Techno-tree

Stephen Turner

2019

 

Who has seen the wind?

Neither you nor I.

But when the trees bow down their heads,

The wind is passing by.                                            

 

Christina Georgina Rossetti

The Beachplan

Walking with a group through the Connells Bay Sculpture Park on touristy Waiheke Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, I encounter a transmission tower disguised as a tree in the exterior courtyard of the park homestead and adjoining art gallery. It is an artwork, Hiding in Plain Sight (2017), by Dane Mitchell. This artificial tree might be passed by in another place, but here it cannot be mistaken for anything but art. I have already encountered numerous artworks through the park, and can only be expecting more. What I get stuck on in my walk are objects that turn out not to be art. Descending the slope towards

the home of collectors Jo and John Gow, and Mitchell’s cell tree tower, I ask myself whether various fences, tracks and signs might be deliberate art.01 An elegant water fountain, for themoment, begs the question, but this object turns out to be Fiona Connor’s Found Minimalism (2013). I see a row of power pylons on a ridge of the island in the distance. I consider the funding for such a grandiose work, but assume, at the same time, that it is not actually an artwork. Waiheke’s ‘urbanised’ nature is a matter of design, including the homestead’s relatively private beach — a plainly planned ‘escape’. The Greek techne means art in the sense of craft, before ‘nature’ emerged in our modern sense as something separate from the human.02 The lifestyle proposed by the beach as an idea of inhabiting a place is crafted.

 

The pylons work as an index of transmission technology, a sign of communications that enabled a new country to be imagined and inhabited. The cabling of country03 connected its people as a nation, creating a new country in the colonial eye, ‘improving’ the existing Indigenous one by the development of telegraphy and mass communications. Technologies of transmission have their conatus — ‘an innate

inclination of a thing to continue to exist and enhance itself’04 — hence a technical ‘intent’ and drive towards their own non-human expansion. The intelligible and sensible world becomes one of technological extension. Isn’t the beach, however, au naturel? Well, transmission means to carry across, including an idea of what a beach is, what it’s for and what it does. The beach, too, is ‘carried across’, and the local shore05 appropriated and crafted accordingly, making it an object of design. Faced with Māori assertions of longstanding relations to the shore, the New Zealand Government in 2004 passed the Foreshore and Seabed Act, which secured the beach as Crown land (since declared no one’s land)06 so that this idea of place, and the right to enjoy it as an imagined nation and enforced social contract could be preserved for ‘all’ New Zealanders. The beach, along with the bush, works as infrastructure that ‘transmits’ an idea of lifestyle and identity, because I see this shore as a beach rather than anybody’s place (say, for gathering kai moana (seafood), offshore fishing and voyaging).

 

Compare the Foreshore and Seabed Act with the Scenery Preservation Act 1903, which enabled the compulsory purchase by the Crown of sites of scenic and historic interest, including Māori-owned land.07 Such sites, taken by a newly installed nation as ‘representative’ of itself, exhibit its assumed sovereignty, and introduce nature as constitutive of settler identity and camouflage of settler belonging. Nature extends settlement, and underpins an imported claim to sovereignty, as a thing of design. In New Zealand, nature is identified (through imported aesthetic categories), protected and placed under surveillance by

technologies of transmission. In this mise-en-sc.ne, I find myself transported to an untouched place — spoiled, or soiled, only by my own (giveaway) presence.

 

How anyone ever got this idea of place requires pylons — indeed a whole assembly of technologies of transmission — that make the beach and the bush designed objects, sites of local practices, and dioramas of settlement. The new country is a technical spore that spreads, a hybridised biotechnical amalgam. Land is stealthily taken in plain sight through an act of overt camouflage — whereby settlers assume a natural occupancy08 through the construction of place in terms of nature, at once the environment and their own identity. A sense of ‘rightful’ belonging requires the interpolation of nature for the place to be occupied by second comers, as if no one but nature itself was here before them. Nature, or better, technified nature, is a spore that spreads. Stealthy transmission towers, too, proliferate (Mitchell’s trees multiply). The companies that produce them, the clients they serve, the buildings and environments in which they appear, including those of exhibitions, spread their spores. The day of the techno-triffids occurred some time ago. ‘They’ are indeed among us, neither art nor nature, but techne, hidden in plain sight. You might only notice them when the wind blows and they do not move.

Frankenforest

In his fascinating study of the art and aesthetics of artificial tree cellular towers (ATCTs), including the artist Robert Voit’s beautiful photographs of them,09 Bernard Mergen refers to a range of names for these objects, including ‘fake trees’, ‘faux fronds’, ‘Frankenpines’ and ‘stealth towers’.10 Mitchell’s techno-tree is, significantly, a pine. And its technical construction may be considered no different in kind than the monster frankenforests of New Zealand’s timber industry, dominated by radiata pine. Imported from California in the 1850s, fast-growing, adapted to local conditions, and since genetically modified, the pine replaced the local use of softwoods, serves local and overseas markets for logs and wooden goods, and even provides habitats for native kiwi and falcons.11 Mergen remarks that ATCTs also provide homes for birds that do not seem to distinguish art and nature — a distinction, after all, which is modern and anthropocentric. Needless to say the radiata pine has become a national icon, fully embedded in cultural history. Myriad manifestations of the ‘pine’ as cultural spore include 1940s National Film Unit shorts promoting the country’s industry, the work of heralded artists (Toss Woollaston’s frankenpinian Pines, Nelson from Mapua (1961), the appearance of the pine forest in the breakthrough feature film Broken Barrier (1952),12 and the name given to New Zealand great, rugby player Colin ‘Pinetree’ Meads. Once you see a cell tree tower, you start to see them everywhere, and to suspect that organic trees are also cell tree towers. In the same way, once you see the pine, it ceases to be an invisible part of the cultural landscape, or, quite literally, social furniture (something I am sitting on as I write).

 

The pine has not only played an outsized role in the New Zealand economy; it is also the subject of an economic paradox. In his book, The Pine Tree Paradox,13 Michael Parker tries to understand why New Zealand’s capacity to grow pines seven times faster than anyone and anywhere in the world has not spawned a more successful economy (this is not strictly a paradox). Emphasising the need for New Zealand to reduce its dependence on agriculture, and to invest in innovation and enterprise, including a world-class university to be built on Auckland’s waterfront (‘Stanford on the Waitemata’14), Parker imagines the country becoming a Silicon Valley of the South.15 This kind of technoutopian thinking is already evident in the idea of New Zealand as a post-civilisational bolthole for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, led by Paypal co-founder and Facebook Board member, and, since 2011, New Zealand citizen, Peter Thiel (I am not making this up). 16 Think the designer-entrepreneur (‘Nathan Bateman’) in the film Ex Machina (2014),

living alone with his robot-child (‘Ava’) in a spare, ubermodern house, immersed in an unlocated bush setting. This entrepreneurial fantasy, driven by the idea of a future without work, New Zealand’s geographical isolation, control of its own immigration, need to think globally and low population, dovetails with New Zealanders’ shared idea of the suburb, or exurb, where the largely urban population (three out of four New Zealanders)17 can imagine they are living in the bush, with only trees for neighbours (New Zealanders imagine they live in nature ex urbis). If Ava the robot in Ex Machina leaves the complex, having murdered Nathan, and moves among humans in disguise, the pine tree, as cell tree tower, has left the forest and moves among us.

 

Treehouse

The non-paradoxical lesson of New Zealand’s pine tree industry is that successful enterprise is a matter of scale (Canada’s timber industry is much bigger). Mitchell’s cell tree towers are rolled out of a mega-factory complex on a globally industrial scale in Guangzhou, Southern China. An urban conglomeration of 13.5 million people, Guangzhou is an ‘alpha city’ in global economic networks, paean to historical capitalism, and site of the annual Canton fair, formerly known as the China Import and Export Fair.18 The global distribution of artificial plants and trees produced by the city’s industry, among other producers of such goods, presages the future fantasy of Ex Machina, writ large. Artificial nature offers an allegory of planetary disappearances. If it is possible now to reconstruct a tropical rainforest (for example, at enormous cost in aircraft hangar size at Zurich Zoo), 19 why do we need a real one? After the rainforest has been decimated and reduced by the demiurge of capital interests — a demiurge is ‘a ruling force or creative power’20 — we can simply reproduce it (ex machina, and thanks to an extraordinary entrepreneur like Elon Musk, on Mars). Its reproducibility, or vanishing into art, makes the rainforest tangible (I experienced ‘it’) but also intangible — something felt, but only after its disappearance. Nature is an afterthought.

 

Mitchell’s Venice Biennale exhibition, Post hoc (2019), is also a treehouse. The Biennale it sits within is an import-export house of art that overlaps with the Art Basel art fair, has globally industrial scale, extensive logistics and financing, international pre-eminence and numerous derivatives. Biennales, like spores, themselves proliferate. In this year’s Biennale, Mitchell’s work appears in the New Zealand national pavilion,21 though its replicant spores, which transmit lists of vanished things, cross-pollinate other sites in Venice. But what is ‘national’ or ‘representative’ about Mitchell’s work (how is an artist ‘national’ or ‘representative of the nation’)? If the cell tower tree isn’t necessarily to do with New Zealand, the Biennale makes it so. It is, then, a transmission device, a way in which New Zealand itself, or New Zealand-ness, is carried across to Venice. What might visitors expect to find in the ‘New Zealand pavilion’? Whatever that might be is displaced and replaced by its display, much like other and earlier displays, such as the New Zealand Court at the 1886 Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London, replete with native flora and fauna and waxwork Māori figures. The Court worked as a para-site — a place ‘beside’ and apart from the actual place. A place is made to appear (aka New Zealand) that is at the same time vanished by the artifice of its construction. Hence, ‘New Zealand’ only ever appears as a para-place, with parasitical intermediaries and stand-ins (a curator, artworks and props), not so much nature, or natural, but as a product of the technical art of its crafting. Indeed this ‘new’ country, since its origin, has been a product of an exhibitionary impetus,22 manifested, or made tangible, through technologies of self-display, which make it what Geoff Park has called a ‘Theatre Country’. An abstracted and ontologised Nature duly appeared to visitors in the reversed lenses of their Claude glasses.23

What is made tangible by such artifice induces, at the same time, a sense of the intangible — the remittance of visualisation. This is not so much a matter of other senses as the non-sense, or non-object, of the concept. In Drawing #801 Wall ‘Spiral’ (2011) at the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht, Sol LeWitt’s tightly drawn spirals ascend three levels of the arthouse atrium. Standing inside, one could not see

the completed spirals because the eye cannot encompass 360 degrees. The whole is not tangible; it is merely felt, or thought, to be there (a felt thought?). As far as New Zealand is concerned, Mitchell’s work represents an intangible felt thought. His treehouse registers the vanishing act of the country’s appearance in the Biennale, and other vanishings that would accompany a list of new countries.

Demiurge and Diorama

‘The technology to disguise a cell tree tower is only another manifestation of the demiurge’, writes Mergen.25 The natural world, he argues, has long been made over by humans and animals. Pursuing the point in a specifically Indigenous settler context, the demiurge is the creator, or creator God, indissociable in this context from settler-colonialism. If the world is a product of ‘his’ crafting, fashioning or artisanal

endeavour, with reference to the word’s original Greek meaning, that world in an Indigenous-settler place is twofold. The new country of settler-invaders is built over an existing world, Te Ao Māori, of which settlers remain relatively ignorant and which their forebears thought would disappear, or withdraw. The demiurgic enterprise disguises the place, as it exists for Māori, from its newer inhabitants, who are instead enthused and enthralled by their own progress and invention — their self-evident modernity. Their power draws on powers of creation, the pleroma or fullness of an appropriated land, which their own enterprise blinds them to. All they can see is the intelligible and sensible world of their own works, and not, until it has happened, the extinctions that follow in their wake (so Mitchell’s techno-tree stands in for a tree that it should otherwise be, one that has been vanished by its imitation).26 For settlers, the sensible diorama is all that is intelligible, made all the more familiar through imported flora and fauna. These products of settlement, gone feral like the demonic possum and other ‘pests’, may now appear evil to settlers, but are not in themselves so (again, all beings and things have their own conatus). To remove them is to remove the memory they carry of processes of settlement, and the negative self-knowledge of settlement.

 

The energy and drive of the new world-making colonial demiurge is not peculiar to New Zealand, but belongs to the broader swathe of stray or vagrant culture that makes up the Anglo-settlement of new countries, and ultimately the Anglosphere.27 At the point of new world-making there are no ‘New Zealanders’ yet (the term ‘New Zealanders’ originally designated the country’s Māori inhabitants), because the craft, or fashioning of settlement will create these very people (today known as ‘Kiwis’) with a home to call their own. However, the settler’s own enterprise makes the fullness of place, and what has happened there/here, inaccessible to them. The spark, or for Māori, the mauri (life force), of all things in their interconnectedness and indivisibility, is just what the fencing and frameworks of the settler diorama — their

self-exhibition — have cut up, disregarded and dispersed. The gnostic settler, who refuses the sheer materialism of home (and unaffordable house prices) as false, recognises the colonial demiurge. Insufficiently tethered to the apparent reality of place, inured to its lifestyle, tired by its fretful dreaming, aware of its degradation of habitat and deep injury to Māori, the gnostic settler no longer accepts

the late-Victorian imperatives of progress, modernisation and betterment, which are exhausted. Land and water are articulate about their state, and ask to be re-membered.

 

The earth-flesh28 of land and people, in other words, is cut apart and wounded. As Indigenous peoples and their places are separated by the colonial demiurge, their lands subject to title or appropriated into public domain, the tear in the densely woven fabric of whakapapa (genealogy) is an open wound. Yet wound in Greek also refers to a memory of loss that is nostalgic (nos = past, algia = wound).29 The colonial demiurge now assumes the form of national nostalgia for a pre-human place, where trees would again cover the country, or, at least, fill recreation parks and bird sanctuaries. In such places, the now ‘Kiwi’ New

Zealanders seek exemption from the loss that their coming created,30 and find themselves at ‘home’ in the diorama of their own construction. The ‘dieback’ of the native kauri tree in New Zealand’s North Island, due to the soil-based pathogen Phytophthora agathidicida, offers a good example of the open wound that they seek to salve.31 Kauri once covered great expanses of the Northland region, but they also fed the demiurge. They were the mainstay of the timber industry in the later 19th century that drove the country’s modernisation programme, and that either removed existing forests entirely or reduced them to a fraction of their original size.32 Despite the long-standing disregard of New Zealand’s first law — that of Māori — non-Māori New Zealanders have now also resorted to the tikanga Māori practice of rahui (prohibition on activity), which proscribes access to kauri forests in order to preserve these natural treasures (taonga). To visit the giant kauri Tāne Mahuta in the Waipoua Forest, you must go through a sophisticated checkpoint with chemical-infused shoe mats. On my last visit to the forest, I listened to the karakia (prayers) of a Māori group as they approached Tāne Mahuta. They were addressing an ancestral presence and god in Te Ao Māori, at once light, understanding and reality, that supersedes the mundane, material and made-over reality of the colonial demiurge.

Digital Wild

The demiurge appears altogether more benevolent in the form of New Zealand’s nature reserves. The historical circumscription of such lands and waters for the purpose of public pedagogy or citizen-making — to learn how to be at ‘home’ and be a ‘New Zealander’ — has from its origins in the late 19th century involved a technical operation. Technified nature is ‘hidden’ in full view — its transparent design made plain by the paraphernalia, or extraneous apparatus, of tracks, guard rails, fencing, lookout points, park signs and directions, brochures and human guides. In such places New Zealanders can feel as threatened and

protected as the native kiwi, and are encouraged to participate in the preservation of nature, which is also, by extension, their very own (Kiwis as people). This double-nature is upgraded, enhanced and enlivened through new technologies of surveillance and management. The development of an apparatus for administering nature, through government agencies led by the Department of Conservation, has constituted a technocracy, or technified regime of data collection, evaluation and application. It is not possible today to experience nature outside the software that organises space, animals, birds and insects as materials of designed experience. The management of public lands, local visitors and international tourists creates a media entity that we take to be ‘nature’, making New Zealand’s seemingly untouched

landscape a techno-nature, or technified nature, with an attendant naturocracy. Following Gernot B.höme, ‘technification’ involves the conversion of the soul or spirit — ‘nature’ for non-Māori New Zealanders — into a technical operation — or better, the creation of a soul or spirit, which is that of the colonial demiurge.

In recreation parks and reserves, and in the practices associated with them, New Zealanders find themselves at home. But their soul, spirit or nature — at once a non-human world quite independent of them and, again, their very own nature — is itself the product or work of a history-cleansing demiurge force. In this way a nature site such as Zealandia in Wellington (‘the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary’)33 can be placed in the same category as Mitchell’s techno-tree, hiding in plain sight, which exposes the technical forms of the county’s virtual history and addresses the attendant anxiety of the non-Indigenous will to nature. The anxiety follows the displacement of a real relation to place by the very technology of its construction, which produces the discomfort of never having been at home. Technified

nature is a virtual screen — a trompe l’oeil — which removes the scaffolding of the settler diorama. As Roland Barthes famously remarked of the photograph, ‘it is not it that we see’.34

 

With reference to North American forest ecologist Nalini Nadkarni, Mergen remarks that her ‘forest aesthetic is enhanced by the instruments she carries onto the tree tops, part of the “wired woodlands” providing real-time data on the state of the earth’.35 Forms of ‘digital wilding’ in New Zealand include community-based platforms such as Naturewatch,36 which offers digitised observations of nature; real-time reporting of animal, bird or insect encounters; the extensive tracking or tracing of predators, including possums, ferrets, stoats and invasive insects; and changes in flora and fauna through sensing technologies.

Such technologies convert forests into sensing machines, which map bush inhabitants from floor to canopy. The infoscapes are not only enriched through geographic information systems (GIS), but substantially

alter long-standing Indigenous knowledge practices. More than a matter of navigation, orientation or enhanced signposting, the phenomenal experience of technified nature is one of design. A threatened bird species becomes the inhabitant of a constructed space (on numerous bird islands and sanctuaries), its identity informed by systems of recording and essentialised in ecological iconography (categories

assert their own agency). Bird species such as kiwi, kea and kākā, or reptiles such as tuatara, play roles in the national imaginary as rightful endogamous inhabitants against intruders. The reconstruction of habitat by the technical operation of its ‘encounter’, and the establishing of the technified infrastructure of the wild, now constitute the very experience of nature. However, as Michell’s work suggests, nature was ever techne.

01 The aim of Jo and John Gow, according to Cassandra Fusco’s article on the sculpture park, is ‘to bring nature and arts together by installing site-specific sculpture in a native tree environment’. Fusco does not, however, discuss what either art or nature might otherwise be. The commendable reforesting initiatives that the Gows have undertaken in this area of the island are not, for instance, themselves considered art. World Sculpture News, vol 12, no 4, Autumn 2006: 32–38, 33. Available at: https://bit.ly/2RMY7Xa.

02 See Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1993.

03 See New Zealand History [online]: Nga korero a ipurangi o Aotearoa, ‘Wakapuaka Cable Station’, https://bit.ly/2B6tXqW.

04 See Wikipedia, ‘Conatus’, https://bit.ly/2ruhGYA.

05 Barry Barclay’s ‘camera on shore’ offers an Indigenous counterview of what would become ‘the beach’. See the chapter, ‘Before the Beginning’ in Barry Barclay, Mana Tuturu, Maori Treasures and Intellectual Property Rights, Auckland University Press, Auckland, 2005, pp 7–32.

06 The Act was a majoritarian response (purportedly on behalf of all New Zealanders) by the Government to a Court of Appeal judgment (Ngati Apa v Attorney-General [2003] NZCA 117, [2003] 3 NZLR643) that ruled the assertion of Māori customary rights to the foreshore and seabed of Marlborough Sounds iwi (tribes) could be heard by the Māori Land Court. The Act made it impossible for the case to be heard, and appeared to discriminate against the rights to lawful process of some New Zealanders, as opposed to the rhetorical appeal of New Zealanders to the beach (for detailed analysis of the legal context and act, see Richard Boast, Foreshore and Seabed, LexisNexis, Wellington, 2005). The 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act was superseded in 2011 by the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act, which replaced Crown ownership of the foreshore and seabed with ‘no ownership’. This legal fiction disguises in ‘plain sight’ the history of an appropriation of what has for much longer been land of iwi and hapū (subtribes).

07 See New Zealand History [online] Nga korero a ipurangi o Aotearoa, ‘Scenery Preservation 1903–1953’, https://bit.ly/2LkPJM9.

08 Lynda Hardy, ‘Natural Occupancy’ in Suvendrini Perera (ed), Asian and Pacific Inscriptions: Identities, Ethnicities, Nationalities, La Trobe University, Bundoora, 1995, pp 213–27.

09 See Robert Voit, ‘New Trees’, https://bit.ly/2E86skg.

10 Bernard Mergen, ‘The Kilmer Complex, Artificial-Tree Cellular Towers and Landscape Aesthetics’ in Anne Collins Goodyear and Margaret A Weitecamp (eds), Analysing Art and Aesthetics, Smithsonian

Institute, Washington DC, 2013, pp 104–21.

11 See Te Ara — The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, ‘Planting Pine Forest’, https://bit.ly/2E9Jr0c.

12 The pine forest plays a significant role in the film. The Māori character Johnny must die in the forest fire so that, plot wise, the Pākehā (New Zealander of European descent) character Tom can escape

and fulfil his relationship with the Māori woman Rawi. Their romance occludes the industry in plain sight of the surrounding frankenforest, whose agency reveals the darker side of colonialism: Māori must labour for all our sakes and, where necessary, sacrifice themselves to the progress and industry of the bush machine.

13 Michael Parker, The Pine Tree Paradox: Why Creating the New Zealand We All Dream of Requires a Great University, PublishMe, New Plymouth, 2010.

14 ibid., p 136.

15 Sean Sturm and I address this fellow travelling book briefly in ‘Knowledge Waves: New Zealand as Educational Entreprise’, Australian Journal of Communication, vol 38, no 3, 2011: 153–77, 155.

16 See Mark O’Connell, ‘Why Silicon Valley Billionaires Are Preparing for the Apocalypse in New Zealand’, The Guardian, 15 February 2018, https://bit.ly/2Etdgdz.

17 See Te Ara — The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, ‘Where New Zealanders Live’, https://bit.ly/2PYDPZ8.

18 See Wikipedia, ‘Guangzhou’, https://bit.ly/2m0RNhd.

19 The Masoala Rainforest at Zurich Zoo is described as a ‘mini rainforest ecosystem’, includes a breeding programme for species that the enclosure contains, and provides both treetop and ground-floor walkways to experience them in their ‘natural habitat’. See https://bit.ly/2SCNg2e.

20 Collins Dictionary, ‘demiurge’, https://bit.ly/2PZ9Yj4.

21 See New Zealand at Venice, ‘Biennale Arte 2019: New Zealand’s Artist and Curators Announced’, https://bit.ly/2A981ds.

22 Through the 19th century, ‘New Zealand’ was repeatedly staged in global and local exhibitions in Vienna (1873), Philadelphia (1876), Sydney (1879), Melbourne (1880), Wellington (1885), London (1886), Dunedin (1889) Auckland (1899) and Christchurch (1900). See my own reflections on the technologies of this projection in ‘The Currency of Lindauer’s Painting’ in Alexandra Karentzos and Miriam Ostereich

(eds), ‘The Paintings of Gottfried Lindauer’, special issue of RIHA (Journal of the International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art), 2018. Available at: https://bit.ly/2rtFFay.

23 Geoff Park, Theatre Country: Essays on Landscape and Whenua, Victoria University Press, Wellington, 2006.

24 In the convex lens of the pocketbook Claude glass, the schematic features of a landscape, for interested observers, would appear paintable, or as if painted. The appearance of ‘nature’ not only required the application of aesthetic categories of 18th-century art and writing practice (the picturesque, beautiful and sublime), but the technical apparatus in and through which these categories could be realised, and could make nature ‘real’ in New Zealand. A significant function of this device is that it required turning one’s back on the nature scene for ‘it’ to appear.

25 Mergen, p 104.

26 For a comprehensive list of now extinct New Zealand animals, see Wikipedia, ‘List of New Zealand Animals Extinct in the Holocene’, https://bit.ly/2zPyeyV.

27 See James Belich, Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-world, 1783–1939, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2009. I offer a critique of the ‘replenished’ world in ‘Anglosphericism’, Journal of New Zealand Literature (JNZL), special issue: Janet Wilson and Andrew Sharp (eds), New Zealand’s Cultures: Histories, Sources, Futures, vol 31, no 2, 2013: 15–34, where I consider the ‘hallucinatory quality’ of ‘the virtual place of settler imagining’ (pp 17–18), and the ‘virtual history’ that settlers constructed to support it. Indeed, ‘the whole country has the fetishised quality of the Marxist commodity’ (p 18). The ‘hallucination of settler dreaming’ (p 21), I suggest, is underpinned by the debt relation to the metropole, in terms of whose investment the prospect of the new country for settlers must be seen.

28 Stefano Harney deployed this resonant conception of an originary commons in his address, ‘Logistics as Loss’, at the symposium The Return of Economic Planning, Point Chevalier Sailing Club, 21–23 February 2018.

29 The double structure of wound and nostalgia is apparent in the best grossing films of Taika Waititi, which are predominantly stories of healing that work at the same to mask the conditions of their characters’ loss. In Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016), for instance, deracinated urban juvenile Ricky Baker is healed by his time on the run with woodsman Uncle Hec, who has unwillingly adopted him. The film is infused with nostalgia by numerous references to popular culture, film and television, including Toyota adverts that featured bestselling and much-loved New Zealand author Barry Crump, on whose book the film is based.

30 I am indebted to the work of Anna Boswell for this insight. The point is made, for instance, in Anna Boswell, ‘The Sensible Order of the Eel’, Settler Colonial Studies, special issue: Other Peoples Country: La,

Entitlement, vol 5, iss 4, 2015: 363–74, 366.

31 My sense of cultural spores is indebted to an unpublished paper by Benjamin Zambo, which sharply describes ongoing attempts to inscribe ecological good order on conflicting organisms — the maleficent

spore could be as old as the kauri itself — and how responses to the kauri dieback expose the counter-posed governance and values of Māori and the New Zealand Crown.

32 See Joanna Orwin, Kauri: Witness to a Nation’s History, New Holland, Auckland, 2004. Thanks to Benjamin Zambo for this reference.

33 See Zealandia: Te Māra a Tāne, https://bit.ly/2GAthzP.

34 Roland Barthes, Richard Howard (trans), Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, Hill and Wang, New York, 1981, p 4: ‘a photograph is always invisible: it is not it that we see’.

35 Mergen, p 114.

36 See Naturewatch/iNaturalist,https://bit.ly/2rEJgTp.

Dane Mitchell ©  2020