on tour



the extreme poverty of Moerewa

a poverty that not poverty

contrasts with a smell

not te ika the eel tuna not that

neither a full range of offals

and associated products

including foetal blood not the smell of

the freezing works


the fronted up houses the shops boarded

nor the café boarded where stones on every table

fresh smoked eel we said taking pride of place

taking pride in place the whenua



a poverty at the roots of the hills

haunting porcelain animals

on windowsills


in the lightning trees

at the tips of each darkness

nodding recognition


my grandfather built my grandmother


a similar house

rich for being stucco

in another works’ town


Konini Street from folded blueprints

he proudly kept


rich for having a porch

deep enough sunlight

never penetrated no


not that smell of rosewater oil of Ulan

that overtakes me now of ripening fruit

in the laundry loo and pile of mags

I’d sometimes find a porn one

overripe in the pale green tongue and groove


the meatworks where he

call him boompa not poppa

rode to every morning

on the fixed gear black bike

for sixty years


and sweet smell fruit rotting in the grass

the Bay so fertile call it the fruitbowl of a nation

so fertile it rotted

what nation


he dreamed of travelling to the Rhine one day

and on the aeroplane sedated and confused

the drugs for Parkinson’s Lorelei

he left his seat in his socks

and shoes behind padding down the aisle

to the door and with intent and pride intact

he turned the handle opening the hatch

to walk outside


no what smell but health and hygiene

a compression of hedges


with no outside.

luz es tiempo
National Scandal
on tour
point to point

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field recordings Rarotonga 2016:10:06 08:09:17 – 2016:10:13 18:20:57 and the fizzy coconut

on tour

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field recordings in New Plymouth 2016:09:14 08:00:00 – 2016:09:14 14:37:06

on tour

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Day 3 of the Hollyford

DSC_0132rain on the inlet in McKerrow

DSC_0136returning to walk the sandspit

DSC_0137following Graeme into the dunes

DSC_0139look at the beautiful tresses of a daughter of the sea

whose lover lay on land


towards the Mays again, May was the English name given one of the kaumatua Tutoko’s two daughters

because they could but saw no need to pronounce her name in Maori



sand which gives the impression of shifting

yet may have been formed into dunes

hundreds of years before


not the cushion moss. Graeme told us of a guy, from an earlier group,

who, upon being told that the cushion moss has a single tap root, grabbed, and, pulling one

from the ground, declared he could not see any tap root.

There it is; frail and thin as a single hair, said Graeme.

On being told the small sand pyramids were full of the eggs of local scarab beetles, the same guy scooped up

a sand pyramid, or nest, and, rubbing it between his fingers, said there were no eggs.

Do you think nature would be so stupid as to have them resemble anything else than grains of sand?




walking the spit


a find


back on the jetboat




deer visit here and Dion told the others who were picked up before the wind-lashed sandspit walk

he had seen a hind crossing the inlet and terrified it by jetting along beside it;

what is not pictured in this dune series is the lancewoods.

Everywhere in this area, lancewoods are observed to reach maturity at a certain height, whether

growing from the branches of other tree hosts or on the ground. However, with the presence of deer on the dunes, the

lancewood have adapted and change from long serrated sword-like leaves to short more easily digestible mature

leaves in a bunching branching habit just beyond the reach of browsing deer.

Nature is able to adapt much more quickly than we imagine.








My mother’s family told tales of meeting Arawata Bill


lost dreams







lifting off without the slightest feeling of g-force in a small glass bubble

now looking back down Martins Bay towards Big Bay





passing into the entry to Milford Sound, which is in fact the only true fjord in Fiordland, which is in fact misspelt,

a passage Capt. Cook missed as it is so tucked around behind a flank of the mountains,

tears came into my eyes at the same time as two realisations: we inhabit the sublime;

before the immensity of this landscape what are but a tiny gnat

a bug, ridiculously small bubble filled with six bodies, with such self-important

dreams that we would rename even our own experience the sublime. It has another name, however.



Mitre Peak is the tallest mountain in the world that rises straight from the sea.

Among many -ests along the route.


approach to Milford



from Milford towards Mitre Peak


rock curtain which the Homer Tunnel penetrates


still immense and running


from the bus


along beside



return to Queenstown on Wokkity-pooh

on tour

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Day 2 of the Hollyford Walk

morning view Pyke River Lodge

this too

the Lodge itself


Graeme at the memorial plaque for Davy Gunn, erected by his son, Murray

the tale continues… but which horse was Davy on? when it stumbled and trapped him

underneath it in a river he had crossed over a hundred times before

a fellow walker points to the ampersands on the plaque:

a possible Masonic plot?

Lake Alabaster,

named by Captain Alabaster

who sewed the daughters of Chief Tutoko dresses

from canvas. He ran them up, just like that! The girls were

as pleased with them as if they were all got up for a ball.

Of course, the lake already possessed a beautiful and sensible name

as the place local Maori water-tested and balanced felled totara for double-hulled

ocean-going canoes.

London Bridge

the Pyke meets the Hollyford

we are on a jetboat and this is a view from Lake McKerrow, a closed off fjord, where dolphins swim sometimes

in fresh water

Mount Tutoko looks on

there he is

a great and magnanimous chief


scree and shingle moving

by water

into water

looking up Lake McKerrow towards Martins Bay

a large green landscape

looking up

on landfall

before or after Jamestown (here)

story of rimu: on either side of the track, one tall and of a more

upreaching, ingathering habit;

the other less tall and fronded downhanging leaves,

outspreading branches. Which is which?

the more upreaching, ingathering, the taller is female,

its cuplike flowers held above the canopy to catch

windborne pollen;

the frondier massier is male, its outspread arms waiting

for the wind to spread pollen over the widest area. But

a link in the reproductive cycle is missing with the decline in the

kakapo population. The large flightless parrots have strong beaks to break

open the pods which will not germinate unless they have passed through the

birds’ guts; while, in turn, the seed is as good as breastmilk is to mammals for the

kakapo chicks, giving them everything they need to grow; and this requirement the adult

kakapo comprehend, gathering upwards of two hundred seeds a day for its young, in whose

droppings the seeds will be distributed and thanks to them successfully germinate. Moreover, the

breeding cycle of both rimu and kakapo are exactly synchronous, seeds and chicks alike appearing

every seven years.

DSC_0080fairies made lunch, not Graeme

DSC_0081that beautifully set table was in there


into the kamahi, were they?


DSC_0085perilous realm



inlet into Martins Bay

 showing the sandbar, around to the left of which, from this POV, all shipping to Jamestown

was supposed to pass, many captains demurring

because of the number of wrecks

insurers would not cover them for this

DSC_0089kidney fern socalled out of some kind of sympathetic magic jag

DSC_0090a seal sighting, see?


the colony stank in fact

DSC_0093planking for the stank

DSC_0094local features

DSC_0095DOC airdrop

 new dishwasher for hut

(dry laugh-cough)


view to the May Hills.

This is the channel serving Jamestown

and all the ships which were to serve a town to rival Dunedin.




DSC_0100seagrass i

DSC_0101seagrass ii


seagrass iii


Martins Bay inlet now, by jetboat


on the inlet towards the Mays


it jetted


it misted and algaed


it planed



the water went like this



kahikatea, no?



Laura and Andy in the obligatory welcoming clinch at Martins Bay Lodge


Captain Dion’s mystical amulet, protecting goddess


the lodge


the chocolate


one of those boats going down approaching Jamestown


out of focus chocolate brownie with plum powder, artfully finger-swiped


the walking crew


Graeme doing a routine.

He asked what we appreciated the most.

Laurie answered, You Graeme!

He did a sort of number with the stick and promised to use this prop

when he woke us up at 6.45am so that we could hear him coming.

We did.

on tour

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Day 1 of the Hollyford Walk


Lake Whakatipu (pronounced fokkity-poo)

in front of bandstand

below Botanical Gardens

within Botanical Gardens

first sight of dirty ice

at end of long bus ride, beyond Marion’s Cnr. down at Gunn’s Camp, set up by Davy Gunn’s son, Murray, who did not eye to eye with his father and only came to the Hollyford Valley on his father’s demise

Gunn’s Camp


getaway vehicle

dry bush humour, ironically

commencement of walk

curtain in the forest furnishings

lunch by the river

Hidden Falls

more of Hidden


catching waterfall water

view from Little Homer

viewers at Little Homer

forest light

Homer Falls

and the pool



graveyard of beech trees

Pyke Lodge

not our route, but showing some of it

Davy Gunn and his wife, with whom in later years he spent no more than one day a year

the book in which the preceding pages were found.


on tour

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Enrique Vila-Matas, Pierre Huyghe, Ai Weiwei and I at Kassel, Documentas 12-13

“I’d been fascinated at the beginning of the seventies by some questions that had been put to Alain Robbe-Grillet, which made him writhe against theories like an upside-down cat: “Let’s say I’m old-fashioned. For me, all that counts are the works of art.”

“The works of art! These days such ingenuousness would trigger laughter. At Documenta 13, separating work and theory would have been seen as very old-fashioned, because there, according to all the information I had, you saw a great many works under the ambiguous umbrella of innovation presented as theory and vice versa. It was the triumphant and now almost definitive reign of the marriage between practice and theory, to such an extent that if ou casually came across a rather classical-looking piece, you’d soon discover it was nothing more than theory camouflaged as a work. Or a work camouflaged as theory.

“Was there any artist at Kassel with sufficient courage to just hang a painting on the wall, a straighforward painting? I imagined the great peals of laughter that would ring out if it occurred to some poor brave devil to hang a canvas on a wall in the Fridericianum. It seemed nobody there wanted to be regarded as terribly old-fashioned, so there was no way of seeing painting anywhere.”

– Enrique Vila-Matas, The Illogic of Kassel, p. 69

Untilled, characters who appear in Enrique Vila-Matas’s novel, by Pierre Huyghe at Documenta 13

Strangely, I happened to be involved in the Documenta 12 Magazine Project through <<empyre>> soft_skinned_space, a listserv onto which I have foisted my sometimes welcome, mostly unwelcome, and usually ignored observations, reflections and scribblage.

The following I wrote into the listserv under the subject heading of “Fugue” – which is interesting in so far as I have in front of me a volume by Sergio Pitol with a foreword by Enrique Vila-Matas, the writer of the foregoing on Documenta 13, entitled The Art of Flight. The English translator of this work, George Henson, apologises, that “already in the title” he has failed, because the Spanish fuga translates as both fugue and flight and in the original Spanish, the book is called El arte de la fuga. The Art of Fugue. Indirectly, for Documenta 12, I wrote:

Dear Empyreans,

the following I pursued for my own interest: I apologise if there’s nothing in it.

Roger Beurgel [artistic director of Documenta 12. It was Roger Beurgel’s “provocation”, on the question, Is Modernity our Antiquity? that led the discussion, here] in quotes:

“It is fairly obvious that modernity, or modernity’s fate, exerts a profound influence on contemporary artists.”

How is modernity tied to its fate that, either the thing itself or the myth, exerts a pull – as if equally and interchangeably? And if there isn’t anything in itself there? Only the mythic Fate, then isn’t this a description of tragedy? Is a degree of that influence to do with the desire not just to reinstaurate the determinism or fatalism of modernity on its certain path but to redeem it?

“Part of that attraction may stem from the fact that no one really knows if modernity is dead or alive.”

Which suggests exactly the spectral/corp(u)s/e mode modernity was so good at advancing: and pomo was so good at extracting – half-life apparitions and death-drive amortisations.

“It seems to be in ruins after the totalitarian catastrophes of the 20th century (the very same catastrophes to which it somehow gave rise).”

Surely, that ‘somehow’, tenuously holding on, like spectral rider to ghoulish horse, confirms that the modernity described here is in the grand European tragic style – or pomo pastiche thereof. The taste for setting such great store by aesthetics (however deeply internally politicised or outwardly conceptual and dematerialised), that ‘totalitarian catastrophes’ ensue from them, is modernist at the fascist end of the spectrum.

“It seems utterly compromised by the brutally partial application of its universal demands (liberté, égalité, fraternité) or by the simple fact that modernity and coloniality went, and probably still go, hand in hand.”

As a colonial antipode – foot in hand, sometimes in mouth – I’ve thought a little about colonialism’s place in respect of modernity. My view, from NZ, of modernity is only historically, not ‘utterly,’ ‘compromised’ by the cultural marginalisation that goes hand-in-hand with modernity’s centralist concerns. But this issue brings us round to whether modernity has a political armature in praxis, a Realpolitik, such that it could be ‘brutally partial’ in the application of demands that are by no means ‘universal’ nor endemic to modernity, as an era (or a constellation, an infirmament, of historically informed assumptions and happenstance).

The secular nation-state, to my mind, better expresses the political ideas and ideals of the modern era, and of modernity, than the Colonial Empire. The failure of the former – in its current crisis or decadence – offers perhaps a clearer index to the vivacity or morbidity of a political modernity.

“Still, people’s imaginations are full of modernity’s visions and forms (and I mean not only Bauhaus but also arch-modernist mind-sets transformed into contemporary catchwords like “identity” or “culture”).”

There is something about this ‘transformation’ (of ‘arch-modernist mindsets’) that merits discussion. I think it was Brett, forgive me if I’m wrong, who said that postmodernism is built on the foundations of modernism. Christine has poked a little, deservedly, at the idea of Hegelian synthesis, in the n-state. In both views there inheres the idea of transformation – a redemption even of modernist assumptions. I think this archaeological impulse, this restorative ‘moral’ and critical project – such, indeed, that the question heading this discussion can be asked – may be promoted by precisely the kind of spectacular mise-en-scene we see in Roger Beurgel’s statement on modernity.

“In short, it seems that we are both outside and inside modernity, both repelled by its deadly violence and seduced by its most immodest aspiration or potential: that there might, after all, be a common planetary horizon for all the living and the dead.”

Pa Ubu: “Hornstrumpet! We shall not have succeeded in demolishing everything unless we demolish the ruins as well. But the only way I can see of doing that is to use them to put up a lot of fine, well-designed buildings.”

Finally, a brief word regarding the n-state, an idea with its own fascination; and I’d like to know more about its provenance; since, as well as zipping up a certain bodybag – synthetic teeth mesh – it also iterates management/bureaucratic themes of ‘technological progress and infrastructural improvements’. (By way of contrast, inspired by a Polish grandmother on a European train, ’82, I chanced on the related idea of ‘n-set’ – a play on ‘NZ’ and also an acronym. The grandmother said that all her countrymen were doing in those days was watching satellite TV and making babies – “like Africa!” she said.

(N-SET became a script-scenario dealing with a covert (insurgence) operation starting in Poland to postmodernise via media’s softsell immersion the East and West and foment political revolution: to postmediatise consciousness. N-SET stands for ‘non-specified enemy territory’ – carrying forward its scenario through random acts of state-sponsored terror, according to the view that the civilian population as a whole is the only object on which a postmodern war can be waged.)

Simon Taylor

Fairytale, 1,001 chairs, Ai Weiwei, at Documenta 12

National Scandal
on tour
Trans-European Express

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3- 5 April, Rotorua: a highlight–the falconry show at Wingspan, with NZ natives, karearea and kahu

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on tour

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Vancouver to Waiheke, 12 July – 14 July, including Stanley Park, a mid-career survey of the art of Geoffrey Farmer at Vancouver Art Gallery (soon to have a new building by Herzog & de Meuron), and a lost day

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on tour

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Vancouver, 11-12 July, has left a strong impression, for friends & for the food, salmon to caesars to… holy crap!

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on tour

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