Meet Anne Noble, the Tylee Cottage Artist in residence (Sept 2020 – Feb 2021)
How do you describe yourself as an artist?
Photography, video and installation art practitioner
What is your proposed undertaking whilst at Tylee Cottage?
The residency is an opportunity to begin a new body of work related to the history of the Tongariro Power Development Project, and the associated impacts on both the environment and the people of the Whanganui River region.
What medium/s do you work in?
My practice spans photography, video, sound and installation art. I am particularly interested in how an art practice that incorporates these media can amplify dialogue about the histories of our relationships to land place and environment. I am interested in the power of images to prompt the telling of stories, and to amplify critical dialogue about the significant histories of the places that we inhabit.
Where is your home town?
My hometown is Wellington, but I’m born and bred in Whanganui.
Can you please give us a brief description of your hopes for your Tylee Cottage Residency period?
My hope is to use this time to do foundational research for a longer-term project; to rekindle relationships and reconnect with the people who I have known earlier in my time in Whanganui including the Whanganui river.
Do you have a connection to Whanganui?
I was born and grew up here and I have a strong family connection to Whanganui and the river.
Tell us about your experiences making your art. For instance, how long does a piece take you generally?
I might be involved in development and the creation of a project for 4 – 5 years
Do you do research?
My practice is always informed by research. In the case of the Tongariro Power Development project, there are multiple histories to be aware of, and much to learn and to understand about the impact of this project on the environment, on the Whanganui River and its people.
The opportunity of a residency in Whanganui provides the gift of time: to research, to meet people and to re-establish connections through my earlier work, while also developing ideas for this proposed new project.
Is your creation process very physical, very cerebral?
Yes, it involves walking, observation and discovery, in search of ways to imagine and represent places in a manner relevant to our current political climate.
Is there an audience you particularly want to reach or a message that you hope to communicate?
I try not to begin any new project with a preconceived message in mind. It is important that the form of a work arises out of the research and is also informed through conversations. This is an approach that is open to potential collaboration and participation in both the creation and the dissemination of a work. This is certainly important in regard to the Whanganui River whose people have long experience of their voice and the voice of the river not being heard.
Are there themes that seem to pop up again and again in your work? What are they? Do you know why they are there?
I am interested in how our imagination is formed by our specific cultural relationships to place. I am interested in human connections to the non-human world. I am also interested in the growing threats to both biodiversity and cultural diversity which I see as closely aligned. Art has an important role in amplifying understanding and awareness of these issues.
What or who influences you? Is there something you find particularly inspiring?
I am inspired and challenged as an artist to explore how art can stimulate new kinds of dialogue about the politics of land, water, place and environment. As an Aotearoa NZ artist I am also inspired to embed cultural dialogue in the Kaupapa of any art project.
Do you have any concurrent art projects at the time of your residency?
I often work on multiple projects in tandem. While I am developing a new project here in Whanganui, I am also working on a book about my bee projects with the curator from the Queensland Art Gallery which exhibited a survey of my bee projects for the APT9. This will be published by Massey University Press in 2021.
I also have an ongoing project called A Line Between Two Trees; Observations From the Critical Zone. The ‘critical zone’ refers to the ground beneath the forest floor, which is suffering the greatest loss of biodiversity in the microbial world. I am making a series of works investigating the time of the forest and the language of trees. In 1976 I first photographed the great Northern Rata ‘Ratanui’ at Bushy Park sanctuary and I will be returning there to photograph the forest at night as a component of this larger project.
See more about the Critical Zone project here
Anne Noble (b. Whanganui, Aotearoa New Zealand) is one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most widely recognised and respected contemporary photographers. Noble has been at the forefront of photographic practice in New Zealand since first attracting attention in the early 1980s with her acclaimed photographs of the Wanganui River. Noble has since created bodies of work as ‘essays’ or ‘narratives’ that mark her sustained engagement with particular sites and species, most notably her decade-long project on Antarctica.
In 2001 she spent three weeks in the Ross Sea region as a New Zealand Antarctic Arts Fellow and returned to Antarctica in 2008 as a US National Science Foundation Polar Arts Fellow, to complete three photographic book and exhibition projects, Ice Blink, 2011 (Clouds) The Last Road, 2014, and Whiteout / Whitenoise (forthcoming). Over multiple projects her work has examined the imagination and representation of Antarctica and explored new ways to see and imagine a place that most people only encounter second-hand through the photographic image. An extension of her ongoing interests in how perception and cognition contribute to a “sense of place’ Noble’s Antarctic projects have been exhibited widely nationally and internationally.
Noble’s images are renowned for their beauty, complexity and conceptual rigour and for their persistent inquiry into the methods through which we perceive and come to understand the natural world. Her most recent projects are concerned with the non-human world and human impacts on natural biological systems. A six year engagement with the honey bee centred on their intimate physiology and their contemporary predicament in the light of escalating environmental stresses and resulted in several projects in which Noble has collaborated with researchers and scientists to develop images that articulate the delicate majesty of these beings. The most recent iteration of this ongoing project, Conversatio: A cabinet of wonder was exhibited at The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at QAGOMA (2018-19).
Her most recent work, A Line Between Two Trees: Observations from the Critical Zone, reflects on the time of trees, and explores new ways to visualize the invisible life of a forest.
She has returned to Whanganui to take up the Tylee Cottage Residency (Oct 2020 – Jan 2021) to develop a new project that looks at the Tongariro Power Development of the 1960s and 70s and explores the histories and lingering environmental impacts of the dominant land and water engineering practices of that time.
Anne Noble is Distinguished Professor of Fine Arts (Photography) at Massey University, Wellington and is the recipient of numerous awards including the 31st Higashikawa Overseas Photographer Award (2015), a Fulbright Fellowship at Columbia College, Chicago (2014), an Arts Foundation Laureate Award (2009), US National Science Foundation Artists and Writers Award (2008). She has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally and her work is held in collections throughout the world.