Document: North Island new Zealand Road Works "Go Men"


Often in my story-telling/art-making, I’ve documented road trips. More often than not, the footage doesn’t get anywhere, but the process helps me move somewhere mentally and emotionally, as I associate so much with landscapes and activity in it. Some years back, I photographed all the roadworks we passed on a trip from my hometown in New Zealand (Palmerston North) to Auckland and some of these images made their way to be paintings. The Go men (and women) always took time to acknowledge us and the trucks. I love trucks.

Resurfacing State Highway One Oil on canvas, Emma Louise Pratt

Resurfacing State Highway One

I’ve begun to focus more on the video work I do to collect information for paintings and realised it’s place not only in process, but as a finished work itself. I’m currently working on a video and painting project based on a village and it’s water sources. A multi-media work on canvas is developing as another way of telling the story within the video story. Confused? I’ll get it finished and uploaded soon and I’ll leave it to do the talking!

What I really want to talk about in this post is documenting. 

I got this post today – being shared around Facebook. It’s a call for video footage about a week of protests in my homeland New Zealand. This call for footage isn’t new. Since videos have been in the hands of more and more people via their phones, we’ve become used to seeing our own, albeit shaky, footage used in news reports. We’ve become reporters of our own histories. BBC is constantly making use of people on the ground tweeting what they’re witnessing, posting images and video. Image and footage work their way effectively around social platforms, moved by us, the people on the ground, to the envy of any news platform.

In recent floods in New Zealand, in which our own family farm was submerged, I went to news sites to get a handle on things, but quickly found the collaborative efforts of facebook pages and twitter hashtags set up by locals on the fly far closer to what was happening to my community. I got disaster relief info, flood updates and shared images and footage from people’s own windows, front gates, or while out walking the dog.

When I was a kid, we all typed with two fingers and through use became more adept at typing. Now we are becoming more adept at filming and visual aspects of storytelling through the possibilities given us of participating socially. people are even becoming adept at giving soundbites and short statements. We adapt. We learn.

What’s interesting about this latest call for footage and imagery is that it isn’t reactive. To get good footage at a later date, journalist Bryan Bruce would, as he explained, be restricted to the archived footage taken by news crews, and would have to pay for it.

A call for footage after the act would give him some good footage, but this documentarian is asking in advance for people to get out on the streets and carefully, MINDFULLY document the protests from their vantage point. He isn’t looking for that “quick, get the phone out and film that” reactive documenting. He’s given a list of things he’s looking for. Bruce wants good footage.

From the Facebook post:

“Try to get good images of protest signs, groups marching (from the front and the side) and show the diversity of age groups and ethnicities protesting  and catch some speakers in various centres…

If you interview people, which I hope you will, please remember to ask first “Do you mind if I ask why you are protesting today?”

(Don’t forget the odd shot of police of GCSB filming the demos 🙂

Our team of volunteers film makers will then edit the footage together to make what will not only be a historical piece but an ongoing social media protest. We will make teh footage available on social media adb it will eventually be stored in the New Zealand Film Archive under a creative commons licence.”

If you send me a personal message I will give you information about how to send the footage to me.

This is learning with a facilitator/catalyst. Bruce is encouraging people to consider what they cover, to effectively cover all aspects of the events and consciously consider what those aspects might be. This is an environment for reflection on their overall performance as participators and collaborators in recording history and telling a story. The project continues improving their filming skills through being asked to considering a variety of shots, and become interviewers and journalists. All on the fly.
Bryan Bruce’s Post here:


Fixing What’s Broken

Lucy is about to do something very brave. She is going to renovate. She is willing to take on the notorious Spanish plasterers, plumbers, bricklayers and electricians single handed, dealing with delays, builder language, materials, methods and madness in order to make her little home in a small hill village near Ronda liveable by the time her second child arrives in May.
Lucy always greets me with an enthusiastic “Alo poppet!”. She has a DIY heart –  a rare and refreshing find around here. We have discussed the tools we own and our love of pottering around hardware stores. Talking with her about her house plans reminded me of my father’s yellow chest of drawers that sat in at least three garages of different addresses of my childhood. It possibly began it’s life in Taihape, collecting screws, nuts, bolts, and old glass bottles that had been found under houses. It moved to Pauatahanui, then Wellington, then back up the the island again to Palmerston North, gathering interesting things, dings, saw marks, paint and glue spills and still more tools.
When I first saw Lucy’s cottage in high summer, it was like a sleepy white cat lying lazily against the hill in the sun. Situated at the highest end of the village, it was made of thick stone walls, plastered and painted white with the front door opening directly onto the cobbled village lane. The windows were like little eyelets, letting in little light – to keep summer heat out and winter warmth in (theoretically). Inside was a simple lounge and kitchen with a bathroom sitting slightly uncomfortably at one end, as the original house would never have had such a luxury. A small steep staircase went up to three rooms snuggled under a low ceiling. It was built heaven knows when, stone by stone, directly against the hill.
And that is the problem. Water is seeping through the downstairs stone wall which is set against the dirt with no seal. Being winter, it’s currently covered in mould. The roof is being held down by a tarpaulin and ropes and there is nothing between you and the wintery night sky but ancient old cracked tiles sitting on old beams. In times past, the dwellers of this cottage must have kept the fire going all winter to fight the damp and cold.
The damp, the broken, leaking roof and probably the questionable wiring, is all forgotten in summer when you go up the steps at the side of the house to the terrace built out on a levelled part of the hill. I remember that late summer afternoon still. For a while, I forgot the sad state of this country. No one mentioned it all afternoon. I sat on a long cushion on a seat under a tree in the summer heat, listening to the buzz of bees, smelling dry summer hills and Lucy’s terrace garden, looking out over the sloping tiled rooftops of the tiny village and watching Blanca, asleep star fish style, in the shade under the vines. Clara and Lucy’s daughter Ana Dhara, pottered about naked, playing with a baby bath and a hose. We ate lunch and listened to Lucy’s classical guitarist husband go through a few pieces. Needless to say, it was hard to leave.
Fast forward, back in the city and now in the final weeks of winter. We’ve just endured a rubbish strike. You could probably imagine the state of a densely populated city after ten days without a rubbish collection. It was incredibly depressing on many levels. The workers were facing a pay cut just like every other civil servant, though not as much as other sectors, but further evidence of the “trouble” nevertheless. The amount of rubbish we create was evident and that was depressing. The signs that people put on the rubbish piles, saying “This pile of shit represents our politicians”, portrayed the complete and utter loss of confidence most people currently have in the Spanish political system. Now even the President himself has been found to have received substantial amounts of undeclared cash over the years. And finally the stench, the litter flying everywhere and streets blocked by bags of rubbish, ripped apart, their rotting content strewn across what was left of walkable pavement by stray cats, rats and people who pick through the refuse every day looking for anything to sell at the informal second hand markets at the edge of town. It was an all time low.
Lucy is fortunate that there are solutions to her quaint but flawed cottage. Hopefully by May, mould will be a thing of the past – “it’s rainbow coloured Em”. There will be a new, insulated kitchen, bathroom and lounge and short term solution in place to seal the roof. We’ll go out again, enjoy a meal on the terrace and a walk down to the village swimming pool where the entire village will be, feeling incredibly priviledged to enjoy for a while the sleepy summer life of a hill village in a beautiful but seriously flawed Spain.
-Also found in Art All Magazine
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