Macro/Micro_Whakapapa — Experimenta

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Miranda Smitheram

Tiohtiá:ke (Montreal), Canada
Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), Aotearoa (New Zealand)


Macro/Micro_Whakapapa is an installation that speaks to First Nation’s perspectives of the world where all matter is understood as lively, relational and interconnected. The artwork grew from Smitheram’s collaboration with Māori contemporary dance company, Atamira for the performance Indigenous Stamina in 2019. That performance explored the synergies between Indigenous and contemporary interdisciplinary epistemologies. Macro/Micro_Whakapapa builds on the ideas of the performance by drawing on Smitheram’s background in fashion and design, experimentation with motion capture technologies. 

 The installation features draped fabric suspended on the gallery wall that hosts the projection of a sumptuous piece of simulated digital cloth that continually twirls and morphs. The projected digital cloth appears to be dancing providing a clue to the source code of this digital animation. Its nuanced and affective movements are driven by data points collected from the motion capture of dancer Bianca Hyslop choreographed by Atamira Dance Company Director, Jack Gray. 

 Layered images of landforms, trees, sightlines and horizons have been visually reworked through 3D animation to pattern the digital cloth. The images selected have been transformed and remediated to reflect and refract the effects of globalisation, colonisation and mediatisation on Indigenous bodies of Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Australia. This shifting sequence of imagery includes still images selected from video footage of Indigenous dancers activating sites of cultural significance in Australia and Aotearoa that featured in the Indigenous Stamina performance. Through this digital transformation process the cloth has become inhabited by whakapapa (genealogy or line of descent): a shape-shifting geology, topography and map that is both cartographic and imbued with energy that speaks of the interconnectedness of all matter.

The dancer’s body, whose movement data choreographs the digital cloth, is unseen nevertheless the artwork still holds the energy of the dance. The motion detached from the physical entangles with imagery of ecosystems and so the human and non-human are enmeshed. Notions of the human body are redefined as an intertwinement with the nonhuman bodies of land and water. The new surface that emerges in this artwork is simultaneously person, place, and matter.


Ngā mihi and gratitude also to the Activists/Activators/Dancers/Bodies of Land/Bodies of Water who contributed to raw video footage that formed layers of this work: Matiu Hamuera, Dakota Camacho, Bianca Hyslop, Ruth Woodbury, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which is the traditional land of Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara people, and Lake Rotorua and surrounding forest, the traditional lands of the Te Arawa people. 

This artwork was developed during Dr Smitheram’s Māori Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (2018-2019), awarded by the Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, Auckland University of Technology, Aotearoa/New Zealand.

The Artist
Miranda Smitheram

Dr Miranda Smitheram is an artist and design researcher, interested in hybridity and materiality. Originally from Aotearoa (New Zealand), she is currently Assistant Professor of Material Futures at Concordia University, Canada.