Ōtautahi Christchurch - based artist Luke Shaw, explores alternative forms and coding of language in (Re)Calling Home, a new commission for Te Tuhi’s Speaker Space.
In the 1960’s, while working as a Steel Tier constructing the Sugarloaf Communication Tower up on the Port Hills to the southeast of Ōtautahi Christchurch, Shaw’s grandfather used to communicate down to his wife using small steel offcuts reflecting sunlight as Morse code. Shaw’s grandmother, at the family home in Aranui, would then respond back in Morse code using a mirror.
Using these reflective materials as forms of lo-fi heliotropes (instruments that use mirrors to reflect the sun over long distances), Shaw’s grandparents were able to compress distance, without compromising the signal or the message in their communications. Shaw’s mother remembers seeing the flashes of light coming from the Port Hills and Shaw’s grandmother standing in the back yard holding up the mirror in reply.
For (Re)Calling Home, Shaw transcribed conversations he had with his mother and her memories of this communication about the mirror, about the house and about what it was like seeing pops of light coming from the port hills. Thinking about refracted rays of light as an alternative coded form of language, Shaw etched this transcribed text into the soundtrack of a 16mm film reel. Running these typographic forms through the optical sound unit of a 16mm projector, the text transforms into sound, playing with conventional notions of communication through written language.
The resulting abstract sound plays in the public entrance to Te Tuhi, projecting a domestic history, a conversation between mother and son, coded and originating from light.
About Luke Shaw
Luke Shaw is an artist and musician from Ōtautahi Christchurch. He holds a Master of Fine Arts from the Ilam School of Fine Arts. His work is primarily sound based and stretches across the fields of music, installation, performance and video. Within his current research practice he is interested in the politics of communication and instances of listening and (mis)hearing. Luke is one half of the Opawa 45s and a facilitator at Paludal Gallery.