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Colonial hospitality: rethinking curatorial and artistic responsibility

The recent enthusiasm for gestures of hospitality in contemporary art promises relief from the individualising forces of neoliberal capitalism and the professionalised hierarchies of the art world. Yet, Jacques Derrida describes the gesture of hospitality as paradoxically asserting a kind of sovereignty that underwrites the ‘right to host’, returning hospitality to the conditionality of the authorising institution. In settler-colonial territories, these institutionally underwritten gestures always sit uneasily atop indigenous sovereignties that have not been ceded, requiring the positive gestures of hospitality to remain open to their structuring fissures. This paper considers figurations of hospitality and responsibility in works by Derrida, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Raqs Media Collective in reading the art collective Local Time’s research-driven practice that seeks to reconcile indigenous self-determination and settler gestures of hospitality.

Published in the Journal of Artistic Research (JAR) 10 (2016) by Danny Butt and Local Time:


Local Time: Piha (21-Aug-2015, 1900 +1200)

Local Time’s contribution to the ST PAUL St Curatorial Symposium 2015 was to invite delegates to stay together for the night in Te Wao-nui-o-Tiriwa at Piha. We were once again fortunate to work with historian, storyteller and orator Pita Turei (Ngai Tai ki Tamaki, Ngati Paoa, Nga Rauru Kiitahi) who oriented visitors to the West coast from te pō (the night) into te ao mārama (the movement from darkness to light). The gathering at dawn, in view of Mount Taranaki also provided an opportunity to remember our mutual friend Te Miringa Hohaia, whose invitation to work at Parihaka was the impetus for Local Time’s founding.  The following day allowed for reflective conversation attentive to the rhythms and histories of place, and the struggles for self-determination.

Map of sites:

Oceanic Performance Biennial – Rarotonga

For our keynote performances at the Oceanic Performance Biennial 2015 Local Time have worked with members of the Rarotongan community to design two conversation activities that involves conference participants in resource management issues of local concern.

Local Time: Muri 10th July 2015 1400 (-1000)
This performance chartered a tourist vessel to sea life habitats in the Muri lagoon. The journey was framed by a conversation among members of the local Muri community and the Muri Environment Care Group who discussed the customary maintenance of this environment and the forces shaping its future development.

Local Time: Puna o te Vai Marau 11th July 2015 1630 (-1000).
Local Time coordinated a visit to Puna o te Vai Marau at the base of Maungaroa in Rarotonga, springing from Local Time’s continuing enquiries into puna wai (traditional water sources) and the issues of sovereignty connected to them. The visit, taking place in consultation with ta’unga Tangianau Tuaputa, proposed a conversation on knowledge, indigenous self-determination and intergenerational resource management rights. Papa Tuapata advised us that the signposted Puna Vai had actually been created by Europeans in the late 1800s, and formally invited us onto the marae (meeting place, though not with a building like most in Aotearoa) a short distance away where the original Puna Vai rests, to give us a brief history of the events that led to the settlement of the valley by Tinomana and his descendents. At this site ten years ago, large rocks were taken without consultation to Avarua for construction works.


Local Time–Manukau (29-Nov-2014, 0500 +1200)

Local Time were pleased to be asked to be part of the weekend events that formed part of the art project Other Waters by organisers Janine Randerson and Eu Jin Chua.

We invited Pita Turei (Ngai Tai ki Tamaki, Ngati Paoa, Nga Rauru Kiitahi) to work with us in considering Other Waters’ situation on and investigation of the Manukau Harbour and surrounds. In critical solidarity with the broader project’s acknowledgement of multiple histories of the harbour and surrounds, we began from our established method of the idea of camping as a means to consider mana whenua and basic needs in specific sites. From the questions of local permission and access to fresh water, we developed two contributions to the project.

First, for the Saturday of the Other Waters weekend we participated in pre-dawn, paimarire karakia on Mangere maunga, Te Pane O Mataoho, led by local kaumatua and advisor to the project Jeff (Koko) Tukua of Te Puea marae and Pita, followed by whakawhanaungatanga in the crater of the mountain amongst those who attended.

Second, for the rest of the weekend events, we collected drinking water from Te Puna O Hau, a significant puna wai in Onehunga, and made it available from the Te Tuhi caravan on Old Mangere Bridge, replicating the form of the similar gestures involved in Local Time—Waitaha Wai (2013) and Local Time—5th Auckland Triennial (2013).

Our attention was first drawn to Te Puna O Hau by Jeff Tukua, who described it as a year-round source of tuna and puha in his youth. He said that it was near the railway station but had been built over since, so we traced information on colonial businesses that had used the water to discover its exact location. It is, in fact, at the south end of Spring Street, its overflow still watering the small pocket of wetland that is the Bycroft Reserve, where its old name is marked, between industrial buildings over the railway line. A newspaper article from 1955 suggests that this name, Te Puna O Hau, is connected to a visit of the Tainui waka (see photo above). An article about the mill and biscuit factory whose owner, John Bycroft, gives his name to the site, too, describes the way it appeared in 1876:

“The mill is worked by a compound engine, driven simultaneously by steam and water, which gives it an advantage that no other mill in the district possesses. In the immediate vicinity of the mill is a large pond, fed by hidden springs, whence a constant and copious supply of water is obtainable for hydraulic power. This natural reservoir is about 200 yards in circumference, and in some parts thereof the water is 8 feet deep. Being spring water it is clear and pure—the best, we believe, at or near Onehunga. The pond is well stocked with carp and eels—some of the latter weighing about 40lb.” (“Bycroft’s Flour-Mill And Biscuit Manufactory At Onehunga”, New Zealand Herald, Volume XIII, Issue 4611, 24 August 1876, p.1.)

An Auckland Star story mentions a “new pumping station” at the site, opposite W. Sutherland & Co. Tannery, when that business was partly destroyed by fire in 1909. The spring is now used by Water Care for the metropolitan water supply in the area and pumped across to Mangere Bridge / Te Tai Tonga. Still gathered from a wide catchment to the north, it can supply 21 million litres a day. From the tap, as we accessed it, though, it is no longer completely fresh, but chemically treated.

Local Time are Alex Monteith, Danny Butt, Jon Bywater, Natalie Robertson. We acknowledge the generous support of Pita, Jeff, Vivky and whanau, and everyone who got up early on Saturday. We also thank Janine and Eu Jin for the invitation to work under the auspices of Other Waters.

Local Time—Footscray (5-Feb-2014 +1000)

Local Time joined the Auckland Old Folks’ Association on the banks of the Maribyrnong River in Footscray to host 72 hours of open-format conversation in an exhibition to accompany the conference Spectres of Evaluation, held at Footscray Community Arts Centre. Continuing our interest in the protocols of hosting and the practices of customary authority over land, before arriving we made an invitation to local Elders, artists and artsworkers from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities connected to Footscray to join us for lunch at the proposed campsite. After sharing of food and the discovery of family connections we were presented with an Australian Aboriginal Flag that hung at the site for the duration of our stay, whose dates coincided with Waitangi Day in Aotearoa. The site became a hub for conversation on traditional camping and transit sites; historical flora and fauna; struggles for self-determination; indigenous history and colonial institutions.

Local Time acknowledges the support of Uncle Larry Walsh, Lydia Fairhall, Robert C. Bundle, Vicki Couzens, Julie Tipene-O’Toole and Rob Ball during our first visit to Footscray.

Local Time – 5th Auckland Triennial (10-May-2013 +1200)

Local Time joined an excellent group of artists in the 5th Auckland Triennial, If you were to live here… curated by Hou Hanru. In our usual fashion we worked collaboratively with the host organisations to invite participation in works that materially connect all of us to the ‘here’ of the Triennial’s title.

Waiariki 9 May – 11 August 2013 (+1200)

For If you were to live here... Local Time asked the Triennial’s host venues to make a simple gesture of hospitality to artists and audiences. We have previously explored histories of the the waterways in what is now Auckland’s CBD within our project Local Time: Horotiu (2012). In the wake of our discussions with both the traditional guardians and the contemporary occupiers of the site, we made a daily collection of natural spring water to serve at the events we hosted while working in ST PAUL St Gallery, AUT. For the Triennial, we invited the staff of Artspace, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, George Fraser Gallery, Gus Fisher Gallery and ST PAUL St to take up this gesture. We provided specially ozonated water containers and directions to Waiariki, an old source of drinking water within the pre-European flows on and under the land that the Triennial’s venues occupy. Galleries used this infrastructure to serve the spring water to guests during public events.


500m Law – Wai-te-matā (28-Jul-2013, 1200-1600 +1200)

A four hour action on the Wai-te-matā Harbour, Tāmaki Makaurau, with the yacht VS Vega and four inflatable boats, equipped with ten custom fluorescent yellow flags plus seven additional flags associated with the Vega’s history as a protest vessel. The Local Time inflatable Mahi Kai was prepared for the action in the forecourt of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. All five vessels flew fluorescent flags bearing the number 500 on their port side, the number referencing distances in the ‘Anadarko Amendment’ enacted to restrict peaceful protest at sea in Aotearoa. Each vessel flew an additional fluorescent flag on their starboard side. The phrase “this is not a protest” was spoken by Tauranga fisherman Elvis Teddy, who was arrested after joining a four boat protest that impeded a survey ship operated by Brazilian oil company Petrobras as it tried to enter the Raukumara Basin. The date 1972 referenced the year in which the Vega first sailed to Mururoa to witness French atmospheric nuclear testing and contribute to its eventual cessation. For this action, the Vega led the flotilla across the shipping channel that runs between her berth at the Maritime Museum and the Devonport Ferry Terminal. The flotilla then looped back towards the Auckland Harbour Bridge, displaying both aspects of the flags to the Devonport shore. Finally, the flotilla sailed to the Rangitoto Channel, a site of historical demonstrations against nuclear vessels entering New Zealand waters.


Local Time — Sarai Reader 09: Art as a Place (16-Feb-2013 + 0530)

Local Time spent a week in Delhi as part of the exhibition Sarai Reader 09: Art as a Place, curated by Raqs Media Collective. As well as developing our plans for publishing our recorded discussions with collectives on the ethos of their collaborative practices (and adding an inspirational interview with Raqs to that archive, to be published later in the year) we also convened an afternoon of conversation with other artists in the exhibition, starting from questions of creative process.

Local Time – Horotiu
(16-Apr-2012, 0900 +1200)

A multi-platform research inquiry into naming practices at the St Paul Street gallery, AUT University, Auckland.

Most events ran 21st April to 11th May, Reading Group ran from 16th April

Local Time are a collective of artists, writers and teachers who have facilitated site-specific art projects and events with a specific emphasis on local and indigenous knowledge. Investigation of naming and framing across multiple histories has underpinned much of their work.

While our previous projects have taken shape outside the gallery, our four week inhabitation of Gallery Two at St Paul St (16th April – 11th May 2012) investigated the site of this university-based gallery that sits above Ngā Wai o Horotiu, “the waters of Horotiu”, a name traditionally given to the Queen Street area and the gullies that are bounded by Auckland University of Technology and The University of Auckland.

Taking the question of naming as our theme, we developed a multi-disciplinary, practice-based research investigation with a wide range of collaborators, using the gallery as a site for display, discussion, and hospitality. The project aimed to to involve the artistic and academic communities that are part of the gallery’s audience, increasing all participants’ knowledge of the site while also opening a range of questions about the role of the gallery in the colonial university and our own positions as practitioners, teachers, and publics between “educational” and “cultural” institutions.

Local Time’s methods take a measure of the daily rhythms of where we are working, and the values and practices that determine them. Working “at work” this time, within the university and the gallery, we found ourselves on a familiar kind of contemporary “local time”: one that involves early starts and late finishes to combine making art and making a living.

The actions, public events and more intimate gatherings that made up Local Time: Horotiu are as follows

* A 1994 Toyota Hilux Ute was re-registered as “ARTUTE” the day before the Local Time project commenced. The ARTUTE enabled the relocation of the Suite Seven Collective’s 14 custom-covered mattresses and floor mats from Artspace to St Paul St Gallery Two, for use during screenings, panels and workshops.

* The gallery was used as an base for a student-led project to initiate a student group for Māori and Pasifika AUT art and design studients.  Cora-allan Wickliffe and Morgan Tahapehi served over 100 guests in the gallery atrium in their “Fry For Kai” project supporting students on campus.

* Water was collected daily from Te Wai Ariki spring near the Auckland Law School to share with reading group participants and other guests. Each morning began with a reading group on Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization. See the site for this reading group here:

* Tuesday evenings featured an open discussion of the project, clarifying our intentions methods and discovering more about the knowledge of the site held in the school and community.

* Later in the evening on Tuesdays three screenings were held:

  1. The Hornsey Film (dir. Patricia Holland), a 60-minute 1970 film re-creating and reflecting on the student-led occupation of the Hornsey College of Art, May and June 1968.
  2. Bastion Point: The Untold Story (dir. Bruce Morrison), a 44-minute 1999 documentary on the 1977/78 occupation of Takaparawhau/Bastion Point led by the Orakei Māori Action Committee. This screening was was graced by the attendance of Poppy Hawke, co-producer Sharon Hawke and photographer John Miller.
  3. Waka Huia, Series 2010/2011, Episode 21 | Nga Wai o Horotiu – a 59-minute documentary on the development of Nga Wai o Horotiu, the marae at Auckland University of Technology in the heart of Auckland’s CBD..

* On Thursdays, two panel discussions were held:

  1. On 3rd May a panel on contemporary Maori public art featured Carin Wilson, Desna Whaanga-Schollum, and Layne Waerea. It was accompanied by a titi (muttonbird) boilup and brisket boilup.
  2. On 10th May a group heard of stories and oral histories of what staff and student life has been like in the past at the local art schools of Elam, AUT (and ASA), and reflections on the pacing and timing of teaching and learning between then and now.

* On Saturday 28th April Local Time performed a boat action on the Waitemata Harbour, flying banners and flags from the Mahi Kai thundercat in support of the Aotearoa Is Not For Sale hikoi.

* The climax of the occupation was a party on Wednesday 9th May. For the work Two Hour Opening, AUT Facilities were commissioned to uncover three manhole covers on the concourse directly in front of the Gallery Two window, providing a view of some of the waters underneath. The ARTUTE did duty as a chilly bin, cooling the beer in gallery one while a BBQ was served.

* Jonty Valentine contributed his Risograph machine to make a number of posters during the exhibition which are gathered in this publication. Taarati Taiaroa and Nell May have worked with the documentation of the show for the online platform

Throughout all these events, a continuous stream of archival research into the history of the site was undertaken by Taarati Taiaroa and shared in the gallery space. This material, combined with information gathered during the other events, led to the development of a text written for the gallery’s written profile information, providing additional layers to the name St Paul Street and the history of its location. This text has been installed on the St Paul Street gallery website:

Local Time are Danny Butt, Jon Bywater, Alex Monteith, Natalie Robertson. We acknowledge the generous support of all who participated, and thank the St Paul St staff for the invitation to work in their space.

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STATEMENT: Collaboration on Local Time

Originally published in the Wellington Collaboratorium publication – WHITE PAGES: DARK MATTER, 2010.

Local Time has been named as a collective for four years, and our working relationships with each other stretch back over a decade. Yet when we began our series of interviews with other practitioners on the topic of collaboration, a curator voiced some suspicion. How could we could even begin to define collaborative practice or to “research” it? After all, every practitioner collaborates in her or his own way. For us, however, it was precisely the naming of collaboration that it was interesting to question: What is a collaboration? What is a collective? Who shares our values about it? Can we learn from them to support our own work?

Both naming ourselves and undertaking this research have been useful ways to evade our own formalisation. Another curator once pressed us for details on “what we were doing.” Why was it hard to answer? We do lots of things. Clearly implied in the well-intentioned probe was that if we could make ourselves and our trajectory recognisable, we could perhaps find a role in bigger plans. No doubt this might bring resources and opportunity, but how could the —at that stage and still—deliberately indeterminate nature of our collective survive the professionalising forces activated by institutional engagement? Our ongoing project to find our own protocols was clearly at odds with them.

Our peculiar sensitivity about protecting our working practices from professionalisation may be explained by the way that we work in both the highly-regulated “public” language of institutional discourse (in the universities where we usually work, and in the art world where we often practice) and in communities who have not only been excluded from that public, but who also, in the indigenous setting, have a distinctly different philosophy around public and private, the collective and the individual. Here the otherwise inspirational existing histories of collaborative practice within Western art history provide few guides.

Our basic working question is: How can we effectively work at what Martin Nakata calls the “cultural interface”? The gaps between the histories of Maori and Pakeha (to take the relations negotiated in our own group) and their scale increasingly provide more questions than answers. We may be becoming less sure of what we can do, just because we are more certain about the way we want to do it. This situation resembles what Spivak describes as “permanent fieldwork”, in which we are always taking notes on our impressions, but rarely reporting back findings. “If your energies are focused toward [digesting the material for production], you are constantly processing, and you are processing it into what you already know. You’re not learning something,” she cautions, flatteringly enough. Our experiences always leak into our individual practices, of course, whether we document or not, but perhaps general answers are more likely to be found by practitioners to come, for whom navigating the multiple contexts will likely be a default mode.

Sometimes it seems that the bulk of what we do is just conversation, and in other ways, the language to describe those conversations is only beginning to exist.

Local Time: Waitangi Day, Taranaki
(6-Feb-2009, 1445+1300)


Parihaka to Cape Egmont Rd to Parihaka with two Tino Rangatiratanga Flags and two Land Rovers, Waitangi Day 2009 

Performance with two Landrovers and Tino Rangitiratanga flags, Parihaka, Taranaki, 6th Feb 2009.

Performance in which two Landrovers in convoy drove the roads from Parihaka Pa, leaving from outside Te Pae Pae Marae, to Cape Egmont (the most western point on the North Island) and back to Parihaka. Video was also recorded simultaneously from each vehicle as documentation.

8.00-9.00pm 6 Feb 2009, Tasman Sea Arawhata Rd – Arawhata Rd Mt Taranaki – Arawhata Rd Tasman Sea, South Taranaki, Aotearoa.

Performance with two Landrovers and Tino Rangitiratanga flags, Arawhata Rd, Taranaki, 6th Feb 2009.

Performance in which two Landrovers in convoy drove the Arawhata Rd from the sea to the termination of the road at the base of Mt Taranaki and back to the Tasman sea. Video was also recorded simultaneously from each vehicle as documentation for video installation.

Local Time: Waitangi Day, Parihaka
(6-Feb-2009, 1200hrs +1300)

A three hour event of kai & korero at Parihaka for participants in SCANZ (Solar Circuit Aotearoa New Zealand) Raranga Tangata 2009, a two-week digital media residency for artists and curators. Te Miringa Hohaia (Taranaki Tuturu / Taranaki Whaanui) and Local Time hosted a meeting with food at Parihaka. The meeting came together at the site of the Parihaka Peace Festival where the SCANZ group of international digital media artists could eat and spend time at the historically significant site of Parihaka with Te Miringa Hohaia, the founder of the Parihaka Peace Festival. The picnic was an opportunity for international and local artists to mark Waitangi Day at a site that has been significant in New Zealand’s cultural and political history, and in our own practice.

Local Time: Parihaka | Brydee Rood
(11-Feb-2008 0900 +1300)

Three works by contemporary artist Brydee Rood were coordinated by Local Time for presentation at the Parihaka International Peace Festival 2008:

Te Tira Whetū Tank (The Milkyway Tank) (2006-2008)

Te Mangō Roa Taranaki Tank (The Galaxy of Mt. Taranaki Tank) (2006-2008)

Te Mangō Roa Titiwai: Mushroom-lover 1891 (Galaxia Bolitiphila Luminosa: New Zealand Glow-worm Galaxy) (2008)

By day, if you lift the flap and venture inside the tank works, you will see drawings made by holes in the sides of the two re-purposed water tanks. By night, Te Mangō Roa Titiwai will also reveal a drawing made by points of light, in this case solar lights that might line your driveway. Brydee’s work often uses everyday, synthetic materials like these to refer to the natural environment. The beauty she creates out of them could give us pause to notice afresh the way that plastics are all around us, and not that they are simply good or bad but tied up in the complexity of contemporary human relationships to the land.

Brydee says that for her the solar light drawing is “fundamentally about making a space for pause, a moment where usual time is lost, like when we pause to wonder at the stars or gaze at cluster of glow worms on the damp earthy bank….”

Brydee Rood was born in 1978 in Auckland where she now lives and works, after years in Japan and Mexico. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Elam School of Fine Arts, The University of Auckland.

For this project special thanks are due to Te Miringa Hohaia, RX Plastics LTD, Baileys Tanks NZ, Donna Willard-Moore and The Warehouse.