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17 April 2004 —
26 May 2004

Gill Gatfield:

Artist’s statement -

With cultural/political art, the biography/whakapapa of the artist comes to the fore, both as an aid to interpretation of meaning and as a check of possible authorial motive against those readings.

This biographical emphasis prevails in the art world despite a theoretical trend toward the reader determining meaning in the work regardless of authorial intention. In Aotearoa/New Zealand, questions about motive and the ‘right’ to make cultural artworks are asked of non-Maori or non-Pacific artists. Similarly, male artists are challenged when making ‘feminist’ art.

In my work in the area of human rights and discrimination, I studied and worked with the difficulties which can arise from this approach. Aside from the potential for censorship, undue reliance on biography can result in stereotyped assumptions about competence, experience and potential. In other words, reliance on lists of facts and connections can cloud our ability to see the integrity of an action/object, and to remain open to it’s human imperfection.

As a Pakeha woman, mother, lawyer, and artist, born and raised in a provincial town where Maori values and te reo were sites for respect and conflict, I offer an expression of kaitiaki for discussion and reflection. If the Treaty of Waitangi is to breathe life, we each have a responsibility to give it air.

The Kaitiaki installation involves the layering and affixing of readymade disposable baby nappies to a patterning which would be determined by the space and the context of that space. The layering of this material may be seen to resemble tukutuku panels, herringbone fabric, or block walls.


→ Gill Gatfield: Kaitiaki, 2004, publication


→ Gill Gatfield: Kaitiaki, 2004, exhibition card

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