Memories of a Naturalist
Ayesha Green, Lucy Meyle, Kate Mary Ogston, Nova Paul, George Malcolm Thomson, and Keri Whaitiri
26 November 2022 - 26 March 2023
Memories of a Naturalist brings together artworks and archival documents that look at the tracks and traces of plants and animals in common landscapes, the places where the human and non-human ‘get on together.’1 These works offer multiple ways to think about shared environments in the context of wider ecological collapse — observing, recording, imagining and reimagining how these patches of getting on together interact, coalesce and dissolve within common places.
Some of these observations and recordings come from a different time, such as the works of Kate Mary Ogston and George Malcolm Thomson that look to the environment of Ōtepoti Dunedin in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Others, including works by Ayesha Green, Nova Paul and Keri Whaitiri, are more recent, yet are connected to a continuum of time by whakapapa and whanaukataka. A new commission from Lucy Meyle reimagines the intersecting, multispecies pathways that occur between a range of urban streetscapes today.
The idea of worldmaking is explored too; whereby the worlds we inhabit are imaginatively shaped, remade and interpreted. This is evident in the depiction of late 19th century acclimatisation societies, where species of animals and plants were introduced ad hoc to Aotearoa New Zealand as an attempt to remake the environment into a new world. Or where day-to-day reality is pulled open to alternate worlds outside of colonial frameworks, imagining decolonial thought through the materials of art. These approaches to world making patch together mixtures of the observed, remembered and speculated, to propose new ways of thinking through our immediate environments.
Following the thinking of anthropologist Anna Tsing, these artworks and archives offer multiple layers and disparate practices of knowing and being, and impressions of how the environment around us is changing, both historically and in the present moment. These stories and histories offer possibilities of how common life can come together in a climatically disturbed world.
1. Donna Harraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016, p.10
Memories of a Naturalist is curated by Simon Palenski, Dunedin Public Art Gallery’s Curatorial Intern, 2022. The DPAG intern programme is generously supported by Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa.