Morning Flight Over The Cut

2018

Archival Pigment Print

Ed of 5.  814 x 1220mm

Still Water, Horseshoe Bend

2018

Archival Pigment Print

Ed of 5.  814 x 1220mm

Maimai, Small Pond, Horseshoe Bend

2018

Archival Pigment Print

Ed of 5.  814 x 1220mm

Pin Oak, Flax Block

2018

Archival Pigment Print

Ed of 3.  600 x 900mm

Bow, Piako River

2018

Archival Pigment Print

Ed of 3.  600 x 900mm

Juncus Pallidus, Horseshoe Bend

2018

Archival Pigment Print

Ed of 5.  814 x 1220mm

Boats, Western Waterways

2018

Archival Pigment Print

Ed of 5.  814 x 1220mm

Convolvulus, Flax Block

2018

Archival Pigment Print

Ed of 3.  600 x 900mm

 

Drains, Canals, Pump-Houses and Stop Banks

— A Resource Man (Double) Act

Setting: The Age of the Humans

 

By Maria Walls

Maimai, Small Pond, Horseshoe Bend

Mid-duck season, young hunter, Kate van der Drift, strode south and kayaked stagnant rapids to shoot at bodies of water across the lands of Ngāti Hako—the Hauraki Plains. Place is a complex and multi-layered idea, productive of the intricate cosmologies that make us who we might (not) be. It shapes the world around us. Van der Drift’s art offers current perspectives upon the local conditions of Aotearoa’s Anthropocene (1). Here is an art practice that reaches an audience through compelling exposures of the increasingly troubling relation between the human and the environment.

Juncus Pallidus, Horseshoe Bend

Van der Drift’s practice is hopeful. It offers a type of twofold Sublime because it provides the viewer with motivation for a renewed position, in which both awareness and action can buttress each other. Instead of the viewer being left helplessly devastated, it prompts a rather more helpful response. This photography motivates its viewer to return to her/his daily practices and act with a renewed sense of awareness —that of our individual and collective bearing upon the Earth. In other words, van der Drift’s framing carefully challenges our conditioned conceptions of nature and culture in which the landscape is no longer simply nature, and the human is no longer simply overwhelmed by it. This work dares the nature/culture dualistic and thereby questions the link between the human and the environment.

Boats, Western Waterways

What it is to be human is no longer obvious. Nature is now rendered a social, political and now historical construction. This is an absolute condemnation of the very edifices that form Western social order: humanism, patriarchy, militarism, anthropocentrism and androcentrism. In an ecofeminist shift, away from binaries, the human can no longer be considered the dominant point of reference. If we are not separate to nature, and instead we are a part of nature, nature is not something therefore to be controlled and conquered. We humans cannot divorce ourselves from it. However, we desperately require fresh thinking on the rendezvous between the people and the world.

Still Water, Horseshoe Bend

Informed by a grasp upon aesthetics not as simply related to beauty, as such, but rather a view that recognises an idea of creative practices as being profoundly interlocked with ethics, van der Drift’s practice, whilst ostensibly relating to the art historical genre of Landscape, acutely challenges this category —it problematises a nature/culture duality. A meeting between photograph and viewer only quickens a grave reflection upon the relation between the human and the environment. It forges an affiliation, between both the viewer and the artwork, but also the human and the ecosystem more widely.

Possum, Eastern Margin

Colonisation forced a systematic creeping (now raging) domination over nature. Relatedly, the presently mushrooming idiom, sustainability, is judiciously examined here, as a dialogue that has been slickly co-opted (green-washed) in a technocratic and corporate purview. Within this monetary-driven agenda any negative impact upon the environment is portrayed as a non-individualised problem for which technological remedies will provide solutions. In counterweight, ecofeminist views on sustainability propose a more complex understanding of the relation between the human and the environment as being extensively interconnected and interdependent.

Convolvulus, Flax Block

This theoretical proposition not only highlights and questions the traditional categories of “man” and nature – the dualism nature/culture – but also reframes these by removing any need for opposition. Connecting her work with ecofeminist theory exposes the large potential of these images as persuasive (and strategically, aesthetically poetical) political tools —instruments that might sway people in deliberations on environmentalism and sustainability. The ongoing process of ecofeminist arguments lies on the oppression and subjugation of nature, which in turn directly relates to the subjugation of women.

Bow, Piako River

To consider nature and culture as entirely unified and inter-reliant, accordingly necessitates an altered approach to environmental concerns. It cannot be a disparaging analysis on humanity, leading some Armageddon where we are all ‘done for’. Nor is it about a sentimental yearning for past times in which the human was supposedly still at one with the earth. Oppositional utopias and dystopias, even left and right politics, are now likewise unhelpful, irrelevant and outmoded. Consequently, this art raises interrogations of agency, and advocates for ecofeminist concepts of culpability and the uptake of responsibilities for the recognition of our interrelation and interdependency with Mother Nature.

Under Section 7 of the RMA all individuals exercising functions and powers in relation to managing the use, development and protection of natural and physical resources are required to “have particular regard” to kaitiakitanga amongst others.(2)

With a cunningly unnerving serenity, van der Drift taps photography as a budding medium for environmental political function and social change. Sustainability here is understood within an ecofeminist framework, which is affirmative and productive —it celebrates long-term endurance and diversity. This photography is the application of aesthetics for reasons of ethics and politics, in what it brings to activism.

Four Birds, Small Pond, Horseshoe Bend

Manu taupunga is a name for the bird that stands guard while others are eating from a tree. It is also called the ‘sentry bird’. This bird would guard the tree, and when other birds came to eat the fruit, it fended off the intruders, ensuring their departure. 

— Tāmati Ranapiri (Ngāti Raukawa elder)

 Footnotes:

1. The Anthropocene is a proposed epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on the Earth's geology and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, anthropogenic climate change. It is viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.

2. "Resource Management Act 1991", as at 6 April 2012, Parliamentary Counsel Office.

Canal, From the River East

2018

Archival Pigment Print

Ed of 3.  600 x 900mm

Possum, Eastern Margin

2018

Archival Pigment Print

Ed of 3.  600 x 900mm

Pump-house, Southwest

2018

Archival Pigment Print

Ed of 3.  600 x 480mm

Young Kahikatea,  Northern Large Pond.

2018

Archival Pigment Print

Ed of 5.  814 x 1220mm

Canal, Flax Block

2018

Archival Pigment Print

Ed of 5.  600 x 900mm

Four birds.jpg

Four Birds, Small Pond, Horseshoe Bend

2018

Archival Pigment Print

Ed of 5.  814 x 1220mm

 

Water Slows as it Rounds the Bend is part of an ongoing investigation into the fragile ecology and transformation of the Hauraki Plains. The groundwater of the present day Plains is tightly controlled; few clues remain of the great fertile wetland, yet concealed in the centre of the gridded farmland lays Kopuatai Peat Dome, the largest unaltered restiad peat bog in New Zealand and unique globally. Acting as a sponge, the Peat Dome protects low-lying farmland from flooding, but in recent years it hasn’t soaked up the excess rain.

The relationship between land and water is ever changing. Significant subsidence is occurring throughout the plains, especially in the peat land. By traversing the wetland by foot and kayak, van der Drift pictures areas once full of giant Kahikatea trees that have been crowded out by Willow. 

van der Drift would like to acknowledge the tangata whenua of Hauraki especially Ngāti Hako, whose land this work is set in and whose stories are referenced.  As well as tau iwi - the farmers, hunters and environmentalists whose relationships to the land are referred to and pictured.

BP1_2910.jpg

Canal, Northwest

2018

Archival Pigment Print

Ed of 5.  814 x 1220mm

 

Pond, Western Waterways

2018

Archival Pigment Print

Ed of 5.  814 x 1220mm

Kāhu, Eastern Margin

2018

Archival Pigment Print

Ed of 5.  814 x 1220mm

Eastern Kahikateas

2018

Archival Pigment Print

Ed of 5.  814 x 1220mm