Project Abstract

A Living Giant examines tangible and intangible links between native wildlife, humans and land that anchor ecosystems in the Te Taitokerau/Northland region of Aotearoa New Zealand, a region rich in biodiversity and life-force but scarred by consequences of British colonialism. Kauri are an ancient pine species and taonga (treasure) of Māori (indigenous people of NZ) that have grown in Northland since their origins in Māori mythology, through industrialization, to present. As a microscopic soil-borne pathogen Phytophthora agathidicida threatens the species’s survival, approaches to combat the pathogen and protect kauri reflect tensions among Māori and Pākehā (non-Māori New Zealanders of European descent) concerning an indigenous worldview vs Western ideologies that predate colonization. This project, conducted over three months around the native forests Warawara and Waipoua through conversations with Māori and Pākehā landowners, government employees, artists and environmentalists, explores kauri in its different forms (mythological, allegorical, ecological, cultural & commercial) throughout history to contextualize the ‘living-relationship’ to the forest that Māori cherish. Stories of Māori join personal field accounts, historical context and examples of community engagement to suggest an intersection of a Māori worldview with Western principles is crucial to manage the wellbeing of Northland’s landscapes for future generations. As the coronavirus pandemic circulates, links between humans and the environment and the dependence on comprehensive governance have surfaced on a global scale. While it serves Northland, this text identifies the contemporary efforts of the New Zealand government and holistic approach Māori use in environmental management as a universal alternative to the norm.

About the Artists

Madeline (Eli) Halpern is a multi-disciplinary maker living in Brooklyn, New York with work in the disciplines of video, sculpture and multimedia art. Hugh Hoagland is a multi-disciplinary maker from Louisville, Kentucky with work in the disciplines of photography, drawing, and sculptural installation. The two artists met while studying at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. Their collaborative endeavors have spanned peer-reading each other's BFA theses to working closely during their time at the New York Arts Practicum in the summer of 2019. This project is the natural evolution of their intimate working relationship, and it brings together both artists' engagement with the themes of the natural world, examining human and environmental interdependency, time, and the relationship between the spiritual and physical planes.

View Madeline's work.
View Hugh's work.

The moving image (video) pieces were created by Eli Halpern.

The still photographs were created by Hugh Hoagland and Eli Halpern and are credited to their respective creators in the captions. To view more information about the still photographs, click or tap them.

Laboratory services for Hugh Hoagland’s photographs provided by State Film Lab.

The textual component was written by Eli Halpern and edited by Hugh Hoagland.

The hand-drawn figures, maps, and illustrations were created by Eli Halpern and prepared for the web by Hugh Hoagland.

The multimedia web platform was designed and developed by Hugh Hoagland.

The components — including the moving images, still images, text, illustrations, and the multimedia web platform — created for and presented as A Living Giant are © copyright 2021 Madeline Halpern and Hugh Hoagland. All Rights Reserved. The quotations from individuals cited in the textual component of A Living Giant, especially the knowledge shared by kaumātua and other tangata whenua of Te Taitokerau, remain the intellectual property of these individuals. These individuals have agreed to their words being reproduced or paraphrased in the textual component of A Living Giant.

The information paraphrased or quoted from external sources not directly affiliated with A Living Giant remains the intellectual property of its respective author(s) or owner(s) and is cited in full, available to view in its respective chapter endnotes or the full bibliography.