Mary Modeen is an artist/academic whose research links creative practice with interdisciplinary academic studies in the humanities, particularly philosophy, literature, feminist and indigenous studies. Her research has several threads: perception as a cognitive and interpretive process, and place-based research, which tends to connect cultural values, history and embodied experience. As such, this work usually combines creative art practice and writing.
Her PhD supervision is also characterised by these interdisciplinary investigations, linking studio practice with academic enquiry. International research networks, three of which Modeen co-convenes, are central in conducting the critical discourse which address, challenge and strengthen these research insights. She is also the DJCAD Associate Dean (Internationalisation).
Nexus: An Art Book Collaboration
Global pandemics don’t happen every day. Things that we used to do everyday stopped, and the world collectively burrowed in to a strange new existence: life lived quietly, at a distance from each other, making hermit crabs of us all. Note to self: hermit crabs must change shells not only because they grow, but because they relish change.
During this enforced hiatus, we each realised that thinking doesn’t stop, nor does the desire for continued learning, exchange, meaningful discussion or the need for human contact. Our PhD group met weekly online, sharing readings, presentations by guest ‘visitors’ from around the world, critiques, discussions about what PhDs are and what they could be, thoughts, desires, fears, and the communion of creative thinkers.
We artists mourned the lack of previous facilities and the ability to make what many of us had been making before. In formulating this collaborative project we devised a way to preserve creative making, allowing nearly complete freedom in choice of materials, topics, and approaches. The only restriction was the A5 finished size. And also from the beginning, we decided to share a copy with each other, holding on to something as a token of seven months connected by apart, linked through so many aspects of ideas, thoughts and interests. One of the visitors we invited to our weekly sessions is a bookbinder, box-maker, conservator who is truly inspired as an artist-binder. It became clear that her collaboration and contribution was also going to be a part of our project, shaping and holding our pieces.
And finally, from the beginning we added another three copies: one to stay in the Centre for the Artists Book Archive, and two to travel internationally to share with others in the ways that we could no longer do ourselves in an embodied sense. This project became our collective avatar, making visible the connections, overlays, and provocations between us, a kind of timely Nexus.
The I Ching and the River Ericht Converse
Lockdown seemed very strange when it first arrived. In our lifetimes, never had such a thing occurred: cessation of all social exchange, shops closed, classes held online, and isolation at home. It seemed a time for forced reflection. Prompted by Aotearoa/New Zealand legislation to grant a river personhood, and riverside walks, an idea, dialogue, and imaginary discussion took shape over seven days. It ended with an insight.