Becky Nunes is a lens-based artist and educator. Her images have been awarded, published & exhibited locally and internationally. Nunes is a founder member of Tangent Collective. She works at the nexus of fine art and documentary practice, recently producing and directing the awarded documentary film This Air is a Material. Her primary field of research is the complex arena of site, subject and the co-authoring of representation. Her work articulates, via photographs, moving image and sound, some of the complex narratives of Aotearoa in the era of the Anthropocene.
The photo-book has enjoyed a meteoric rise in recent years. Combined with on-demand publishing it now offers photographers unprecedented and often unmediated access to audiences for their work. Made by Tangent Photo Collective, this short documentary charts some of the key moments in the history of the photo book in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The film, however, foregrounds the now: a slice of contemporary book making in the early 21st Century. It aims to intrigue, inspire and provoke debate around a medium that, in the Pacific at least, is still in its teenage years.
Becky Nunes. 2014 online journal: thegraveyardsnail.com
Tongariro Power was shot in 1970 for the NZ National Film Unit by Martin Barriball, and directed by Conon Fraser. Their energetic and well-crafted film documents the immense feat of engineering and construction of the Tongariro Power Scheme (TPS), channeling hundreds of waterways from their existing trajectories into the tunnels and pipes that feed the hydro-electric dam systems.
I have extracted many small moments from Fraser’s film, allowing them to build into their own cinematic narratives and tropes, riffing on the Hollywood cowboy, B-grade sci-fi, 70’s porn and Freudian subtexts. This sequence of extracted frames proposes a feminized and fetishized reading of the male gaze, re-directed as it is onto itself.
Accompanying these appropriations the zine contains a series of accidentally erotic portraits extracted from the film. This zine celebrates the unashamed machismo of the modernist era. Large scale engineering projects, big rigs and dangerous underground tunneling were the domain of these men within the context of pioneering post-colonial New Zealand. The extraction and re-contextualising of these portraits opens up voyeuristic hetero and homoerotic subtexts alongside questions of cultural identity and land commodification in Aotearoa New Zealand.
“These are impressive and moving images, which deserve exhibition simply in their own right. More than that, they place moko in a contemporary context, expressing the art as a living, relevant force in our culture and not some struggling remnant of a distant past. They strongly counter the negative connotations of moko.”
Hamish Keith, Art Historian. 2009
In December 2007 Penguin Books published “Mau Moko, The World Of Maori Tattoo”. The result of several years’ research, the book explores the cultural and spiritual issues around ta moko, and relates the stories of its wearers and practitioners. “Mau Moko” was authored by Ngahuia Te Awekotuku and Linda Waimarie Nikora with contemporary portraits photographed by Becky Nunes.