The MACHINE STOPS      |     2021

Venue: Adam Art Gallery | Te Pātaka Toi, Wellington, New Zealand
Dates: 20 November 2021 – 27 March 2022
Exhibition curated by Daniel K Brown

The Machine Stops is a group show of allegorical architectural projects concerned with cultural identity, natural history and global ecologies. Here, postgraduate research students from Te Kura Waihanga Wellington School of Architecture reflect on how a speculative drawing practice can help reawaken environmental, societal and cultural narratives that represent the heritage of Aotearoa, even when these tales may only be visible as scattered fragments in the landscape. These allegorical projects ask: how can the history and decayed state of scarred sites be proactively used in their rejuvenation? How can their tragic stories be remembered as important lessons for future generations?

The title of the exhibition is taken from E. M. Forster’s 1909 short story ‘The Machine Stops’. In Forster’s story, society relies on technology to provide for all its needs – and when the machine breaks down, civilisation collapses. Utilising Forster’s title and literary provocation, William du Toit visualises the story to reawaken a tale about environmental devastation caused by hundreds of stamper batteries – now rusting in the wilderness – that were imported into Otago to crush stone during the 1860 gold rush. His work is typical of the approach of the students in the exhibition who have each created their own unique and poignant versions of cross-­disciplinary storytelling.

Examples of environmental devastation are visible to all of us. Cataclysmic events from centuries ago remain as permanent scars upon the landscape; culverted streams remain forever visible as open wounds upon the land. As James Joyce wrote in the margins of his novel Ulysses, ‘places remember events’. A tree branch cracking in the wind, fragments of stone tumbling down a hillside – the natural environment calls out in whispers and whimpering groans, its unique form of storytelling audible to us all. We have only to pause and listen.

“And behind all the uproar was silence the silence which is the voice of the earth and of the generations who have gone …. Only the whispers remained, and the little whimpering groans.” – E. M. Forster

Catalogue: click here

Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the Faculties of Science, Health, Engineering, Architecture and Design Innovation, Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington.

Music © Mark K Johnson. Mark received his PhD in music from the New Zealand School of Music / Te Kōkī at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.

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