In this installment of the Te Tuhi Billboards, Auckland-based artist Fiona Jack extends her ongoing series of works that re-present historical photographs within a contemporary art context. The three images presented in Pakuranga depict various outlooks from Te Tuhi’s immediate surroundings circa 1910. As Jack has done with previous projects, included alongside the billboards is an accompanying text. An edited transcript of a discussion facilitated by the artist presents a discursive response to the images from artists, writers and historians Alan La Roche, Nova Paul, Luke Willis Thompson and Pita Turei.
Scanned from glass plate negatives and then reproduced as billboards, Jack’s latest project encourages us to consider transpositions of material and cultural histories. From a position only a few hundred metres from where the original photographs were taken, the viewer may reflect upon the immeasurable transformation that the Pakuranga and wider Auckland area has undergone since the images were first captured. This is reflected through the combination of technologies used as well. Upon close inspection of the billboards skins the viewer may notice scratches, dust and other markings inherent to glass plate photographic technology intentionally left visible as a reminder of the images’ origins. Within the layers of archival evidence found in the content of imagery and the materiality of the medium, the billboards’ potential as a point of historical contemplation is engaged.
The provided transcript offers reflections on the relationship between the production of the original glass plates, the surrounding social and cultural contexts as well as the significance of all these today. The discussion itself moves from factual points of interest relating to flora, to histories of tangata whenua to more nuanced conversation akin to artistic response. With this, the artist proposes for, not only a deeper understanding of the potentially divergent histories that we may veil over a particular place but also a discursive model for talking about art.