Dwelling with Oak tree

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The Oaktree is old, some of his branches end in stumps but others stretch out wide, forming a canopy under which walkers, dogs, cyclists, runners, pheasants and rabbits pass by. The Oakley Creek walkway brushes up against his truck, cutting between him and his companion who stands a few meters closer to the creek. I have cycled and walked beneath this tree for around six years; a small wedge of my 53 years, a tiny sliver of his 160 years. Long enough to become aware of one another’s presence. I have watched his green leaves emerge in spring and gulped is soft oxygenated shady air in summer. I thought long and hard about the shared habitation of old-world trees brought by my ancestors and the regenerated and replanted native trees tracing a shared history of relocation and negotiation of space. I can’t help thinking that maybe the trees have been more generous in the sharing and we have.

Today it is autumn, and the Oaktree’s leaves are golden brown and making their leisurely way from branch to earth.  As I cycled, I was thinking about how I could transition my shed/studio into a heterotopic space for dreaming and imagining. A dwelling space sufficiently private and safe to invite people to join me in undertaking the vulnerable journeying that I had in mind, but that still located within otherness, a space of unknowing and hopeful waiting with those both significant and other. As my bike and I approached the old oak, it seems that he invited me to gather up his fallen leaves and take them to my dwelling place. I stopped and spent some time with the tree checking in with myself and with him that I had understood. Self-consciously committing to unknowing while holding the balance of my awareness of the suggestive hopefulness my perception (am I purely projecting this) and my scepticism (you think this is research – really?).  It seemed that he also suggested to me that I should bring my camera and make a video looking up the length of his trunk to the sky and take this image with me too.

tree detail

I cleaned and prepared my shed, making an open space for a bed of leaves. On the appointed day for leaf gathering, I set off with my phone camera and some large bags. I lay under the tree with my camera; I gathered leaves into awkward bundles to carry out. Back at the shed, it seems like the right thing to do was to turn the leaves each day until they were completely dry. Turning the leaves and waiting to see what happens next.

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Lying under the Oaktree I place the camera on my diaphragm with the intention of recording my breathing, surprisingly it also recorded my heartbeat, the tree moving in a regular and surprisingly rapid pulse, the speed of my heart pumping blood around my body evidencing an experience of duration distict from that of the tree. For me, existence is divided into the tiny segments of my heartbeat and the longer segments of my breath in and out of my body. The Oak tree appears to breathe in a continuous uninterrupted flow through his permeable leaves.  I imagine his inhale and exhale as an annual cycle, his duration marked by the seasons of leaf growing; a long inhale, then leaf dropping and resting in the cold of winter.

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breathing with Oaktree: link to video

After turning leaves, making videos with the tree and extending my breath work practice both with the tree and in my leaf pile I feel ready for some further experimentation in the space.

I have been playing with projecting these videos in my shed with the leaves, though the space is not large enough to get the projector far enough back for them to fill the walls. The movement of the trees with my breath is mesmerising and the sounds of the walkway’ the birds’ the movement of leaves, sets up an in-between space, an amorphos zone  between the ‘here’ of my shed and the ‘there’ of the Oaktree by the creek. I think  this could work well in an exhibition/installation context, however it feels slightly at odds with the practice of breath work, partially because usually you close your eyes during a breath work journey, but there is also a sense of artifice in the translation of the tree through projection. It feels contrived, which is not usually how I feel about projection. I am waiting with this question at the moment, not rushing to resolve it.

I have been making a dwelling space, a leaf hut, so as to be surrounded above and below by the leaves.

In the first trial I used a pink lace fabric from my collection, but it was too visible, separating the leaves too much from the inside of the space. It looks better photographs than it did in the physical space.


I enjoyed the way the umbrella skeleton forms a low shelter, though again it is a bit large for the space. For the second iteration I used bird netting that I had left over from the garden. I very much dislike the plastic brutality of the netting, it is just a stand-in until I find something better. It does however hold the leaves reasonably well and is less visible. I would like to be a little lower and more fully covered with leaves (a lower pitch or more leaf catching net so the leaves don’t slide off)


It is a lovely space to share with friends as in this informal gathering. It is redolent of childhood huts, moments of altered reality and brief holidays from the normality of everyday urban life.

I have not felt ready to invite someone for an event yet. I would like to do some breath work sessions, though I have two concerns regarding going ahead with this – one is my reticence to lead another person into a breath work session with the level of experience I have myself. (Though I would start with a very introductory and short breathing session, possibly leading into reflective conversation). My other concern is that I’m not sure how good for your lungs it is to breathe in Oaktree leaf dust, or even how dusty it is when you’re not moving and stiring up the leaves. I don’t want to cause someone to have an Oaktree allergy.

I Don’t Know.

I don’t know if the water knows how it will make its way to the sea.

I don’t know if the road knows that I run over it. I don’t know if the trees know that I breathe their breath.


I don’t know if the water knows how it will make its way to the sea.

Installation trial, 16 August 2018


I don’t know how to access the access modes of other entities.  Thinking with Timothy Morton I am attempting to adopt a position outside of anthropocentric humanism, I consider the possibility that thought, while currently the primary mode through which humans access their surroundings, is not innately the highest or most valid access mode in existence. We have many other access modes, such as imagining, dreaming, tasting, feeling, though we consider these less valid. Similarly, nonhuman entities have access modes that may be inaccessible and foreign-seeming to us and consequently deemed invalid. The possibility that nonhumans might have access modes that we had failed to notice was, for the longest time, invisible beneath the mantle of our own thought-dominant world.

The advent of the geological era of the Anthropocene, with its grudging acknowledgement that human activity has been the driver of geological epoch change, leads humans into an imaginative crisis of world. It is the end of the Human World, the end of the world effect within which we have been living for the past 10,000 years, in which humans are separate from, and autonomously act upon, the Natural world. The Anthropocene empties out this singular world effect. Now we have to acknowledge that everyone has a world, water, running down the gutter or into my bath has a world. Rocks have a world, albeit a world in which timescales are vastly more massive than our own, so vast that we have perceived them as static. The Anthropocene makes us realise that when we look at a rock, we are a human looking at a rock; the shape of us in there in our looking.

Interestingly we are comfortable to scientifically imagine rocks as moving liquid over a vast timescale, however, we are less comfortable to philosophically imagine a rock as acting within its own world and world time. We accept scientifically that we are, or tellingly, our bodies are made up of an array of received and inherited DNA, that bacteria living in our gut are essential to our ongoing life, yet we feel uncomfortable to think ‘I am a heaving pile of entities cohabiting’. To acknowledge that not only do I have a microbiome, I am a biome.


 I don’t know if the road knows that I run over it.

I don’t know if the trees know that I breathe their breath.

Installation trial at Massey University, 26 July 2018


Experimentaion at pearce Gallery June 2018

Golden American Saddlebred


I got this horse in a mixed set of plastic animals at a $2 shop. He stands 14cm high and is slightly unbalenced, requiring a firm bend to his rear legs to get him to balence. He has become something of a muse for me, summing up the blend of fantasy, romance, deceit,  history and genetic manipulation that forms the basis of our relationship with the natural world.

The latest incarnation of my muse, curently in process, is to be a lifesized version sewed from tulle. To understand my horse more fully, and to find out what size to make him, I decided to seek out his bloodline. after extensive research i have concluded that he is a Golden American Saddlebred. Standing upright he would be 16 hands (1602mm). rearing up he is 3m in height, a 21:1 scale from my model.

The Oklahoma State University Breeds of Livestock, Department of Animal Science, describes the Golden American Saddlebred thus:

What does one look for in a Golden American Saddlebred? First and foremost, is conformation. A beautifully shaped, well-proportioned head is a must. The ears are small, alert, and placed at the top of the head. The neck is long, and well-arched, with a smooth clean throatlatch. The eye is bold, bright, and intelligent. Well-sloped shoulders and sharp withers well above the height of the hips is characteristic. The croup is long and level with the tail coming out high, and the hind quarters are well muscled to the hocks. The back is short and strong. The long legs are straight with long sloping pasterns that are so necessary for an easy, well cushioned ride. The shallow, full-sprung rib cage make the barrel of the Saddlebred more rounded than in other breeds. Height is generally from 15 to 17 hands and weight from 1000 to 1200 pounds.

The complete picture of Golden Saddlebred should be one of refinement, smoothness and strength. Coloring can vary from cream to copper and all shades in between. However, the ideal color is that of the untarnished gold coin. Eyes must be brown or dark. White markings on the face and legs are allowyyed, but no spots. Mane and tail should be white and purity is desirable.


Cupboard @ Cosset

My local cafe makes excellent coffee. They also operate as an exhibition space with the pragmatic title Paper/Cupboard. the wall space is dedicated to ‘paper’, while ‘cupboard’ is a small glass-fronted cupboard in the art deco cabinet that serves as the cafe counter. I have a Cupboard installation opening TOMORROW!



a sneak preview of my Cupboard installation:

All The Pretty Horses installation detail
All The Pretty Horses installation detail












Paper Cupboard has an eclectic and interesting program, which can be viewed on https://www.facebook.com/papercupboard

if you want to go there the address is Cosset, 1087 New North Rd, Mt Albert, Auckland.




Put Up Your Dukes!

Put Up Your Dukes!

Blue Oyster Art Project Space, Dunedin 18 June – 20 July 2013

the latest Achronological Manor project is Put up your Dukes!  an exhibton/pulicaton/performance played out as a visual debate between Gabrielle Amodeo and myself. The project utilised the structure of the Douglas-Lincoln debate format used in the campaign for the Illinois senate in 1858 between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas as the structure for a counterintuitive mode of collaboration.

The moot: In art, as in life, we occupy an ad-hoc middle ground in which the only certainty is the impossibility of certainty.

Put Up Your Dukes! Was played out as an elaborate standoff in which each of us (over)stated our case and elaborated on a claim to common territory. In the build-up to this exhibition new works were developed in a call/response fashion using the idea of nature as a foil, a subject matter and directive, but the debate itself centres around our different methodologies.


Sorensen states:

 I am interested in the territory where art abandons good-sense to joyfully embrace the vernacular of the stupid, the obvious, simple, pointless, pleasurable, silly, excessive, lazy, expedient and useless.


Amodeo Proposes:

Labour as it’s own reward / the person who cuts his own firewood warms himself twice / validation through accumulation (being able to cite a big number validates a project) / refer to things obliquely, answer questions with questions


the debate format:

debate format


looking down the gallery, in the centre is Garden (JS Affirmative Constructive)

at the back: PODOCARPACEAE/Dacrycarpus – ASTERACEAE/Pachystegia (GA Negative Constructive)

left wall: Resisting Societal Norms (JS Cross-Examination of Negative By Affirmative)

garden-veiw-4 resisting-12 wall-and-two-mops



Media room:

Pictures and Things from our Walls (GA Cross-Examination of Affirmative by Negative)

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back room:

Fir Tree Small II (JS Affirmative Rebuttal)

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Sound and Vision (GA Negative Rebuttal)

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A Pile of Boxes (JS Affirmative Rejoinder)