amends might have be sought, for the lack of loving, an audience was not even granted. Can one betray a landscape? Will a landscape forgive?

Monday, November 30, 2009


Today ... New Zealand launched its first rocket into space. A slender, unmanned rocket was launched from a site on Great Mercury Island. Witnesses to the rocket launch had tears in their eyes, the experience described as 'profound' ... 'pure elation' ...

Today ... New Zealand's second largest repatriation of human remains arrived at Te Papa. In wooden caskets, the remains of 33 Maori were returned from museums in Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Sweden. The origin of many of the repatriated individuals, including tattooed preserved heads, is believed to be the Mercury Islands.

This passing of invisible trajectories, tracks through time and space, ancient and futuristic, crosses for a moment at the Mercury Islands ... this place where Captain Cook paused a while in 1769 to watch the planet Mercury cross in front of the Sun ... this moment when Cook was able to fix his latitude and longitude, a point in space, a moment in a trajectory of time ...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Cloud of [Un]Knowing

A poem of sorts: where the metaphysical realm of the virtual conjures up haiku-like clouds of text. Perhaps a Tag Cloud Spotters' Guide is called for. Is one's own cloud the light and wispy Cirrus, woven with small streaks of light, up high in the rarefied zones? Or are there the traits of the Cumulonimbus, rumbling, crackling, a downpour always already imminent? Within the William S Burroughs-like congealed fragments, the strangely amputated stanzas, there are curious moments, micro-intoxications, like the "New Zealand Pleasure Finalists"... heralding a joyous cloud formation, like the fluffy Cumulus of a holiday sky. The Search [for] Gloom ... a leaden cloud laden with dank drizzle. And the serenity of the isolated 'Solitude', a small cloud in a clear blue sky, a lenticular formation of the sort one sees parked above hills, mimicking the topography ...

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Cockatoo Island, Sydney, JB

"The observation of two minutes' silence by an entire nation at 11am on 11/11 is the greatest work of modern art the British have ever come up with... in this age of mass participatory cultural events, the poetry of shared silence is perhaps appreciated more than ever. Who would have thought contemporary art would school us in remembrance?" Jonathan Jones

"Noise masked as music had pursued her since early childhood. During her years at the Academy of Fine Arts, students had been required to spend whole summer vacations at a youth camp. They lived in common quarters and worked together on a steelworks construction site. Music roared out of loudspeakers on the site from five in the morning until nine at night. She felt like crying, but the music was cheerful, and there was nowhere to hide, not in the latrine or under the bedclothes: everything was in range of the speakers. The music was like a pack of hounds that had been sicked on her." Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Contemporary Confessional, Christchurch, JB

Friday, November 13, 2009

One Degree of Separation

Simon Patterson, The Great Bear, 1992 (detail)

Roland Barthes' assertion of the 'death of the author' somehow evaporates when the object of one's writing is suddenly reading what one has written. While Barthes promoted the creative intervention of the reader in the experiencing of a work - or in the case of my current conundrum, the viewer - the sudden presence of the author (director) has a somehow immutable and omnipotent power. They are far from 'dead.' Is what I have written about his work of any interest to him? Is it, even, truthful? Does that matter (in the context of the reader's promotion to creative ally of the author)?

This has happened some times before, direct contact with the topic of one's musings ....with theorists who suddenly loom large at conferences, here or there, hither or yon. However, this latest imminent exchange is perhaps the most intimidating yet, and productive of an extreme and scrupulous self-critique. Crises of confidence ensue.

The webs of association are intriguingly complex and imbricated. The various degrees of separation sometimes suddenly fall away, till there is The Other, right there, without intermediary. This web is remiscent of Simon Patterson's The Great Bear. Playing on the idea of 'constellations' of thinkers, artists, musicians, philosophers, Patterson deemed his particular configuration a grouping of stars called The Great Bear, which is clustered along the various lines of the London Underground. So, now, travelling via the line of Great Directors, and imagining I would, as usual, simply rattle by the station and stare at it out the window, I find that I have now disembarked, and am confronting it, in person ...

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Wesleyan Methodist Church (Verso), November 2009, JB
"She had learned that over the ages various metaphors had been used for explaining memory, all of them attempts to understand how the mind worked. There were seals leaving traces on soft wax; vast storehouses with many chambers and ranks of pigeonholes, some secret; elaborate palaces with thousands of rooms each named. There were metaphors from photography in which memory acted like a chemical, leaving ghostly images behind; and from archaeology with its shards and relics, all needing sifting and reassembly. Meanwhile, from the digital world came hard and soft discs and neural nets. There were also homunculi and mystic writing pads in which scratchy trces or scars were left on a hard plate that was continually being overwritten."
Lisa Appignanesi, The Memory Man, 2004, p,44

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Temporal Inversion

7.54am [pinhole camera image] JB
The oxymoronic melancholy of spring is insistent, pervasive. Amidst the effusive efflorescences, the shattering chartreuse - a lime-ish green that is alarming in its intensity - there is a darkness. That conundrum: the resistance of happiness in the presence of beauty because of the knowledge that it will pass, the ubi sunt effect. And here - way down here - out of step with the 'old world,' there is an amplification of the inevitability of the passage of all things. In spring the rituals and festivals of the old world's autumn are marked, such that at the height of the spasm of renewal, planting and growth, the celebrations, with some bizarre macabre twist, mark the ending of things - meditations upon death. All Hallows' Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day come not with the darkening evenings, with bonfire pyres, rotting and decay - but with bright sunshine and blossom. Senescence is always already a presence.

B[l]eached bone [pinhole camera image] JB

Thursday, November 5, 2009

All Saints Day

A procession. Medieval. Theatrical. Spiritual. Water is gently flicked from the ceremonial vessel with a frond of Kowhai from the Sacred Grove.

The words are intoned:
Bishop Kito: The earth brought forth vegetation; plants yielding seed, and trees of every kind ... and God saw that it was good.
Bishop Winston: As the earth brings forth its blossom, or bushes in a garden burst into flower, so shall God make righteousness and praise flourish before all people.

The consecration is peformed. Upon a sunny Sunday late afternoon, Evensong into evening, the broad vistas connecting to the volcanic cones beyond, the ley lines and resonances of topography become momentarily intensified. And it was good.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sunday ... drifting ...

Hope Sandoval, Wild Roses (new album out Through the Devil Softly Sept, 2009)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Repository of the Self

"Days in the past cover up little by little those that preceded them and are themselves buried beneath those that follow them. But each past day has remained deposited in us, as in a vast library where, even of the oldest of books, there is a copy which doubtless nobody will ever ask to see."
Books of the Dead (containing ash), California, 2001, JB

"And yet should this day from the past, traversing the translucency of the intervening epochs, rise to the surface and spread itself inside us until it covers us entirely, then for a moment names resume their former meaning, people their former aspect, we ourselves our state of mind at the time, and we feel, with a vague suffering which however is endurable and will not last for long, the problems which have long ago become insoluble and which caused us such anguish at the time."

Avonhead Park Cemetery, 2002, JB

"Our ego is composed of the super imposition of our successive states. But this superimposition is not unalterable like the stratification of a mountain. Incessant upheavals raise to the surface ancient deposits."

Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time / The Remembrance of Things Past

Monday, October 12, 2009


London, June 2007, JB

"I am melancholic; not depressive, but inclined to view the certainty of decay, loss and death as rather more significant than the prospect of the fun and excitements to be had from life before these things set in. I have experienced as violence the emergence of the culture of compulsory industrialised joy, which is the companion of consumerism."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Time Space

Through the Pass, October 2009, JB

"In North Greenland distances are measure in sinik, in 'sleeps', the number of nights that a journey requires. It's not a fixed distance. Depending on the weather and the time of year, the number of sinik can vary. It's not a measurement of time, either. Under the threat of a storm, I've travelled with my mother non-stop from Force Bay to Iita, a distance that should have required two nights.

Sinik is not a distance, not a number of days or hours. It is both a spatial and a temporal phenomenon, a concept of space-time, it describes the union of space and motion and time that is taken for granted by the Inuit but cannot be captured by any European everyday language."

Peter Hoeg, Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, 1992

Motukiekie, October 2009, JB

"Somewhere a clock strikes four double strikes, four bells, the measure of time at sea, a time that doesn't distinguish between night and day but only the monotone changeover of four-hour watches. These bells reinforce the feeling that we're at a standstill, that we've never left port but have remained stationary in time and space, merely twisting ourselves further down into meaninglessness."

Peter Hoeg, Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, 1992

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Mark Rothko, Browns, 1957? (via Wood s Lot)

Colin McCahon, Tomorrow will be the same, but not as this is, 1958 - 59

Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968

Present Absence

Glove Object, Christchurch, September 2009, JB

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I See A Darkness

Guido Reni (17th century), St Sebastian, Oil on canvas, and X-ray of the painting carried out as part of conservation by the Auckland City Art Gallery, NZ

Darkness: "We have considered darkness as a cause of the sublime; and we have all along considered the sublime as depending on some modification of pain or terror: so that if darkness be no way painful or terrible to any, who have not had their minds early tainted with superstitions, it can be no source of the sublime to them. But, with all deference to such an authority, it seems to me, that an association of a more general nature, an association which takes in all mankind, and make darkness terrible; for in utter darkness it is impossible to know in what degree of safety we stand; we are ignorant of the objects that surround us; we may every moment strike against some dangerous obstruction; we may fall down a precipice the first step we take; and if an enemy approach, we know not in what quarter to defend ourselves; in such a case strength is no sure protection; wisdom can only act by guess; the boldest are staggered, and he, who would pray for nothing else towards his defence, is forced to pray for light."

Blackness: "Though the effects of black be painful originally, we must not think they always continue so. Custom reconciles us to everything. After we have been used to the sight of black objects, the terror abates, and the smoothness and glossiness, or some agreeable accident, of bodies so coloured, softens in some measure the horror and sternness of their original nature; yet the nature of their original impression still continues. Black will always have something melancholy in it, because the sensory will always find the change to it from other colours too violent; or if it occupy the whole compass of the sight, it will then be darkness; and what was said of darkness will be applicable here."

Edmund Burke, On the Sublime and Beautiful

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Storm Brewing, Philadelphia/Otago, 2009/2007, JB

“I feel that there is much to be said for the Celtic belief that the souls of those whom we have lost are held captive in some inferior being, in an animal, in a plant, in some inanimate object, and thus effectively lost to us until the day (which to many never comes) when we happen to pass by a tree or to obtain possession ofthe object which forms their prison. Then they start and tremble, they call us by our name, and as soon aswe have recognised their voice the spell is broken. Delivered by us, they have overcome death and return to share our life.”
Marcel Proust, The Remembrance of Things Past (1913)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Oneiric House

Machine for Navigating the Cosmos, September 2009, JB
The house is a "metaphysical instrument, a mythical tool with which we try to introduce a reflection of eternity into our momentary existence." Juhani Pallasmaa
It's "an instrument with which to confront the cosmos." Gaston Bachelard
"To make their home in the world, that is, to build, human beings must gain more than physical control, they must establish spiritual control. To do so they must wrest order from what at first seems contingent, fleeting, and confusing, transforming chaos into cosmos." Karsten Harries

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Formal Park, September 2009, JB

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Afterlives of Others

Draped Urn / Book / Draped Column, Addington, June 2009, JB

Roaming the Theatres of Memory, amidst the Afterlives of Others. Like the elements of the memory theatre which assisted the orators with memorising their speeches, the symbolic traces of the cemetery present small clues to the departed. The mnemonic forensics release only the merest trace. What is the subtext of the draped urn of mourning as opposed to the burning urn of undying friendship?

Greeting God, Lyttelton, June 2009, JB

Shaking hands. A farewell to the mortals or a greeting of god?
The hourglasses, the chains.
Olives, oaks.

City of the Dead, Linwood, June 2009, JB

Open books and broken columns.

A pillow and a rope.

Cluedo or the Game of Life?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Poetry of the Ports



Flights Arrivals

Jet Star
Pacific Blue

Ships in Port Today

Cerveza II
Reel Passion
San Nicholas
Te Ariki Nui

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Scared / Sacred

Temple of Athena /Gun Emplacement, August 2009, JB

"A boundary is not that at which something stops but, as the Greeks recognized, the boundary is that from which something begins its presencing." Martin Heidegger, Building Dwelling Thinking

Temples or gun emplacements? Awaiting the enemy or framing the view? The decades between intention and appreciation melt away the menace, and instead there's scenery by stealth. Late afternoon light on a late winter's day brings a metamorphosis. The nervous cliffs at the harbour edge become places of grace, they become Vincent Scully's - his earth, his temples, his gods. An antipodean Aegean Sea, Poseidon, Apollo, Athena in attendance.

Temple of Poseidon / Coastal Monitoring Facility, August 2009

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Filmed for the live performance by XELA at Monkeytown, Brooklyn, NY by Matthew Murphy.

[Best viewed Full Screen, and sound on Max...] [Plus a glass of something very darkly red ...]

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dream / Land

Flying / Dreaming, August 2009 JB

For us the land is matrix and destroyer,
Resentful, darkly known
By sunset omens, low words heard in branches;
Or where the red deer lift their innocent heads
Snuffing the wind for danger,
And from our footfall's menace bound in terror.

Flying / Dreaming 2, August 2009, JB

(Dreaming of James K Baxter's words, his 'Matukituki Valley ...' (1949))

Friday, August 21, 2009

Spectral City

Early morning, another city. Traces of humanity drift across anonymous facades. A blind down, a window open.

No-one on the streets. Just the aura of the haunted. Smears of ectoplasm. The scraping of poltergeists.

And a pair of shoes.

"Ghosts crawl over this landscape like termites on a rock."

Emily Perkins, Novel About My Wife, 2008

Saturday, August 8, 2009

On Memory

Dunedin North, May 2009, JB

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.
Roy Batty in Bladerunner (1982) [ad-libbed by Rutger Hauer]

The fragmentary and partial. The small elements of memory that make up a life. The shoebox of letters placed in the recycling bin - a line drawn in the sand. One day soon to return re-formed, reincarnated, as an egg carton. The photographs on the lost camera card, fading in the mind's eye, vaporising. The unrecorded impressions. The flooding of the mind, the eyes, when the wintersweet flowers. The optimism of a freesia. Soon springing into summer, a winter's worth of reverie to be catalogued, from the fug of hibernation into lucidity ...

Man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end ... one can certainly wager that man would be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea.
Michel Foucault, The Order of Things (1966)

For when you look back on the whole past course of immeasurable time and think how manifold are the shapes which the motions of matter take, you may easily believe that these very same seeds of which we now are formed have often before been placed in the same order in which they now are; and yet we cannot recover this in memory: a break in our exis­tence has been interposed, and all the motions have wandered to and fro far astray from the sensations they produced.
Lucretius, On the Nature of Things (50 BC)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Lonesome I
Lonesome George, the only surviving member of the Pinta Galapagos Tortoise species. Having outlived all the other members of his species he's marooned, stranded in some strange non-place, non-time. Solitary. Like Mary Shelley's Last Man, Lonesome George exists in a vacuum, the most profound of existential crises.

Lonesome II
South of the South Island, out in the vast seas which gesture towards Antarctica, is the small land mass of Stewart Island, or Rakiura. The island is sparsely inhabited, and a national park since 2002. Back in the late 1970s a Japanese woman was found living in a cave on the island. Her reason for being there was simply to be as far from Japan as possible. In self-imposed exile she had found the ultimate margin, the most extreme periphery, in which to exist.

Lonesome III
On the far side of the moon Apollo 13 eked out its small reserves, in the most remote of all human excursions. Out of sight, out of sound, in silence, in freezing cold. The immense solitude, and extreme desolation of that moment in space, in time, is chilling ... so lonesome ...

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Riceboy Sleeps* - All the Big Trees

*( Jonsi Birgisson from Sigur Ros and Alex Sommers)

Resonances ...
Masahisa Fukase, The Solitude of Ravens ...

Nayoro, 1977

Kanazawa, 1978

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Gnomon, July 2009, JB
gnōmōn pin of a sundial; gnmōn lit., interpreter, discerner

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Book of Hours

Alchemy of mid-winter. Summer concealed in fallow fields. Winter congealed in the mud and slush. Days which are mere moments, mesmerising in their fleetingness. Light is precise, and shadows incisive. The Very Rich Hours, incantations recounting the marching of time, reciting rituals, as seasons slide past. A journey south into snow. A journey north into severe gales under glowering sky, uncannily warm air quickly supplanted by terrifying winds tearing things apart. Time passes.
Images ... Otago, July 2009, JB

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Time Out of Mind

Dunedin, July 2009, JB

'The Snug', Oamaru, July 2009, JB