With a research-driven, interdisciplinary practice that spans the mediums of photography, film, video and sculpture, Auckland-based artist Joyce Campbell explores an ongoing interest in the ecology, history and mythology of place. Employing antiquated photographic equipment and anachronistic techniques and processes such as 16mm film, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, cibachrome, and hand-printing from black-and-white negatives, Campbell creates richly detailed, interpretative images of the landscape and objects within it. Often investigating sites of historical, traditional and spiritual significance where access and ownership are contested, Campbell’s films and photographs create a space for dialogue at the intersection between culture and nature.
Campbell presents two works for the 20th Biennale of Sydney, Taniwha Whakaheke/Taniwha Descending, 2016, at the Embassy of Spirits, and Flightdream, 2014–16, at the Embassy of the Real. Each work engages with different themes surrounding water and aquatic life, and, considered together, invoke a dynamic tension between memories of an ancient past and the speculation of possible futures.
Taniwha Whakaheke/Taniwha Descending is an ongoing series created in collaboration with historian and knowledge holder Richard Niania of the Ngāi Kōhatu Hapu. Employing nineteenth-century photographic techniques, Campbell explores the ecology of Lake Waikaremoana, in the Wairoa region, and traditional Maori myths of the surrounding locale. The black-and-white photographs investigate the legend of the Taniwha, ancient serpentine creatures said to inhabit waterways – physical manifestations of the life force of a place. Taniwha Whakaheke/Taniwha Descending depicts the search for the Taniwha Hinekōrako, the female ancestor to Ngāi Kōhatu Hapu, an ancient albino eel that lives under the rock Hinekuia at the base of the Te Reinga falls. Campbell has captured breathtaking images of raging rivers and cascading waterfalls, atmospheric scenes heavy with a palpable mythology and spirituality; the depth and detail of the silver gelatin photographs conveying the potential of photography to act as a conduit for spiritual manifestation.
At the Embassy of the Real, Campbell presents Flightdream, an abstract video piece accompanied by a soundscape composed by experimental guitarist Peter Kolovos. Campbell explores a fascination with consciousness, shape, form, and that which is formless, subjecting objects to electrochemical dispersal, a scientific process of corrosion that causes material to break apart, and filming the floating particles and webs of matter as they gently drift in suspended slow motion. Flight dream is based on a short story by science fiction novelist Mark von Schlegell titled ‘Flugtraum’, which, in turn, was originally written in response to a series of Campbell’s photographs, Marianas, 2003–11. The central character of von Schlegell’s story travels to the depths of the Marianas Trench, the deepest part of the ocean, in search of a nameless, formless monster that resides thousands of feet beneath the surface.
Selected solo exhibitions of Joyce Campbell’s work include ‘Te Taniwha/The Thread’, Uxbridge Gallery, Howick (2015); ‘Three Women’, McNamara Gallery, Whanganui (2014); ‘To the Wash’, Two Rooms Gallery, Auckland (2014); and ‘Te Taniwha/Crown Coach’, Nichols Gallery, Claremont (2012). Selected group exhibitions include ‘Te Taniwha’, Hastings City Art Gallery, Hastings (2012); ‘Photoquai’, 2e biennale des images du monde, Musée du Quai Branly, Paris (2009); and 2007 Incheon International Women Artists Biennale, Incheon Arts and Cultural Center (2007).