Robert George’s exhibition of video and still photography showing Auckland students preparing flags that capture their hopes and dreams opens at Artstation on 2 March, 2013.
The flags were made at workshops in Auckland schools last December, led by artist Tiffany Singh, and will fly above Aotea Square during 2013’s Auckland Arts Festival.
Photographer-filmmaker Robert George documented the workshops for the Artstation exhibition, which runs until 24 March. Exhibition audiences will have the chance to share their hopes and dreams by making their own flags, which will be stitched together by textile artist Leanne Clayton into an extension of the project that will wind through the space and grounds of Artstation.
Robert says his aim is to show how art is revealed through the workshop process. “I am hoping to capture a larger socio-political narrative that comes from asking the children of Auckland for their aspirations for the future. The works these young people produce, and the images I record of the process, are fundamentally about that.”
“Young people mapped out their ideas on brainstorm sheets before making the flags,” says Robert. “Some of the themes to emerge included wanting a better future for themselves and their families, and meeting basic needs including food, employment and education. As well as aspiring to further education, fame and world peace, young people are keen to learn more about their culture and see social issues such as gangs, drug use and domestic violence addressed.”
Leanne Clayton says Fly Me Up To Where You Are: Te Waharoa is an exciting, community collaboration. “Through sewing, the creative flags bring together narratives of reflection. It makes us think of how these groups come together, create and in the making, form relationships. By sharing their cherished desires or concerns with others, that’s community.”
Tiffany Singh says her work is about engagement, about using installations as a catalyst to bring people together. “There is a universal need for communities to connect and Fly Me Up To Where You Are is about making that connection. It’s about empowering young people to shape our future, and celebrating our joint hopes and dreams, enabling young people’s aspirations to fly around Aotea Square, bringing colour and enlightenment to a public space.”
Tautai manager Christina Jeffery says projects such as Fly Me Up To Where You Are: Te Waharoa and More Than We Know - also featured in the 2013 Auckland Arts Festival - show that participation and interaction with audiences are characteristics of many contemporary pacific artists. “The emphasis on collaboration and performance in these two projects will engage audiences - and, arguably, provide more room for responses than the traditional ‘buttoned up’ visual arts environment.”
Question and Answers with Robert George:
1. In simple terms, what is your work about?
Through the use of film and photography I capture the process that installation artist Tiffany Singh follows in the creation of her work, Fly Me Up To Where You Are for Auckland Arts Festival 2013. The images and sound that I have captured during the last four months will form the basis of my work, Fly Me Up To Where You: Te Waharoa, that will show at ArtStation as a part of the Auckland Arts Festival 2013 and a companion piece to Tiffany's piece.
2. How did your approach documenting Fly Me Up To Where You Are and More Than We Know differ - given the first is a visual arts project and the second performance?
The basic style and technique are very similar but the approach between the shoots is very much informed by the end result. In each case you are dealing with people and I am always conscious of the relationship with the talent, myself and the camera. I always try to be respectful and professional; I try to put people at ease. I always want to do the best work I can possibly do, so I am always talking with them and sharing.
At the back of my mind I am always thinking about what it is I am doing, generally I have done all my prep and I know what I am after. That is important.
With Fly Me Up To Where You Are: Te Waharoa much of my decision making has to be around the end result. It is a video piece. It has a duration, and the shots have to cut together. What is the sound doing, what am I trying to say...?
Whereas with More Than We Know, they are singular images, I am building on the narrative that is already being used by the performers. I am conscious of the fact that there will need to be an overall look and feel between the photographs, that a handful will be chosen for a catalogue.
3. How was your approach to these assignments typical of your philosophy and approach to capturing images?
For me the most important thing about filming is about making sure that your work, your photography is adding something, that everything about the frame you have chosen is contributing to the theme, the story, the metaphor... for me there's nothing more to it...
4. How does your cultural content as an individual shape your work as an artist?
Through my culture, my father hails from the Cook Islands and my mother is New Zealand Maori, within this we have a mixture of other cultures and ancestors.
To begin with, my parents have played a major part in shaping my work. Same with my grandparents. Even today they directly influence my work.
My work is about telling stories. The passing on of stories, the only difference is that I choose to tell stories in a visual capacity.
Many traditional cultures, including Polynesians kept their stories alive through the use of metaphor and analogies. They had strong oral traditions.
Film is about metaphor, film is metaphor. And sometimes this is the easiest and most direct path to the truth. Truth and facts are sometimes not the same thing, and metaphor can sometimes cut to the heart of the matter.
This is how my culture informs my work. Passed down. Understanding of my culture is understanding film. The more I understand about film the more I understand myself and my culture.
Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust occupies a unique niche in the Aotearoa/New Zealand arts world as an organisation facilitating the development of contemporary pacific art and artists. It operates on the understanding that artists remain independent of Tautai and come together through their Tautai connection to participate in art events. Since becoming established in the 1980’s Tautai has with funding from Creative New Zealand supported the increasing number of contemporary pacific artists living in New Zealand.
Tautai facilitates opportunities which nurture pacific artists and builds recognition and networks of support for them. It promotes contemporary pacific art and encourages the production of new and innovative work. As well as supporting practising artists Tautai has a secondary school and tertiary programme for students with pacific heritage. Tautai also maintains the country’s most comprehensive website for information on pacific art and artists.