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Fellow’s work literally entrancing

Monday, 25 November 2013 8:06am

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Liv Worsnop, Guerrilla Gardener, founder of Christchurch’s The Plant Gang and creator of the Zen Garden, with Hypnotist Reg Blackwood taking part in Frances Hodgkins Fellow 2013 Zina Swanson’s performance art-work ‘Can anybody hear me?’ during the Scape Public Art programme.

Frances Hodgkins Fellow Zina Swanson is luxuriating in her on-campus studio space, the first she has had since the Christchurch earthquakes.

Frances Hodgkins Fellow 2013 Zina Swanson.

“I have been collecting a lot of different materials, because I haven’t had a studio for a couple of years. My partner and I lost ours. Having a studio again has helped me focus on making sculpture again. I’m currently resolving several for my Hocken Library exhibition in February. My water colours are ready to go.”

“I‘m very interested in plants, humans and anthropomorphism. The show is called ‘No need for water’. In the past I have used actual plants which need looking after, but this show is taking on more of a ‘fake natural’ tangent; material logs, wood made to look like marble...”

From late September to early November Ms Swanson’s focus was drawn from these preparations to her other major project of the year.

Christchurch’s biennial Scape Public Art free-to-view programme contained ‘Can Anybody Hear Me?’, Ms Swanson’s series of six performance art-works in various sites around the central city.

“I’m interested in the idea of plant and human interaction. As part of Scape, I organised a series of hypnotisms, choosing six people with varied relationships with plants – landscape architects, florists, and so on. Hypnotist Reg Blackwood hypnotised them beside plants to believe they could act as a sort of conduit for the feelings of the plant.

“I wrote questions for them; those you’d ask a person rather than a plant. One was ‘What do you dream about?’ The woman who was the lancewood said, ‘I dream that I could have fruit, it’s very difficult for me to have fruit’.

“My dad, a geologist, was a developed willow in Victoria Square. He said his greatest fear was being taken away because he wasn’t a native.”

The hypnotisms had a sculptural element as well, with Mr Blackwood, the subject and plant surrounded by a delicate pine enclosure.

“It was nice to make transient work like that in Christchurch. It doesn’t have to stay on site, it can just disappear. I hope a lot of people will remember so it lives on in that way.”

Ms Swanson also hopes something of ‘Can Anybody Hear Me?’ will feature in her Hocken Library exhibition and that her online transcripts of the exchanges will be brought together in a publication someday.

Although, Ms Swanson normally works as a librarian to make ends meet, she will not be searching for a job immediately after her Fellowship ends in February.

“Dunedin is beautiful, I didn’t quite realise - I think I will stick around here a bit longer before I head to New York. In April I’m taking up a month-long apexart residency, which includes an apartment in Manhattan and quite a full-on cultural emersion itinerary - you get tickets to a lot of events. I am only the third person from New Zealand to do it!”