Sensors attached to a native pekepeke-kiore mushroom picked up its bioelectrical signals, which were transformed into sound. The sonic parameters selected were low pitches, given evidence that the frequencies found in thunder stimulate the growth of mycelium – the root-like network of fungal threads that grow beneath mushrooms. Visitors are invited to contribute vibrations to this work for the mushrooms growing in the gallery using the drum.
Over the three months of Jo Burzynska’s creative multisensory explorations of the Pūharakekenui (Styx) River catchment, five specific sites emerged as particularly resonant. These became five works representing points on a sensory map following the river from the sea to its suburban source. The works presented in this exhbition will later become accessible from the actual sites in the catchment and online through an interactive map.
Engaging with the sensory, cultural, historical and conservational dimensions of the catchment, the soundscapes and nonvisual sensory descriptions draw attention to some of the less conspicuous aspects of the human and more-than-human lives lived on its banks and in its waters. These works encompass underwater sounds, from the bubbling of the springs that feed the river to the frenetic activity of the aquatic invertebrates that thrive in a healthy freshwater ecosystem; to human interactions with the environment, such as traditional rongoā Māori healing practices, and residents navigating life as minority species in a post-eathquake red zone.
Selected works can be listened to below
Flux and Fortitude Te Riu-o-Te-Aika-Kawa (Brooklands) Soundscape 09:52
Pūharakekenui’s mouth; Open, tidal, ever shifting. Calm fresh waters mingle with the Briny tang of the roaring sea. A fluid community Where kōtare converse in the lagoon, And crabs burrow in sulphurous mud. A māhinga kai, a place of migration, a home, where river and land meet the sea.
With thanks to the residents of Brooklands
An Ecological Kete Styx Mill Reserve Soundscape 05:10
OVER hanging watery margins, harakeke, sweet-spicy-green. UNDER its thrashing leaves insects chirrup and buzz. OVER head birds feast and call, while UNDER water creatures pop and click.
OVER is the shrieking mill stripping fibre for rope. UNDER our feet now, booms of a transfer station vibrate. OVER recent years, more species make this home, as we UNDER stand just how much our lives are all entwined.
With thanks to Christchurch City Council Waiata Group
“Odours are invested with cultural values and employed by societies as a means of and model for defining and interacting with the world. The intimate, emotionally charged nature of the olfactory experience ensures that such value-coded odours are interiorized by the members of society in a deeply personal way.” Constance Classen, David Howes, and Anthony Synnott in Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell. Taylor & Francis. (1994): 3.
If we inhale another’s memories, might we understand each other differently or perhaps more deeply? Osmologies brings together a series of olfactory “portraits” drawn from inhabitants of the same Aotearoa city from a range of ethnic, sensory, gender and neurodiverse backgrounds. Using the intimate sense of smell, it invites an embodied transfer of personal and cultural sensory experiences mingling in the shared space of the gallery.
The memories blended within each olfactory composition can expose histories less known, what is passed over when predominant, Western-centric biographical methods are used for documentation, such as writing and visual depiction. Insights gleaned from each of Jo Burzynska’s ‘smell histories’ can offer a challenge to conventional views on how smell operates – its supposed objectivity and inability to hold wider meanings.
Buzynska’s olfactory portraits interact with interiors rather than the exteriors or surfaces picked up by visual sight. They resist containment and so subtly mix with each other, making a larger, immaterial central work in which experiences coalesce.
Jo Burzynska was announced as the Premier Award at this year’s Zonta Ashburton Female Art Awards (ZAAFA) for the Mechanised Quarter audio-olfactory installation from her 2022 exhibition, What Might We Find When We Stop Looking? Jo was the overall winner out of 29 finalists, winning prize money and the invitation to present a solo show at the Ashburton Art Gallery in March 2024.
Mechanised Quarter was created using insights from a series of walks with members of the community exploring the city of Ōtautahi Christchurch using the non visual senses. It highlights the often overlooked sensory experiences of the city at a time of rebuilding after its devastating earthquakes. The sensory interplay between sound and scent encourages a nonvisual understanding of space and aims to foster alternative connections with urban environments.
“It was wonderful to receive this acknowledgment for my work,” Burzynska said, “As art is still so visually dominated, it was even more rewarding that a predominantly audio-olfactory work won this award. I hope this is indicative of the growing acceptance and celebration of art – and knowledge more generally – generated outside the visual realm.”
Images above: Jo with ZAAFA 2023 judges Lauren Gutsell, Kairauhī Curator at Dunedin Public Art Gallery; Professor Jane Venis, artist and academic; and Caroline McQuarrie, artist and Senior Lecturer in Photography at Whiti o Rehua School of Art Massey University (left) & interactions with the work at the ZAAFA 2023 exhibition (right).
Consisting of a sound installation and an interactive multisensory game, Garden of Sensory Exchange draws our attention to the elements of life that often escape our visual sensors. Based in the Fragrant Garden in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, the site specific work captures and amplifies some of the unseen networks of sensory communication within and between species, present and past: from sonic messages shared by organisms in the soil to the chemosensory signals sent by flowers and humans that generate life.
The sound installation, played from speakers set within the pergola, comprises recordings of human and more-than-human nonverbal sensory communication. This starts literally from the ground up, with recordings made using a geophone of the minute vibrations of organisms in the soil. The installation amplifies sounds present at the site such as the worms under the soil, as well as those – such as the song of the tūī and taonga pūoro – that have been largely lost to the area through colonising activities.
Garden of Sensory Exchange also features an interactive multisensory game, which requires visitors to engage in their own crossmodal sensory communication. Crossmodal correspondences are the sometimes-surprising associations people experience between stimuli encountered through different senses, for example the smell of citrus is widely matched with high pitches. The artist also worked with a number of schools in an education programme, where students made a range of scented objects to initiate their own games of sensory exchange.
Images commissioned by SCAPE Public Art. Further documentation about the installation and the SCAPE Public Art Season 2022 can be found here.