Fossils and remedies: more-than-human survivors





kāpia, more-than-human geologies, Kauri forests, fossils, Kauri die-back, video art, experimental film, geoaesthetics, Aotearoa, Anthropocene


Not long after I was absorbed in the latent energies in the Tsunami boulders and Len Lye’s kinetic systems, I returned to more-than-human geologies in my art practice. The catalyst for my recent video work Kāpia: fossils and remedies was a story of kāpia, a relic of an ancient forest commonly called Kauri gum by the settler-colonists, uncovered in a sand dune in the Hokianga harbour in the ‘far north’ of Aotearoa New Zealand. In long-ago climates, the ancestors of Kauri trees, Agathis australis, grew throughout the country and their traces can be found in the leaf fossil records and in amber, their resin, and the solidified pre-fossil resin, kāpia. Today, only a few stands of original Kauri forest remain in Te Tai Tokerau, Northland, and their future survival is uncertain. The gigantism of the Kauri tree evidences their deep prehistory when they dwelled with huge creatures on the continent of Gondwana in proto-Australia, the Pacific islands, India and Antarctica. Kauri are believed, controversially, to have survived the complete submergence of Aotearoa in the Miocene era, but now they must withstand a new pathogen. Phytophthora agathidicida, commonly called Kauri die-back, surfaced in the Anthropocene, just like COVID-19.  We humans are asked by many iwi, tribes, to socially distance from these living ancestor-trees for their own survival, under conditions of rahui, or temporary prohibition. How might we protect bodies of trees, people and other more-than-human companions?

Author Biography

Janine Randerson, AUT University

Janine Randerson is an artist and writer from Aotearoa New Zealand. Her moving image installation works are exhibited in the Asia-Moana region and internationally. She often practices in collaboration with community groups, mana whenua, and environmental scientists from urban meteorologists to glaciologists. Janine’s book Weather as Medium: Toward a Meteorological Art (MIT Press, 2018) focuses on modern and contemporary artworks that engage with our present and future weathers.

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