TĪ KOŪKA IN A TURNIP FIELD, 2020
7-10-2019 (just before Edievale on the way to Rae’s Junction, Clutha, Te Wāhi Pounamu/Lower South Island).
The Tī Kōuka stood out over the horizon, the starkness of them causing me to pull over. I stepped over the ditch, lifted over my small gear bag containing a dslr and zoom recorder, carrying my tripod and squeezed through the fence, trespassing on farmland somewhere just before Edievale, Clutha Region. A car sped past on the country road. I slowly worked my way up the steep paddock of hardened mud, keeping my feet on the dried ridges to avoid stepping in deep, unstructured soil, whipped into a smoothness by hundreds of hooves that had been there recently. Watching the trees coming closer, considering the starkness of their positions and how far their distance from each other. The soil had been used to grow turnips, which were now gone with the cows who had been here to eat them as winter feed. I stand in this place, uninvited, considering why I walked up here, my eyes and nose running from the cold, strong wind.
When I got to the trees on the ridge-line (after carefully negotiating a pair of plovers and their hidden nest in the mud), I find some concentrated mix of effluent and oil reflecting the clouds moving quickly on the wind above, a PVC pipe, a fallen fence posts and barbed wire lay in the mud, joined by a length of one of the trees that had broken off and fallen away from the rest of the living tree above ground.
Detritus of the farming practices brought from one place, transposed and intermingled.
I grew up near here, I come from a farming family fro this area, I have passed through here more times than I could remember.
Tī Kōuka are used as boundary markers due to their ability to thrive in wind and sun exposure.
The trees grow their stems above and below ground level simultaneously, with its roots stretching outwards and down. Tī Kōuka is also fire resistant, and thrive in difficult scenarios such as full sun and high winds. I’m considering this assemblage while recording.
These trees had ‘value’ to the agrarian agenda, therefore they are allowed to stay.
Or perhaps these ones just kept growing back as they are well known for growing back from their underground stem even though they can be cut to ground level).
In a place like this, it’s hard to avoid seeing what the landscape would have been like before agrarian colonisation.
I wonder if these trees are connected to that time of clearing. I wondered how long they had been there; how many times they might have regrown in this spot. I don’t particularly enjoy considering them this way, putting so much onto them, but their form, and their figure-like stances seem human-like, I can’t seem to resist the anthropomorphizing, which also causes discomfort.
The extreme green pasture on one side, the land dug away along the boundary of the fence, an expanse of mud. It dawns on me I’m only considering the outer surface in the grand scheme of things…
There was a water pump between them, there was also a tank nearby on the other side of the fence.
The pump seems to have a concrete chamber, the overflow storing in the tank. From the chamber was coming a loose bell-like ringing sound. A chip in the corner of its heavy concrete lid afforded me to record the sound of inside and outside simultaneously, thinking of the waters journey and its processes, what it’s up to beneath the ground, only surfacing here for a minute.
The wind was serious, I had to shelter in the small hollow one of the trees made while I sat and listened and looked, thinking about their existence up here.
I sat the tripod on the pump and visually recorded the trees as they stood. The ground below, the adjacent green field of grass on the other side of the boundary, the desert-like, yet sodden turnip field.
I think about their root structure, reaching down and across under the ground. I think about time presented here, how it’s taking its various forms and interactions. I think about the elements as the seasons change and the purposes of the fields around them changing for whatever purpose.
I watch their rattling leaves in the strong wind. I study their bark and where the mud recedes away exposing the base of the tree like an exposed tooth in a gum.
The rattling, resonant water in the pump chamber. The wind, the tiny grass birds I can hear everywhere but can’t see. The plovers that are still nervously milling about together indecisively on their little legs, scuttering about on the dried mud. Their bright red beaks the only way of really spotting them against the repeating texture of where the hooves have been.
Following these initial moments (the driving by and looking up, noticing the trees) where my trajectory is shifted, to take the opportunity to continue to take notice. To look and to listen within the moment as much as possible, to think within that space and study those thoughts while continuing to listen and look. These moments are around us all the time, these interactions between worlds.
After recording most of the files were completely unusable due to wind noise. The process is very improvised, only carrying a small kit with me.
In response to this place, and the thoughts and feeling of being there as I was, considering the scenario, I generated an underlying sound bed of wind and textures, the imagined harmonics of the earth underneath, the material of the trees put in motion by the high winds with a modular synthesiser system. The final soundtrack is comprised of these generated sounds and some salvageable field recordings accompanying the clips of different view points.