Art practice fluid by nature

LIFE IS LIFE: As part of her art research residency at Germinate — Botany for Artists last month, Gisborne artist Jo Tito explored plant life under the microscope at the National Herbarium of Canada. Picture by Jo Tito

Recently returned from a research, rather than art practice, residency in Canada called Germinate — Botany for Artists, and a visit to Inuit creative collaborator Stacey Aglok in Iqaluit (“place of fish”) on the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Tito’s Earth/people-intersection-based work is well-refreshed and continues to follow its abstruse course with new energy like a river after an ice-melt.

We’ll come back to the ice-melt and the Tito-Aglok collaboration shortly.

The artist-run residency, Germinate, offered the residency’s six selected participants the opportunity to explore plant biology and wildlife, as well as mix with artists, botanists, ethnobotanists, foragers, arborists, farmers and natural history curators, to help inform their own work.

The residency was invaluable to Tito who has long taken nature as her inspiration. The artists-in-residence went on daily field trips that often included a scientist who looked at plants from a specific perspective. They visited Ottawa’s Museum of Nature herbarium that houses pressed plants that are stored with their data, some of which date back more than 150 years. Tito was even given a collection of New Zealand ferns to look at some of which came from the 1800s.

“We also heard from a scientist whose specialty is poisonous plants, and a French artist whose practice is Kirlian photography which looks at plants and their reactions to an electrical current,” says Tito.

Kirlian photography is a technique for creating contact print photographs using high voltage.

A passionate plant photographer, Tito is keen to explore the technique herself and to take it further.

“I’m interested in how plants communicate with each other, not only above ground but underground as well.”

Tito and Aglok’s ongoing creative collaboration germinated from their first encounter at the 2015 Solar Circuit Australia NZ art residency in Taranaki.

Fascinated by the similarities and differences in their indigenous cultures, the duo has maintained an ongoing, documented conversation as an opportunity to create new work — “and perhaps from these conversations something would be created,” says an outline about the collaboration on www.walkingincircles.org.

The Maori photographer and Inuit filmmaker’s project is a work in progress, says Tito. The two women talk often online and exchange photographs of their poles-apart lives.

“We are fascinated with similarities and differences in our lives, food, water, language revitalisation, traditional tattoos and climate change.

“While I was there we decided to take the opportunity to make something concrete. Every week we’d take a picture of a specific location and link it with some specific korero.”

The idea is to build a collection that will be uploaded to their website.

Tito and Aglok’s project, and, in many ways, even the subject matter, is by nature, fluid.

“We talked about how we can show all this and build an exhibition with images and works.

“The collaboration is a process, a journey towards what will happen with it.”

An exhibition in Kitchener, Ontario, will focus on ecological and climate change, a theme integral to Tito’s work. The artist sees the Earth and people as an intertwined organism.

While in Iqaluit, Tito experienced the region’s 24-hour, summertime daylight — and saw an unusually early start to the ice melt.

“Inuit say this doesn’t normally happen till July. I saw it while I was there last month. When I left the temperature was 20 degrees.”

Because of its long, dark, cold winter Iqaluit is treeless but by summer is home to tiny plants, insects and exposed rock.

“I love stones,” says Tito whose 2016 installation, Ko Rangi Ko Papa Ka puta Ko Rongo included a circle of stones that enclosed a space that people might enter to talk, not necessarily to agree but at least to reach understanding.

“I brought a few back with me.”

Recently returned from a research, rather than art practice, residency in Canada called Germinate — Botany for Artists, and a visit to Inuit creative collaborator Stacey Aglok in Iqaluit (“place of fish”) on the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Tito’s Earth/people-intersection-based work is well-refreshed and continues to follow its abstruse course with new energy like a river after an ice-melt.

We’ll come back to the ice-melt and the Tito-Aglok collaboration shortly.

The artist-run residency, Germinate, offered the residency’s six selected participants the opportunity to explore plant biology and wildlife, as well as mix with artists, botanists, ethnobotanists, foragers, arborists, farmers and natural history curators, to help inform their own work.

The residency was invaluable to Tito who has long taken nature as her inspiration. The artists-in-residence went on daily field trips that often included a scientist who looked at plants from a specific perspective. They visited Ottawa’s Museum of Nature herbarium that houses pressed plants that are stored with their data, some of which date back more than 150 years. Tito was even given a collection of New Zealand ferns to look at some of which came from the 1800s.

“We also heard from a scientist whose specialty is poisonous plants, and a French artist whose practice is Kirlian photography which looks at plants and their reactions to an electrical current,” says Tito.

Kirlian photography is a technique for creating contact print photographs using high voltage.

A passionate plant photographer, Tito is keen to explore the technique herself and to take it further.

“I’m interested in how plants communicate with each other, not only above ground but underground as well.”

Tito and Aglok’s ongoing creative collaboration germinated from their first encounter at the 2015 Solar Circuit Australia NZ art residency in Taranaki.

Fascinated by the similarities and differences in their indigenous cultures, the duo has maintained an ongoing, documented conversation as an opportunity to create new work — “and perhaps from these conversations something would be created,” says an outline about the collaboration on www.walkingincircles.org.

The Maori photographer and Inuit filmmaker’s project is a work in progress, says Tito. The two women talk often online and exchange photographs of their poles-apart lives.

“We are fascinated with similarities and differences in our lives, food, water, language revitalisation, traditional tattoos and climate change.

“While I was there we decided to take the opportunity to make something concrete. Every week we’d take a picture of a specific location and link it with some specific korero.”

The idea is to build a collection that will be uploaded to their website.

Tito and Aglok’s project, and, in many ways, even the subject matter, is by nature, fluid.

“We talked about how we can show all this and build an exhibition with images and works.

“The collaboration is a process, a journey towards what will happen with it.”

An exhibition in Kitchener, Ontario, will focus on ecological and climate change, a theme integral to Tito’s work. The artist sees the Earth and people as an intertwined organism.

While in Iqaluit, Tito experienced the region’s 24-hour, summertime daylight — and saw an unusually early start to the ice melt.

“Inuit say this doesn’t normally happen till July. I saw it while I was there last month. When I left the temperature was 20 degrees.”

Because of its long, dark, cold winter Iqaluit is treeless but by summer is home to tiny plants, insects and exposed rock.

“I love stones,” says Tito whose 2016 installation, Ko Rangi Ko Papa Ka puta Ko Rongo included a circle of stones that enclosed a space that people might enter to talk, not necessarily to agree but at least to reach understanding.

“I brought a few back with me.”

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