Saturday, June 06, 2015

video experiment

An experimental video I did for the LBC. I wanted to play around with the concept of a 'static' video, where the camera doesn't move for an extended period.

Originally the idea was to use this as a back drop for the live performance of the LBC piece bypass/impasse. But I used other footage for that in the end.

The video is pretty meditative ... the only real editing happens around the halfway mark.

Shot on the Kaiaua foreshore, Firth of Thames, New Zealand on a GoPro Hero2.

Experiment in static landscape video from andrew killick on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Pride and Refuse: the installation (Transitions 2014)

In the first weekend of November 2014, the Lower Bar Collective (LBC) put on a three-day event at the Silo Park (Silo 6) in Auckland's Wynyard Quarter. This involved inviting other sound / experimental artists and visual artists to utilise the silo space. Other than providing the video content for the LBC performances (as usual), I also installed a piece in one of the silos called 'Pride and Refuse'.


The genesis for the 'Pride and Refuse' piece came about a number of years ago after reading Pensées by Blaise Pascal, and in particular the following quote, describing the paradoxical nature of humankind:
“Judge of all things, imbecile worm of the earth; depository of truth, a sink of uncertainty and error; the pride and refuse of the universe.” 
From there, the concept was matched with an aesthetic idea I had been playing with, doodling humanesque outline figures. I was interested in picture clusters and so decided to create a cluster in which these figures appeared against various impressive skies. These skies were eventually photographed from our balcony in Brookfield over several months and combined with the existing figures that had been drawn sometime earlier. The result can be seen here.

By this time I had reached a place where I felt like I had a enough work I was happy with to begin putting out exhibition proposals to several galleries. I constructed a proposal for a Safe Little World exhibition, consisting of four large clusters of small photographs, some with graphic interventions (I call these images photo/graphic).

This resulted in my first showing at Draw Inc in Hamilton, though just one of the four pieces was shown. The proposal was declined by another gallery (Blue Oyster in Dunedin), but came back with constructive criticism. The advice was to focus the conceptual frame of my proposed exhibition.

This was fair critique. Although the four pieces in the proposal were linked by my general safe little world concept, they didn't tell one particular story as a group of works.

Within the wider safe little world idea, conceptually I was most interested in the 'Pride and Refuse' cluster, and knew it had an aesthetic and conceptual link to another of my pieces - one named 'Falling / Rising', a cluster of nine photographs I had taken of a white cloth dummy in mid-flight (here).

I had been wanting to try out other media, so I decided to flesh out the pride and refuse concept and make the connection between the 'Pride and Refuse' cluster and the 'Falling / Rising' cluster more explicit by the addition of 15 cloth dummies to be suspended from the ceiling in a cloud (one dummy for each of outline figures in the 'Pride and Refuse' cluster, and modeled on the dummy that appeared in the 'Falling / Rising' cluster) and 15 adhesive vinyl outline figures, of similar dimensions to the cloth dummies, to be applied to the floor. This would give me an installation consisting of four elements (the two existing framed clusters plus the two new elements) - and possibly five with the addition of an ambient soundtrack provided by the LBC. I made a proposal based on this new installation idea to a gallery in Wellington, which was declined.


Since performing in the silos for the Auckland Fringe Festival in early 2013, the gentlemen of the LBC had fallen in love with the space and entertained the idea of staging our own event in there.

The idea was conceived to invite other sound artists and visual artists into the space for a weekend. The Auckland City Council approved our plans and gave us use of the space.

The silos are configured in an interconnected set of six (hence 'Silo 6'), and offer a unique acoustic space and industrial setting. It was the perfect opportunity for me to utilise the 'Pride and Refuse' installation in one of the silos.

With this project greenlit, I now got underway (for the first time) with actualising the elements of the installation.

Prior to this, I had already been thinking, without any particular opportunity being confirmed, of getting the pieces made so that the installation was at least out of my head and into a more concrete form. I had already asked my father-in-law, René, (a wizard at constructing things with a sewing machine) if he would be prepared to make the cloth dummies, and had obtained quotes from signwriters for making the adhesive vinyl outline figures.

Using the original cloth dummy (the hero of the 'Falling / Rising' cluster), René now made a pattern and got to work on 15 new dummies. The vinyl adhesive figures were taken care of (beautifully and very generously) by Benefitz in Auckland. Meanwhile, I had the 24 photographic images printed for the two clusters and then framed them up.

The Installation

The elements were completed and duly assembled. Anna, my wife, was unwell at the time but I thought I'd still manage to complete the installation with a daytrip to Auckland. In the event, she was too unwell for me to go away for that long, and it looked like the project was going to stumble near the last hurdle.

The collective kicked into action, and LBC members Mal, Matt and Rob went above and beyond to make it happen. In the midst of all the chaos of the other organisational aspects of the Transitions event, Mal (in particular), with help from fellow exhibiting artist Kristin, spent several hours installing the piece after it was sent to Auckland on over-night courier. This was no mean feat considering the piece had never been installed before. A few relatively minor technical challenges presented themselves and were solved, via Mal's initiative, my detailed written instructions and a few phonecalls between us.

Utilising one of the silo spaces, the two photo/graphic framed clusters were hung on the concrete walls (using 3M Command Adhesive strips). The 15 dummies were suspended in the centre of the space by fishing line from the existing hopper structure, and the vinyl adhesive figures were applied to the floor.

At some point in the afternoon of the installation, I started receiving cell pics of the installation in situ. It's a strange feeling never to have seen and experienced the installation in person, but it was a pretty amazing feeling to receive those pictures.

It was also a massive privilege to be exhibiting alongside the other visual artists that we had invited into the space for the Transitions event: Belinda Griffiths, Beau Cotton, Arthur Amon and Kristin Herman.

Following are a number of images that document the piece:

The last three images were shot by, and are courtesy of, funkypancake.

Although the fifth element of the original concept (an LBC audio soundtrack) wasn't part of this installation per se, over the course of the weekend the piece was immersed in incidental sound provided by the various musicians and artists who performed. Actually this is probably the aspect that I most regret missing out on - experiencing in person those various sounds enveloping and adding layers, by proximity, to my artwork.

Three evocative pieces of media that relate to this sonic context emerged from the weekend. The first is an image of Colin Wood playing his saxophone in my space. The second is of the act DJ Popular Music using my space for part of their dance performance. The third is a video shot by funkypancake of the LBC's opening performance. The video features my cloth dummies in the opening minutes and also gives some idea of the silo space in general. The music is a piece called 'Nana'.



Art emerges from community. A number of people made this possible out of the amazing kindness of their hearts. Malcolm Dunn, Rob Morgan and Matt Findlay of the LBC for making the installation happen even though I couldn't be there in person. René Sjardin for patterning, stitching and stuffing. Aidan and Simon of Benefitz (a superb printing company in Auckland) for the adhesive vinyl figures. All the people who donated to the PledgeMe campaign I ran back in 2011 that enabled me to buy all the frames for the clusters (and Harrison Frames who gave me a great price at the time). Anna, my wife, for putting up with my ramblings and thoughts-in-process, and giving me a free hand to create the artwork.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

another Lower Bar Collective event

Another Lower Bar Collective (and Safe Little World) event coming up...

Other than providing the visuals to accompany the music of the LBC (and designing the above poster), I'm doing an installation for the event called 'Pride and Refuse'. This installation has been sitting in concept stage for more than a couple of years, so it's pretty cool to be able to finally exhibit the thing.

My father-in-law has finished work on 15 cloth dummies, I've framed 24 little photographic prints, the 15 adhesive vinyl outline men arrived from the printers today ... it's all go.

Event info:

Name: (Lower Bar Collective Presents) Transitions

Date: Friday 31 October – Sunday 2 November. 6 – 10 pm Friday. 11 am – 10.45 pm Saturday. 11 am – 3 pm Sunday.

Location: Silo Six, Silo Park, Wynyard Quarter.

Blurb: The Lower Bar Collective presents Transitions, experimental music and art installations. For one weekend, the Auckland-based collective takes over the silo space, inviting fellow sound and visual artists to present their material in that unique acoustic and aesthetic environment.

Sound artists: Lower Bar Collective; Colin Woods; Paul Buckton; Panhandlers; Baby Took My Dingo; Terracotta Cat; Reverbaphon; Ben Lawrence; Kraus; DJ Popular Music; Saturnian Noise

Installation artists: Belinda Griffiths; Beau Cotton; Kristin Herman; Arthur Amon; Peace Myth; Safe Little World (Andrew Killick).

A diverse array of music and sound performances (from ambient to experimental) take place continuously over the three-day programme, with the installations concurrently open for viewing. Entry is free.

Further details: and

Sunday, October 19, 2014

safe little world in cambodia

The Safe Little World concept was always grounded in the context of a quiet suburban backwater in New Zealand, and I've always wondered what would happen to it in a different situation - one with less comfort and a different culture. As things transpired, I had the opportunity to test that question on a recent trip to Cambodia.

The contrast between Tauranga and Phnom Penh in many ways couldn't be more stark. With this shift out of a comfort zone, the comfort of western suburbia which is inherent in the Safe Little World concept was immediately destabilised and then thrown into a light that exaggerated just how obvious our western expectations of comfort are. The sarcastic phrase "first world problems" is probably the most apt way to describe this in a nutshell. But the Safe Little World concept has also always embodied a paradox. The paradox is that our safe worlds have the potential to come under threat - and Cambodia's history and our experience of it as visitors definitely bore that out (encapsulated, for example, in a visit to S-21).

Other than a critique of our western sense of a safe little world in the context of a developing nation, it could be interesting to see if the underlying concept of a safe little world was found wherever we go. The question is, is it a fundamentally human drive, no matter where humans find themselves, to try to create a safe haven? The short answer is yes. This drive may embody itself slightly differently and have unique cultural manifestations, but ultimately this is a very human trait.

No matter how much, or how little, you give a person; no matter the threats, upheavals or fragility, humans seek to create a space for themselves.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

once upon a time...

Once upon a time, before there were nasty apps and automatic one-touch filters, mankind wrestled interesting visual effects from his images by lengthy processes of hands-on experimentation.

Yesterday, while digging through my photography drawer, I came across some old b&w photography lens filters and my old Waltex magnifier.

How to make images 1 & 2: First, take a red lens filter (darkens sky in b&w photography, lightens skin tones, but not in colour photography). Look out your front windows on a rainy day. Point your digital camera at the view through the red filter. Take photo. Second, take a green lens filter (lightens foliage in b&w photography, but not in colour photography). Repeat.

How to make images 3 & 4: First get in your car (or your brother's car) and drive all the way to Whanganui. Drive up the Whanganui River road to the settlement of Jerusalem (where James K Baxter used to live). Stop and get out in the pouring rain. Wander onto the covenant grounds. Take photo with your Russian-manufactured Lomo analogue film camera (which you bought on ebay from the Ukraine) of statue of Mary looking heavenward into the overcast sky. Shoot it onto slide film. Go home and have slides developed. Over ten years later, rediscover your Waltex magnifier. Get out your old 35mm slides and select photo of Mary. In one hand, hold the magnifier and slide together. With the other hand press the lens of your digital camera up to the magnifier view-finder. Take pictures.

Tips for image 3: embrace the dust spots - they look like stars.

Tips for image 4: achieve the green tint by pointing the magnifier, slide and camera at the green foliage outside your kitchen window.

 (Click em to see em larger.) 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

stations of the cross 2014

Another little Stations of the Cross exhibition at church this year. This time I'm doing Station XIII - 'Jesus is taken down from the cross'.

My concept came from noticing the red leaves that were falling from a tree in our backyard. In the northern hemisphere, Easter coincides with Spring, which fits the resurrection motif rather nicely - new life emerging from the dead earth. But in the southern hemisphere, Easter occurs in Autumn, seasonally fitting with the death and falling motif. So fallen leaves were a material that was close at hand for this piece.

Death and resurrection are woven into the fabric of nature. Nature pays tribute to the death and resurrection of its Creator.

Trees have long been associated with the cross and Christ is often said to have been hung on a 'tree' (the tree being a metaphor for the wooden cross, relating to the Old Testament statement, 'cursed is he who is hung upon a tree').

So my piece is of a bare tree, having shed its 'life', its leaves which turn red in the process of dying and falling - a metaphor of Christ dying on the cross - where they lay scattered on the ground. I then gathered them up off the dirty ground and placed them in a pure white bowl as a kind of offering, in a way that relates to Christ's body being poured out as an offering and being gathered up for burial. The picture of the bare tree and its offering of shed blood-red leaves appear together in the station.

My 2012 and 2013 stations are here and here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thursday, October 03, 2013

On Sailing

Early this week I watched an interview with Dean Barker on Campbell Live. Over the last few weeks, you could have caught me in front of the TV at 8.00am most mornings watching the America's Cup racing, and you would have assumed that I was a bit of a fan, and I would have agreed. You would have caught me yelling abuse at Oracle, when they forced Team NZ into 'irons' before the start of one of the races and then claimed two penalties when Team NZ had no option but to touch boats. You would have seen my mood darkened a little for the rest of the day on losing days. You would have seen me relishing the American commentators' mispronunciation of Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill's last name - accidentally separating out the last syllable and thereby making the distinct syllables too obvious. Spit Hill. Things like that betray the fact that I was quite caught up in the drama of the event.

But as I sat watching the Barker interview the other night, I was struck by just how deep my feelings ran. They tapped into something more deeply cultural and a part of my life than I realised.

There are a couple of things. The first is about this Dean Barker fellow. He is a man who embodies a number of New Zealand cultural ideals. He is another in the vein of a handful of New Zealand national heroes such as Ed Hilary and Peter Blake. We can't place him in their league just yet, but he embodies a number of the characteristics that we New Zealanders admire. Humble, loyal, dedicated, determined, passionate in a way that speaks through action rather than words.  And, like the best of our heroes, he engaged a challenge that was made all the more difficult by the odds and by the modest resources at hand. By the nature of our size in the world, our national psyche is drawn to David and Goliath scenarios.

The second awareness I was struck by was how much sailing is part of me. Growing up in Auckland, and spending holidays in the Hauraki Gulf, the sea and boats were a normal part of my life. My father was a passionate sailor in those days - I'm not sure where his love of sailing sprung from, but he served his compulsory military service in the navy. On one occasion he was summonsed to the bridge - mistakenly, it turned out. A ranking officer had asked to see 'Killick' and the messenger, apparently unaware that it's naval tradition to call a Leading Seaman 'Killick', instead fetched my father, a lowly teenager wondering why on earth his presence had been commanded. The nickname comes from the fact that a Leading Seaman's insignia is an anchor, and 'killick' is an old word for 'anchor'.

When I was a kid, boats were everywhere. At one count, our family had a total of about eleven or twelve water craft hanging around the house. Dinghies, canoes, windsurfers, yachts - those sorts of things. You wouldn't know from watching the America's Cup today, but sailing wasn't necessarily the domain of the rich (at least when I was kid). There were plenty of 'dungers' on the harbour - every man and his dog had a boat of some sort.  I actually wasn't all that into sailing myself. I was more likely to be working on my colouring-book below deck or wondering why it was better to have a yacht than a launch, given that a launch gets you there much more quickly. Sometimes I was reluctant ballast or, as I got older, put in charge of the headsail (it's pronounced 'headsil') sheet as my father piloted his tan-sailed gaff-rig dory up and down Bon Accord Harbour on Kawau Island. 

But it gets inside you nonetheless. The sea, the wind, the shower of spray, looking up at the top of the mast as it twitches against the clouds - knowing that the ocean and the elements are perhaps too powerful to play with, and that it is only by their goodwill that you are allowed to feel moments of mastery.

In the 1970s, my father's passion for sailing took him to the limits of the sport - ocean racing. Auckland to Noumea. And Fiji on another trip. In accordance with this, the main and insurpassable sporting event in our household was the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race, with names like Peter Blake, Digby Taylor and Grant Dalton. Up at Kawau Island we'd listen to Pete Montgomery commentating on the radio as the boats entered the Hauraki Gulf after days at sea. My father and I climbed up to a high vantage point on the island and saw the leading boat emerge into view. I remember seeing Steinlager (or was it Steinlager II?), in strong wind, powering on towards Auckland harbour - red against the green sea. 

Amongst all of that, and in a similar context, the America's Cup entered our consciousness. Firstly via the successful Australian challenge in 1983. Then in 1987, when I was 10, the New Zealand era commenced. KZ7 losing to (Dirty) Dennis Connor in the challenger series, and then Connor taking it back from the Australians. Then 1988 and the Big Boat - more dirty tricks. By now it's all become part of New Zealand legend. And then in 1995, NZ's Black Magic wins the cup.  There is quite literally rejoicing in the streets. My best mate and I catch the bus and head into Auckland City for the ticker-tape parade to welcome the cup to its new home. Jubilation and, it would seem, one of the greatest things ever to happen to Auckland and New Zealand. It's an experience hard to describe but, as Team NZ passes by on the back of truck, with streamers everywhere I think I get eye-contact with tactician Brad Butterworth and I see there what I take to be the look of a man utterly humbled by being in the midst of the celebration and even somewhat bemused by the fuss.  If ever I'm proud to be a New Zealander, it's at this moment.

There are more ups and downs to the story in the years that follow - more drama, victory, betrayal and disappointment. And as I sit and watch the Dean Barker interview, I  look back and see now that as the modern history of the America's Cup ran parallel to my formative years, it wove its way into my psyche and the essence of my New Zealandness. 

As the interview finishes, I know that it would indeed be a strange thing not to see New Zealand competing, and it would be unfinished business and deeply unsatisfying not to witness Dean Barker one day lift the cup.  

Pictured below... (Top) My father, in the 1970s, somewhere between New Zealand and some Pacific island.  (Bottom) Me, age two and a half, standing in front of the dinghy 'Clive' on Kawau Island.       


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

the continuing adventures of the lower bar collective

It's been a pretty fun year for the LBC - the last three months have been particularly busy - well, relatively-speaking.

Since performing at the Auckland Fringe festival early in the year, we performed for the first time in Tauranga at Major Toms in August.

Then in September we returned to the Audio Foundation in Auckland... roughly 13 months since our debut performance. Was very nice indeed to have Paul Smith (aka Spool, aka Reverbaphon, aka Peace Myth) perform on the same bill - a Scottish architect who makes "off-kilter, non idiomatic music and experimental film. Within the experimental electronica scene he has toured throughout the UK and played alongside artists such as Kieren Hebden (Four Tet), Robin Rimbaud (Scanner), Christopher Horne (Christ / Boards of Canada), Robin Guthrie (Cocteu Twins), Noah Lennox and Josh Dibb (Animal Collective), James Leyland Kirby (VVM) and collaborated with Matt Wand (Stockhausen and Walkman) at the Edinburgh fringe festival."

This month (October) we are scheduled to play in Tauranga again, at Zeus Gallery (kind of coincidentally on the opening night of the Tauranga Arts Festival - we're unofficial). As usual I'll be supplying the imagery for the video projection and controlling that for the performance.

Also this month, we have done a 'Sonic Postcard' for a project running on Audio Foundation's radio station. The Sonic Postcard features a live recording of the Major Toms performance, plus sounds recorded on the Mount beach and a poem I wrote for the purpose. Our postcard will air this Saturday (October 5) here.

Below are images from our Major Toms performance (top two) and the Audio Foundation (bottom).

Saturday, May 25, 2013

faith and media

A few weeks ago, I finished reading Bob Briner's book Roaring Lambs. It's been on my 'to read' list since I first became aware of it some 15 years ago. It was published in 1993 and can be considered a seminal work in regard to Christian cultural engagement, one which encouraged Christians to leave the citadel and become involved in the 'secular' world of cultural production. I feel the book is of its time; it still has some things to say, I think, but it left me feeling uneasy, blinking at some of the rhetoric, and examining how my own thinking has changed over the years.

I drafted this piece a number of weeks ago, but let it sit. I'm not a big fan of critiquing what other people believe. And in Briner's case, he made a significant contribution to Christian cultural development, so I feel a little reticent about a critique here too. My last critique was spring-boarded by something that Madeleine L'Engle wrote about chaos, and I felt a bit guilty, because overall her book Walking on Water is beautiful. On the other hand, I believe that Christian writing and thinking on culture is now rich enough to bear critique. And anyway, this stuff is worth discussing... who knows, maybe in a couple of years I'll have changed my mind about some things, or maybe not.  It's all ultimately borne out of a personal process of sorting through culture, theology, orthodoxy, personal experience and personal inclinations. There's no stasis in that process.

In Roaring Lambs, Brimar's thesis is framed around the concept of a battle for the hearts and minds of the (American) population. He paints a vision of Christians infiltrating the worlds of film, TV, music, art etc - making an incursion, having a deliberate agenda and strategy to influence the media towards Christian values (whatever those might be defined as). Thus, although he wonderfully steers Christians away from the negativity and (he says) pointlessness of boycotts and continual complaining, he still adheres to the idea that Christians are somehow under siege; that we are in some kind of cultural battle.

But if this is a 'conflict', then what is the 'other side' doing? I'm sure there may be lobby groups and interested parties (who have ideas that differ from Christian values) who are hoping to influence media towards communicating certain notions, but on the whole, the industry is not like that. I don't think that it's naive to say that, on the whole, the media industry is simply creating product and material to provide to the individual. We could categorise this material in three ways. At 'top' level, producers are aiming to create 'art' - that is, material that seeks to express and investigate the human condition. Also at 'top' level is the idea of providing material that might expand a viewer's understanding of the world. Next level 'down', producers are seeking to create 'entertainment' - that is, material simply for the viewer's enjoyment and diversion - material that will accentuate certain emotions in the viewer in accordance with the viewer's wishes. Then on the next level down again, producers are simply creating 'content' - that is, material to feed the media machine - doesn't really matter what - just push it through and get it out there - better to have something on the screen than nothing. In reality, these levels are not firm categories - a lot of material will exhibit the characteristics of more than one.

I'm not saying this makes media somehow morally neutral - morals and values are communicated in and through all these types of material, but I am saying that the motives of its producers are not, by and large, the intentional propagation of a particular moral agenda. In other words, the material is not intentionally 'evangelistic'.* They are simply producing material out of their own experience and personalities, and out of (and for) the cultural milieu in which they find themselves, catering for the desires of the audience.

We, as Christians, can envisage the whole thing as some kind of battle, but the imagined 'other side' (ie those in the secular world who don't embrace the Christian faith) do not. They are, by and large, just getting on with doing their jobs.

The problem, for me, is that a fixed motivating agenda always seems to create art or media that comes across as somehow not genuine. When the agenda (no matter what that agenda may be) is the creator's primary motive, the art of storytelling, the nuances of reality, and believability, almost always seem to suffer. The medium begins to function simply as bait on the hook. I'm sure Brimer would agree with me on this to a degree - he would argue for the highest quality material. But nonetheless, still this nagging thought that if an art or media is primarily agenda-driven, at some point it will reveal itself as disingenuous, the viewer will smell a rat, see it for what it perhaps really is - propaganda - and turn off.

In my art (or whatever creative output I'm involved with) I want any 'Christian content' to be utterly natural. If elements of the Christian faith are sitting in the subtext of the piece, they are there simply because they form part of the personality of the artist. My beliefs will inevitably inform the way I see the world (everyone has worldview). I hope that the viewer finds the subtext compelling or even attractive (of course I do - all artists do), but have I created the piece with the aim of converting the viewer to a message that I've intentionally woven into the subtext? No. I know from early, well-intentioned, experience that when I've tried to do that, the artistry always suffered and the piece always came out somehow dishonest.

So, should Christians be involved in the arts and media? Of course, why not? Everybody else is. But I don't think we should envisage ourselves as some kind of special agent infiltrating enemy territory - as if we are involved in some kind of cultural 'jihad'. Being involved in the media and arts should be a question of innate personal passion rather than agenda. It's about telling honest stories. For the Christian, their honest story will inevitably touch on aspects of the Christian faith (implicitly or explicitly). But be aware that as soon as art has the aim of converting or influencing everyone towards the artist's beliefs (whatever those beliefs happen to be), it runs the risk of being perceived as what it most likely is - not art but propaganda.

Salt and light have no agenda; their efficacy, any benefit that the world may obtain from them, comes through simply being what they are. Art and media by Christians should be art and media created by real people who have a natural inclination towards creating art and media (an inclination, shall we say, which would be there whether they were Christians or not), being truthful about how life is and their experience of it, operating out of their talents and abilities, honestly being involved as everyday members of society. Investigate human existence and let faith weave itself naturally through your investigation and life as it is wont to do, but don't envisage it as a tasty morsel to wrap around a hook.    


* The massive exception to this is, of course, advertising.