Writers response: Jade Townsend

ngā rerenga whau represents two maramataka cycles as video and text: Mahuru and Whiringa-ā-Nuku. In total they are what I consider the initial chapters of a love story by a pair of gardeners: both the metaphorical and literal sense – seeding, watering and pruning. That which nourishes them while they wait for their celestial forms orbiting above to reunite. Emily and Arielle present themselves as two wāhine bodies facing forwards in a synchronised nau mai to their main characters: te marama, whetū, Te Moananui-a-Kiwa, muka, harakeke, buttons, a locket and so on.

It is day 101 of lockdown when I experience their work in its digitised form sent through email, stripped raw from the warmth that I know these artists wrap around everything they do IRL. The second still appears in Mahuru, a common and earnest lapping shoreline and I’m reminded of a feeling that I have oppressed this whole rāhui: that I have someplace else to be. We all have someplace else to be.

The moon phases make their fleeting guest appearances. I reimage them, with absolutely no truth to go on, as faces which might have ordinarily been cast in the artists’ Level One lives. A friendly bus driver as the full-moon, the grumpy university administrator, as whiro. I realise that I could superimpose myself, adopt a name from their script like kānuka or tūī. Because while the images are undirected and open-ended, the written entries that accompany them are anchored in control and resistance. That’s what text does. I think about these intentions and a pukapuka comes to mind – Letters to Milena, a collection of writing sent between Franz Kaftka and Milena Jesenská, a translator who was reinterpreting The Stoker from German to Czech. It was in documenting the details of everything or anything and sending those observations to each other that the physical void between them shrank. The enormity of time spent apart now made full, not with a range of time fillers but with the only quality that makes time spent complete – that quality is love.

I’ve decided to be the starflower. It’s an aspirational role. ‘Aster’ as it is also known, became a symbol of love when, in Greek mythology, it was placed on the altar of the gods. We now know of it’s soothing and healing benefits extracted through the seed oil. I believe Milena is a starflower too.

Unlike Emily and Arielle, I am not faced by te marama or a garden of blooms but instead three screens, one of the video work, one of my word doc and the last an open research page, wikipedia.org/wiki/Borage aka ‘starflower’. In the history section I read: “Francis Bacon thought that borage had ‘an excellent spirit to repress the fuliginous vapour of dusky melancholie’." Somehow, in the final act of Whiringa-ā-Nuku I am no longer alone, apart, or in rāhui, there is no place-else I am meant to be. I’m in a theatre with the ancestors of gardeners and healers, artists like Bacon and writers like Kafka, translators like Milena, a bus driver, an administrator, the moon and the stars all facing forwards in our love for our main characters Emily Parr and Arielle Walker. Mauri ora.

Jade Townsend