THE PANTOGRAPH PUNCH

Art07.12.23
#PIJF#CARVINGSPACE

Make and Make Again – An Ongoing Collaboration

Dirty Laundry is a collective of artists and writers whose exhibition at Toi Pōneke explored invisible labour in the home. Here, they use images and words to stitch together a 'crazy quilt' about how they collaborate and carve space for creativity in their busy lives.

Zoe Thompson-Moore, Make and Make Again, 2018, hand appliqué on found gingham. Photo: Dianna Thomson

We’ve lost the skills to live in villages. They were forcibly removed from us – either in the recent or distant past.

To be in relation to the bigger picture beyond our individual causes or whānau – this takes practice, and only arises in practice. It takes structures of ritual and care that are about the generations before and beyond.


RRM

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MUCK IN. Side by side, WORK IN COMBINATION to LAY IT DOWN

ZTM – Excerpt from ‘motherload-motherlode’ (2017-2018)


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We are a diverse group of 12 artists and writers from across Aotearoa. We spent a year collaborating on an exhibition and publication titled Dirty Laundry, about invisible labour in family life. After it was finished, we reflected on the relationships we’d nurtured, some that predated the show, others built entirely new. The space we’d carved out seemed fragile and precious. We wondered:

How did we make space? For ourselves, for each other, for an audience?

What does making space actually mean?

Here we offer up a second piece of work to explore these questions. This time, it’s on the page rather than in a gallery. It takes the form of a metaphorical crazy quilt. The crazy quilt is constituted of disparate fragments, carefully pieced together, and held in place by an array of hand-embroidered stitches. Colours may clash, the pattern may be crooked or confounded; however, when you follow the path of stitching, we hope you will find a complex harmony.

BP and ZTM


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Caitlin Rose Donnelly, Kia Ora Whaea (detail), 2022, cloth nappies, sheets and acrylic paint.


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THROWNTOGETHERNESS

For feminist geographer Doreen Massey, space is a challenge of multiplicity, encounter and relation: a ‘throwntogetherness’ that demands ongoing negotiation. Our group was thrown together by Kate. She and Cass had created an exhibition and publication, The Velvet Rope. Their method was call and response – with Kate painting in Pōneke and sending images to Cass in Ōtepoti. Cass would write poems back to her, which Kate then answered with her brush. After this first collaboration, Kate suggested they invite others in from their filigree of relationships – Playcentre, work, volunteering. The aim was to create a show. The form? She wasn’t certain. Dirty Laundry began with an invitation – to be part of an emergent project, a creative space.

BP and ZTM


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Kate Stevens West, The Velvet Rope, 2022, acrylic on canvas board.

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&, In her place, I would do what she did.

at least long for the trepanning noose, its loop a portal, a release –

a choice at least

but, oh, my poor children! The pain ricocheting through generations

the stone saying nothing of this velvet rope, the pulsing cord

about my own baby’s neck

CRS –  Excerpt from The Velvet Rope (2020)

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You saw me before I saw myself.

What came first – the artist or the eyes met across the sandpit?

ZTM

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The eyes met across the marae –  or was it in the whare kai – I believe, came before the artist. I think the eyes met always comes before the artist, because what is art if not an expression of our humanity, a representation of conversations had, of relationships, of the people behind it.

CRD

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I was so keen to pick up our disjointed conversations – put down to take a kid to get nappies changed, a dry top, a snack, and picked up again and again and again. Each time hauling this reconfigured person back into the world. New and old, but not alone.

KSW

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With our bodily fascia, when one part is altered, the whole is also affected. So it is true with all relational and familial connections.

CL


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COME AS YOU ARE

From the outset with our Dirty Laundry show, the invitation to participate was unique: come as you are with what you can. The creatives for this project were already in the thick of it, under the pile, finding glimmers of time to work creatively between all our other responsibilities.

During our process, there were definitely points of wondering: What are we doing? Where are we going? But eventually, over time, we discovered we’d concocted a miracle mayonnaise, an unlikely emulsion that none of us could have anticipated.

BP and KSW

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From each according to her ability, to each according to her need.

ZTM via Marx

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Mothers are keepers,

of time, schedules, preferences, everyone’s wants and needs,

of things, clothes, washing, pets.

But who keeps us?

CRD

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Kate Stevens West, This is my real work, 2023, lightbox.

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CREATIVE DREAMING

Together we formed a WhatsApp group, shared email addresses. We began to post our work, and to respond to each other with words of recognition, encouragement, celebration. We had Zuis to talk and plan.

An essential thread running through this project was the work of Dianna, who photographed each of us virtually using an app, our phones and her laptop. We opened our homes to her, sat her on our dinner tables, chatted with her in the garden, hung out the washing alongside her, or took her into the places we make our creative work.

This virtual space-making – as a group, and with Dianna – was at the core of our project, as we worked together from Southland to Auckland.

Once, some of us were able to meet in person. We began our day with yoga and movement to locate ourselves in our bodies, stretching ourselves in our already stretched lives.

Our collaboration was and is piecemeal, adaptive, generous. It is embedded in our daily lives, families and communities. It is built on trust.

BP

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Dirty Laundry Zui, 2023. Photo: Kate Stevens West

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Remote shoot, ZTM in garden, 2023. Photo: Dianna Thomson

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There is strength in being open, flexible, adaptable – to show up for what is actually here and trust in the process.


“Move at the speed of trust. Less prep, more presence. What you pay attention to grows.”

– adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy


ZTM



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In this process of conversing, writing, reflecting, making and making again, I feel the looping back into this shared space of creative dreaming. A soft and spacious crafting, collectivising the care with determination, and an insistence (almost idealism?) of being present to the life that has emerged in the space between practice and parenting.

RRM


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Remote shoot, KSW family meal, 2023. Photo: Dianna Thomson

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I am no good at juggling, I can only have one or two balls up in the air at once, my challenge is to make sure the balls sitting on the ground are not always the same ones.

HC

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To do both. To be both. And not to be only.

HW

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Rather than an exhortation to “commit to a daily work practice”, which so many creativity ‘gurus’ urge, my approach is more open and flexible to what just happens in life. So some days it does mean time spent stitching and literally touching the work, while on others days it might be pondering as I walk, shower or dip into seemingly unrelated books. The peaks and troughs are all part of the creation and part of measuring the time of a passing life.

PD

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Philippa Doyle, Intersections, 2023, embroidery.

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Learn to widen my perspective, and hold the whole.

CL


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DIRTY LAUNDRY LAND

Finally the entire group met, kanohi ki te kanohi, at Toi Pōneke. We arrived laden with boxes and bags, tenderly wrapped parcels, a guitar, a fridge, some kai, and began to lay out the show. This process was one of recognising the connections between works to create collective, relational meanings. We arranged and rearranged to find space for the work to breathe and interact.

It was a priority for us to make the gallery space welcoming and comfortable for our audience. We arranged a whānau-friendly area with comfy chairs, toys, and Johanna’s video work on a screen, like a TV in the family lounge – at eye level for breastfeeding mums.

By opening day, the gallery was filled with a glorious patchwork of paintings, sketches, photographs, textiles and embroidery, rubber gloves, rope, knitting, recycled materials and words. It was blessed with a karakia, and stitched together at our opening with Rachel and Clare listening to the works with their bodies, a conversation built from the potential of movement, rest and attention. Our original theme of invisible labour became a celebration of visibility: we had made a space where our mahi and experiences of care could be shared.

Over the month the show was open, we made space in different ways: the literal space of the gallery; the conceptual space of the show as we conversed at panel discussions; the emotional space our art opened up for audience members; the physical space of our workshops, where we invited others into creative practice, or to be captured in the gallery by Dianna’s camera; and the relational space of just being with each other.

BP and CRS


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Rachel Ruckstuhl-Mann and Clare Luiten perform at the Dirty Laundry opening, 2023. Photo: Dianna Thomson

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Johanna Mechen, Bright Lights, 2022, video still.

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DIRTY LAUNDRY LAND

Cassie Ringland-Stewart


Whai Marama,

Rachel & Clare’s

pale cords stretch softly

across the plain of the gallery floor

umbilical tributaries coiling together

into a swollen river

the watering ground

for bulbous white birds

like moony udders

billowing and floating

as though they might take flight

up up over the dark & heavy mauka

of Caitlin’s washing pile

follow a course across

Philippa’s stitched landscapes

dissolve, sunlit, into pure fragmented colour

into the cosmos of Zoe’s glitter


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Rachel Ruckstuhl-Mann with Whai Marama, created by Rachel Ruckstuhl-Mann and Clare Luiten, 2023, rubber gloves and rope. Photo: Dianna Thomson

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With the gloves, filled with our breath, we are inviting an experience of collective breathing, listening, sensing the potential of our fluid bodies, not always being strong or upright, and seeking to be held in some way that recognises our vulnerability.

Whai Marama offers space to come back to our ground, our centre, by allowing the fall, the fail, the following of the Moon.

RRM and CL


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Caitlin Rose Donnelly, Whakaputu, 2023, sheets, acrylic paint and primer.

In the background: Zoe Thompson-Moore, With Hold from banner series, 2018; and Philippa Doyle, Six weeks and three days, 2019.

Photo: Dianna Thomson

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Whakaputu shows the result of not adhering to the ways of our tūpuna, not sharing the load of motherhood as a community, a village, a collective embodying whanaukataka.

Making space and giving validation is the crux of this work.

CRD



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Hana Carpenter, Matrescence, 2022, acrylic and oil on canvas.

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MATRESCENCE

Cassie Ringland-Stewart

This could be an ultrasound of the earth,

Hana’s painting

with its womb-like cave lake:

a close view of the universal mixing bowl,

invisible spoon tracing

infinity’s elongated 8,

spilling into the neighbouring canvas

where 2 of Kate’s babies pin her to the quilt

after the batter has baked.

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Kate Stevens West, Moe, 2022, oil on unstretched canvas.

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Philippa Doyle, Twelve and a half minutes, 2019, embroidery.


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Zoe Thompson-Moore’s hands on workshop day, Toi Pōneke, 6 August 2023.

Photo: Dianna Thomson


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WORD SKETCH – WORKSHOP DAY

Bronwyn Polaschek

Here are Zoe’s magical hands laying out the thread. Give them time and they can make things glitter and grow and rise.

Here are Philippa’s hands finding the eye of a needle. Watch them closely. There are fifty years of practice in these fingertips.

Next door are Kate’s hands, cutting & arranging. Stay, be patient. She’ll coax art out of you even if you think it’s hard.

Dianna is in the gallery with a single wooden chair. Sit on it or crouch behind, turn, squirm. She sees you with the click of her finger.

Here are my familiar hands, awkwardly stitching purple, pink, then black. Cass composed these words on a clean, white page. Today, I am binding their sharp beauty to a piece of creamy linen: Here! Now! Awake!

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Collage created by Alicia Fyfe, Toi Pōneke, 6 August 2023.

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And this place is being made

Right now

Like Narnia

But it’s also a year of our lives

Seen all at once

Like a quilt


CRS – Excerpt from ​​‘Dirty Laundry Land II’

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MĀ TŌKU RAURAU, MĀ TŌ RAURAU

Now the show is packed up, the work is gone from the walls and floor, but the collaboration is ongoing. While the formal art world, embedded in a wider capitalist framework, is tied to deadlines and outcomes, we are not. After all, most art exists outside of the rarefied gallery. The work will continue to be made and made again. The stories will be told.


BP

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Zoe Thompson-Moore, M/other, Make and Make Again, With Hold, What We Will, 2018 (folded up); Untitled, 2023–ongoing, hand-cut glitter in jar; String Theory, 2003-ongoing, french knitting, on the floor during de-install at Toi Pōneke. Photo: Dianna Thomson

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WORD SKETCH – DISMANTLING WHAKAPUTU

Bronwyn Polaschek

On Wednesday my father was cut open. A scalpel sliced his shaved, sterilised skin then through muscles, sternum, ribs. The doctor had to reach his heart.

Three days later he is stitched up, repaired, and I am in a gallery dismantling a sublime, nightmarish pile. It’s a delicate operation.

Some pieces are thick and tough with paint. Others flutter when touched. One has lace edging, another a button. Floral patterns whisper beneath shades of black.

Near the base we lift out several shadowy fragments, each splattered with red paint. What a revelation to discover this heart hidden deep inside.

It’s done. Our pou is broken apart and packed tightly into twelve boxes addressed to Caitlin. A surgeon, she is the only one who can sew it back together.

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I’ve just had my friend tell me in tears that she was so moved by the exhibition and she’s never felt more seen.

ZTM


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The stories that have been shared between ourselves and gifted to us by visitors to the exhibition and workshops and from readers of our publication have been an ongoing treasure – a seam of gold I dip into. My mother in Australia recovering from major surgery and proudly sharing our book with the nurses who care for her when I cannot; the cartoonist whose mojo was reignited by our stitch workshop; the young mothers feeling seen and in good company; the 50-year-old story of wandering with a small child, not knowing where to go or how to go on until scooped up by the kindness of a stranger. These and so many more will stay with me.

PD

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After the panel discussion today I’m left wondering, when did the collaboration begin and where does it end?

ZTM

Way back and way forward!

JM

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Kate Stevens West, ‘There are plenty of artists who don’t have exhibitions…’, 2023, lightbox.

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This is what I am: watching the spider

rebuild – “patiently”, they say,


but I recognise in her

impatience – my own –


the passion to make and make again

where such unmaking reigns


– Adrienne Rich, The Dream of a Common Language

ZTM

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I think about this whakatauākī.

Mā tōku raurau, mā tō raurau, ka ora ai kā iwi.

With my basket, and your basket, the people will be healthy.


I want baskets to hold our whole being. Can we make those?

RRM

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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