Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington
Gate 3, Kelburn Parade
Wellington 6140
New Zealand

Folded Memory

Nova Paul


Xin Cheng

Maria Olsen

Emerita Baik

Vivian Lynn

Flora Christeller

Mo H. Zareei

Richard Niania & Joyce Campbell

Bridget Reweti

Taarn Scott & Hana Pera Aoake

Susan Skerman

Richard Frater & Richard Francis

Curated by Susan Ballard and Sophie Thorn

17 November 2023 28 March 2024

Folded Memory is a second chapter in an exhibition series which opened with Listening Stones Jumping Rocks in 2021.

Listening Stones Jumping Rocks began a conversation. We spoke of a convergence of human and natural histories, and the central role of art. We thought about the fast slow scale of geological time. We imagined the gallery as strata. We considered what it might mean to think beyond human-scale; to pay attention to the planet and the deep-seeded knowledge we might find should we be listening.

Folded Memory begins with a tree. Or a part of a tree. A cross-section of a Tōtara to be precise. He Tōtara rangatira sprouted as a sapling sometime around the year 1481. What was this tree witness to? Its growth rings hold the carbon it breathed for 425 years. He Tōtara was felled in 1906 in Taihape and brought to Te Herenga Waka, where it was used to tell new stories. It had a colonial history placed along its rings tracing Columbus to Cook. Wars were mapped. Memory was stalled.

Folded Memory reimagines the narratives held deep within the rings of he Tōtara and extends these pūrākau across the uneven ecosystem of a forest. Stories spiral out of artworks. Bright colours from the leaf litter reach up through the understory, and exhale across the overstory. There are clearings where new knowledge is gleaned, meetings are held, and alliances form. A canopy holds visions, cosmic and awakening, and above it in the emergent layer, bodies are warmed by the sun.

The artworks in Folded Memory are made from many parts and carry within them a resistance to simple answers. Shifting from planet to plant, folding connections with cosmic worlds into alternative visions of living and being, Folded Memory questions the physical evidence of time held within the rings of a tree.

Drawing on Nga Puhipuhi o Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection alongside key loaned items to both complement and complicate the collection. Folded Memory is part of an ongoing collaboration between Susan Ballard and Sophie Thorn. It is envisioned as part of a larger series which aims to shift from listening, to remembering, to imagining and in doing so narrate a new environmental art history of Aotearoa.

Susan Ballard is an art writer and curator who teaches in art history at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. Recent essays have appeared in OctoberEnvironmental Humanities, GeoHumanities, Cultural Geographies, and the Sydney Review of Books. Her books include 100 Atmospheres: Studies in Scale and Wonder (with the MECO network, Open Humanities Press 2019) and Alliances in the Anthropocene (with Christine Eriksen, Palgrave 2020). Her book Art and Nature in the Anthropocene was awarded the best book in the AAANZ Arts Writing and Publishing Awards 2022. Su curated Listening Stones Jumping Rocks for Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery, Wellington in 2021, and is currently building a collaborative environmental art history of Aotearoa housed inside an excel spreadsheet, and writing Shift Work: Art and Life in the Third Millennium with her friend Liz Linden, to be published by Punctum Press in 2024.

Sophie Thorn has been with Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery since 2014. She is currently on secondment from the position of Kaiwhakarākei  Curator Collections to the role of Manutaki Director. She holds a Master of Arts in Art History and Theory from the University of Canterbury and a Diploma in Law and Collections Management through the London Institute of Art Law. She studied Heritage Materials Science through the Physical Sciences department at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington and at the Chemical Institute of Technology in Prague, Czech Republic. She has held positions at the Canterbury Museum, Experience Wellington, and Te Manawa Museums Trust. In 2021 she curated the exhibition Listening Stones Jumping Rocks with Su Ballard.