Calling all friends of Heritage Expeditions in Christchurch! Eleanor Cooper recently returned from a stint as a conservation worker on Raoul Island, where our expeditioners enjoyed meeting her last month. Her exhibition at the Physics Room, exploring ideas around remoteness in nature, opens next week at the Physics Room, Christchurch. More details are below.
Kermadec-created sculpture exhibition coming to Christchurch
While spending four months on subtropical Raoul Island, with only the materials she had at hand, artist Eleanor Cooper has created a surprising collection of new sculptural works. Raoul is the only inhabited island in the Kermadec group and is 1000 km northeast of mainland New Zealand.
Her exhibition opens in Christchurch on Friday 29 April, and the experience of living in such an isolated, wild place is a central theme of the show.
Eleanor, part of a Department of Conservation team removing weeds from the island, says,
“It was quite a challenge finding ways to represent Rangitahua, a nature reserve from which no natural materials may be removed.”
The exhibition features hand-made replicas of objects found on the island, each chosen to evoke narratives of life there, past and present. Other works are accounts of intermittent, and at times tragic social histories of the island that testify to its remoteness and volatility. Photographs of works she couldn’t bring back are also included.
She almost had to change plans at the last minute. “There were a few weeks where I thought I wasn’t going to make it back in time for the show. Cyclone Winston hit Fiji – and three days prior it had been forecast to head straight towards Raoul. We boarded up our windows and lashed down anything that might have caused damage. The HMNZS Wellington was scheduled to collect us in late March but was redeployed to assist with the cyclone response in Fiji. The impact of severe weather systems in the South Pacific, that are happening more and more frequently, became real.”
Raoul Island is an active volcano, and during Eleanor’s tenure the caldera was closed due to heightened earthquake activity. “Some days we would feel several earthquakes a day – you get a sense of the island as an unpredictable, and at times inhospitable place.”
“Raoul is really steep and rugged in places, and when you’re so far from medical help, you have to be careful about what you do. Grid-searching for weeds meant following a compass bearing over and under and through whatever was on your line, like a giant comb. But we’d laugh a lot and there was also plenty of time to think about what I was going to make.”
Raoul is the only island in the Kermadecs inhabited by people year-round. Since 1939 the island has housed a meteorological station, a radio station and a hostel now home to a small group of DOC employees, who numbered seven during Eleanor’s stay.
They say this island changes shape, by Eleanor Cooper
Opens: Friday 29 April, 5.30pm
Artist talk: Saturday 30 April, 11am
Closes: Saturday 28 May 2016
The Physics Room, Levels 2 & 3, Old Post Office Building
209 Tuam Street, Christchurch
Hours: Tuesday – Friday 10am – 5pm