Hither and Thither Exhibition Essay
Bringing together the work of Auckland artist Melissa Laing and Wellington artist Kerry Ann Lee, this exhibition consists of a series of installations, digital videos, sonic art and publications that explore notions of migration and settlement in New Zealand.
Melissa Laing’s untitled 2013 digital video, filmed in Australia and created in collaboration with Melbourne-based artist Ashlee Laing critiques Australia’s recent policies on boat asylum seekers that forbids them to settle in Australia and relocates them in Papua New Guinea. It also responds to New Zealand’s recent changes to the Immigration Act 2009 and the government’s 2012 preparatory exercises simulating a mass arrival with hundreds of people acting as asylum seekers. Laing has also collaborated with Auckland artist Carol Lee-Honson to create a boat carrying ceramic bone fragments, alluding to a history of death and disaster while traversing the seas seeking safety and a final resting place.
Kerry Ann Lee’s installation The Unavailable Memory of Gold Coin Café (2013) investigates the story of 296 Willis Street, the site of the Gold Coin Café: her parent’s takeaway and former family home in the 1980s. Her parents followed the tradition of her ancestors in that upon immigrating to New Zealand in the 1940s they helped set up some of the early Chinese restaurants in Wellington. As the building is currently earthquake-stickered and earmarked for destruction, Lee’s installation references her memories and actualities of the space, featuring visual and sonic details to explore the tensions of making a home in the margins. The project is an alternative micro-history of Cantonese migrant legacy and urban settlement in flux in Wellington City over the past 40 years.
“Hither and Thither” is an expression designed to draw attention to things that mutate from one place or situation, implying distance and proximity, ‘displacement’ and ‘placement’. The exhibition invites reflection about historical and current migration perspectives, transcultural circuits, and configurations of space, including the politics and policies of places.