Thursday, December 14, 2017

Nuking the Kaipara

The South Kaipara Peninsula is, I now realise, a provisional, unstable piece of New Zealand. Made from sand dunes, undulating sandy loam and clay, the peninsula separates the Kaipara harbour, with its warm shallow waters and mangrove archipelagos, from the ultramarine sprawl of the Tasman Sea. Cook called the peninsula a 'desert coast'. When Hongi Hika led his army south through the Kaipara to Tamaki Makaurau in the 1820s hapu of Ngati Whatua and Te Roroa fled before him, trusting dunes and winds to conceal their villages and gardens.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Pakeha colonists planted millions of radiata on the peninsula. Dunes retreated behind the green wall. Enough grass to feed sheep and deer grew on the conquered territory.

In the twentieth century a series of fantasies were projected onto the peninsula. In the sixties the Holyoake government proposed building a nuclear power station at Mosquito Bay, near the northern end of the isthmus and the lower jaw of the Kaipara harbour. The station’s pumps would be fed the water that flowed in and out of the harbour; Australian uranium would glow in its reactor.

The nuclear fantasy was abandoned, but in the nineties a series of politicians and scientists imagined a tidal power station at the harbour heads. Opinion pieces and position papers were published, but the project was stymied by environmentalists and fishermen.

The Kaipara Air Weapons Range is a more successful fantasy. It occupies the northernmost stretch of Muriwai beach, on the west coast of the peninsula, and is strewn with the remnants of munitions. New Zealand’s air force lost its jet fighters more than a decade ago, but massive Orions still fly low over Muriwai, dropping bombs onto their bloated shadows, and sappers detonate their own explosions from hides in the dunes and tussock. 
The explosions can be heard in Auckland, where they have been mistaken for terrorist attacks, and for the audio effects of film crews at work in the Waitakeres. For the crews of the Orions, Muriwai’s dunes and lupins become the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan; the fairmounts and datsuns that boy racers dump at the tideline become the black husks of some ISIS or Al Qaeda convoy.

I have been talking about the South Kaipara Peninsula because it is the setting, and perhaps also the explanation, for a violent and enigmatic work of conceptual art. Last month I visited the peninsula in search of something I knew could not exist. I was driven by a friend, who does not want to be named, in a citroen whose rear windows had been covered in black masking tape, as a precaution against a disaster we knew was impossible. The day was warm, but I wore a balaclava; my friend relied on a keffiyeh to cover her nostrils, tongue, lips. You could say that we were playing parts, and that, through our actions, we were endowing a fantasy, an unpleasant proposition, with a semblance of life. 
Eight days before we boarded the citroen and drove from Auckland to Helensville, the river town at the southern end of the peninsula, I had received a book – it was less a book, in fact, than a set of documents, each brusquely truncated – by an organisation, or an individual, that called itself, him or herself, Artists for a Non Governmental Arms Programme: ANGAP, for short.

The documents arrived by e mail, in pdf format, but they seemed to belong, aesthetically, to the era before the internet, before digital communication, before high-resolution rendering. They appeared to have been spread out repeatedly on a failing photocopier, then scanned, then mixed randomly. Their texts had faded; their images had crumbled into cryptic blocks of dots, crosses, columns. 

The documents had titles that suggested they were the work of an impersonal body, pursuing a meticulous, even pedantic, strategy. There was a ‘Report on Progress’, a ‘Bulletin of Caveats’, a ‘Note on Vision’. But the voice of the texts was urgent, almost hysterical. The voice preferred repetitive assertion to argument or narrative. This passage, which I have taken from a document called ‘The Question is finally one of Word and Deed: proposal for an electromagnetic pulse’, could stand for a dozen others:
For too long in these islands!/ we are artists living after the death of art/ revolutionaries after the death of revolution/ O KILL KILL KILL THOSE WHO ADVERTISE YOU OUT/ Modernism was not a movement: modernism was a prelapsarian paradise/ once it was possible to imagine a new world/ Malevich dropped new colours from his biplane/ The Paris Communards made art/ Now the proletariat has become a mental peasantry, fed on cow mulch, fed on Tokien’s sickly sweet semen, images of feudal content/ New Zealand is Middle Earth/ Our artists are sentimental artisans, molesting the looms of their computer screens

ANGAP’s texts reek of frustration. They complain that, at some unspecified moment in the late twentieth century, the promises of both avant-garde art and revolutionary politics expired. The visionary modernist artist became the sly, self-parodying postmodernist; the revolutionary socialist became a Blairite careerist. 

ANGAP quotes Mark Fisher’s complaint that, in the twenty-first century, the future has been ‘cancelled’, so that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than a post-capitalist world. (After obituarising the future in a series of pellucid essays, Fisher killed himself at the beginning of 2017.)

And yet politics and art have, according to ANGAP, come together in contemporary New Zealand, in the service of a new national myth:

Today peace is our state religion. OUR SOUTH STINKS PEACE! Art galleries throughout Pig Island commemorated the 30th anniversary of our nuclear-free policy. Mayors give out peace awards, the way doctors in asylums hand their inmates tranquilisers. Doves flutter on public murals…

This state of affairs might not seem like something to complain about. For ANGAP, though, the ‘cult of pacifism’ is a ‘calculated denial’ of New Zealand’s history, as well as its present:

New Zealand is founded on blood/ the land was taken from Maori with blood, not axes or muskets or blankets/ young men were blood sacrifices at Gallipoli and El Alamein/ Trucks loaded with cattle and sheep (YOU FOLLOW THEM WITH YOUR BLOODSHOT EYE) roll through the Waikato and Horowhenua towards animal Dachaus/ New Zealand troops rampage across the world disguised as peacekeepers/ Willie Apiata slew scores of Afghans in the name of peace/ PEACE IS THE FINAL, MOST EXTREME FORM OF WARFARE

Despite the occasional left-wing flourish, there is a strong hint of Futurism – shrill, steely Italian Futurism, not the more eccentric, ruritarian Russian variety – in ANGAP’s prose. Like Marinetti and other accomplices of Italian fascism, ANGAP associates artistic and technological potency, and is in danger of aestheticizing war:

Art is magic or it is nothing. Wyndham Lewis wrote poems with a machine gun. Art matters when an artist wields a pistol or a depth charge. An artist with a paintbrush is an artist disarmed. An artist disarmed is a dead artist. A dead artist is fertiliser, for a municipal rose garden. McCahon Angus Hotere Apple: the bright blind eyes of flowering camellias.

A document called ‘Where we come from is where we are going’, includes a blurry photograph of young men and women offering clenched fist salutes. A red beret teeters on a blonde Afro; a Stalinesque moustache droops lugubriously; a Kalashnikov decorates a flag pinned to a roll-down door. Is the image a glimpse of ANGAP’s members? Of precursors? The document both celebrates and mocks revolutionary politics and modernist art:

They took the field in an alphabet’s soup of organisations: SAL, WCL, MLF…Revolution was an art. The artist was the vanguard of the vanguard. Now the struggle has been lost. It must begin at the point where contradictions gather. All power grows from the barrel of a test tube, Comrade Miaow wrote.

My friend had warned that she might not talk much during our drive to the South Kaipara. As we drive up the peninsula from Helensville, towards the massed rockets of the radiata forest, the silence in the citroen became steadily more uncomfortable. After studying ANGAP’s documents I had decided that I needed to visit the site – the approximate site, at least – of the group’s first ‘weapons test’. 

In an unusually terse document, ANGAP had taken responsibility for ‘detonating a low-grade nuclear device’ on ‘the margins of the Kaipara Air Weapons Range’. By doing so, the group claimed to have ‘reminded New Zealanders of their blood inheritance’ and ‘reasserted the importance of the artist’. The document was illustrated by a black and white photograph, which showed row upon row of pine trees laid low. I recognised the photograph: it had been taken in 1927 by Soviet scientist Leonid Kulik, during an expedition to Tunguska, a remote section of Siberia where a meteor had exploded nineteen years earlier, levelling an entire forest. 
My silent friend parked the citroen beside a large signboard that warned we were about to enter the unfenced air weapons range. Bombs of various shapes and sizes were illustrated on the board, like the toxic fungi that populate Siberian forests. It was late afternoon, and as we walked towards the pines the sky was suddenly sealed by steel-grey clouds. My friend knew the peninsula; as a child she had explored its craters and dunes while her drunk uncles excavated toheroa from wet sand. I walked behind her, obedient as a dog. The pines were surprisingly thick, and the light that worked its way through them seemed old and tired, like the images in ANGAP’s documents. Dead needles muted our steps.

Suddenly the ground opened; we stopped at the edge of a pit with walls of red clay. Pine needles cascaded silently over the edge of the pit. At the bottom, six feet or so down, was a lump of twisted metal: the fender of a Ford Escort or Datsun. It reminded me of the mutely writhing figures dug out of Pompeii’s lava fields. A trail of burnt earth, no wider than a rope, connected the pit to the ragged seaside edge of the pine forest. Beyond the trees dunes glowed darkly, the pyramids of some alien civilisation. I could hear the Tasman murmur like a distant motorway. 
I knew the air force only bombed north Muriwai for a few days every year, and I had not heard anything louder than a seagull above the pines. But I was pleased when my friend turned, and started back towards the signboard, the citroen, the road home to Auckland.

ANGAP’s weapons test is a fantasy. ANGAP itself must be, in some sense, a fantasy. But when I entered the site of the group’s fantasies I began to think in new ways about a secluded, apparently bucolic piece of my homeland. I remembered that the pine forest, like a nuclear power plant, is an alien imposition on the Kaipara. I feared the bombs of my own air force, in the way that a Taliban or Viet Cong fighter in a dugout might have done. And I kept adjusting my balaclava, in a hopeless attempt to stop breathing radioactive dust.

[Posted by Scott Hamilton]

9 Comments:

Blogger Edward Jenner said...

Characteristically well written piece, Scott. Some great descriptions of the Kaipara, an area I've always had some affinity for. As an owner of Citroens, however, who admired the style and sculptural design of these cars, I must protest at the use of lower case for this particular automobile!! Secondly, I must take umbrage at the comparison of pine forests to nuclear power plants. Without the former, the Kaipara would be just another floor of the Tasman Sea by now!

10:51 am  
Anonymous Scott Hamilton said...

Very fair points Ted!

4:14 pm  
Blogger Mamae Bima said...

Mohon dimaafkan sebelumnya....!! terpaksa sy ngeposting disini karna sy sudah mengalami skrg bagaimn rasanya tinggal di perantauan jd TKW. Anak dan suami di tinggal di kampung. Sy dulu 4 tahun 5 bulan tinggal di Hongkong.. hanya jeritan batin dan tetes air mata selalu menharap. tp tdk ada hasilnya sm sekali. Cuman gali lobang tutup lobang trus. dulu.. pengen pulang ke indo gaji tidak seberapa. Tetapi namanya juga rejeki itu tidak ada yg tau. Yg penting kita betul-betul yakin dan percaya Pasti ada jlan keluarnya. Halal tidaknya hanya tuhanlah yg menentukan. Kebetulan waktu itu sy istirahat di kamar buka facebook dapt nmor telpon Mbah Suroto di halaman tki sukses. setelah sy baca ternyata beliau murid Eyang Guru Jugo dari gunung kawi. dengan adanya Pesugihan Dana Ghaib ini dan Pesugihan Anka ghaib/Togel 2D sampai 6D pilihan..., sy memilih jalan Pesugihan Dana Ghaib saja karna tidak ada tumbal menumbal. alhamdulillah ternyata benar2 terbukti hasil nya dari Mbah. skrg sy bsa buka usaha kecil-kecilan di rumah.. ya allah terima kasih rejekimu ini yg enkau berikan. Mungkin ada teman pengen merubah nasib nya seperti sy. ini nomr nya Mbah Suroto +6282291277145 karna tidak ada salahnya kita berbagi. sy sudah merasakan manis pahitnya tinggal di perantauan. Trmksh...

9:48 pm  
Blogger Romlah Afita said...

Assalamu alaikum warohmatullahi wabarokatu...
Mohon maaf bilah kedatangan saya mengganggu. Perkenalkan nama saya mbak romlah asal magelang seorang mantan PRT duluh kerja di kota malaka malaysia selama 8 tahun lamanya. Singkat cerita..saya sangat berterima kasih kpd MBAH BALAPATI atas bantuan beliau melalui pemasangan nomer togel 6D Nya alhamdulillah saya menang RM,257.000 uang indo kurang lebih 770 juta. saya tidak menyangka kalau saya bisa sesukses ini dan ini semua berkat bantuan MBAH BALAPATI, saya yang dulunya bukan siapa-siapa bahkan saya juga selalu dihina orang alhamdulillah kini sekarang saya sudah punya rumah dan usaha sendiri itu semua atas bantuan beliau. Saya tidak tau harus berbuat apa untuk membalas kebaikan beliau karna banyakNya orang yg saya telpon dari google untuk minta bantuanNya tidak ada satu pun yg berhasil malah hutang saya tambah banyak. Beliau juga bisa membantu melalui pesugihan uang gaib tanpa tumbal, Pelet, Pelaris, Nomer togel 4D/5D/6D.. Bagi anda yg diluar negri maupun dalam negri butuh bantuan beliau jangan takut atau maluh segerah hubungi MBAH BALAPATI di nomer 082190534451 / +6282190534451 Semua akan berubah Karna kesuksesan ada pada diri kita sendiri. Yakin dan percaya bahwa itu semua akan tercapai berkat bantuan dari mbah dan muda2han anda cocok dan beliau bisa membantu anda seperti saya. Sekian dan terima kasih atas tumpangannya semoga dengan adaNya pesan singkat ini semua bisa merubah nasib...





Wassalam...




12:45 am  
Blogger pak sudaryono said...

Assalamualaikum senang sekali saya bisa menulis dan berbagi kepada teman-teman disini, Awal mula saya ikut pesugihan, Karena usaha saya bangkrut dan saya di lilit hutang hingga 900jt membuat saya nekat melakukan pesugihan, hingga suatu waktu saya diberitahukan teman saya yang pernah mengikuti penarikan uang ghaib dengan AKI SOLEH JAFFAR menceritakan sosok AKI SOLEH JAFFAR, saya sudah mantap hati karena kesaksian teman saya, singkat cerita saya mengikuti saran dari pak.aki saya harus memilih penarikan dana ghaib 1 hari cair dengan tumbal hewan dan alhamdulillah keesokan harinya saya di telepon oleh pak aki bahwa ritualnya berhasil dana yang saya minta 3Milyar benar-benar masuk di rekening saya, sampai saat ini saya masih mimpi uang sebanyak itu bukan hanya melunaskan hutang ratusan juta bahkan mampu membangun ekonomi saya yang sebelumnya bangkrut, kini saya mempunyai usaha di jakarta dan surabaya yang lumayan besar, saya sangat bersykur kepada allah dan berterimakasih kepada pak. AKI SOLEH JAFFAR berkat beliau kini saya bangkit lagi dari keterpurukan. Jika ada teman-teman yang sedang mengalami kesulitan masalah ekonomi saya sarankan untuk menghubungi ki sholeh jaffar di nomor ini HUBUNGI WHATSAPP 0853-7778-3331 agar di berikan arahan Atau KLIK DISINI












1:22 pm  
Blogger IBU LILIS said...

Saya ibu:lilis pengunjung baru di blog ini ingin mengucapkan terima kasih banyak kepada
Aki wali Sentono karna berkat bantuan pesugihan putih sebesar 1,Milyar yang Aki berikan saya tidak tau harus berbuat apa untuk membalas kebaikan Aki wali Sentono awalnya saya kurang yakin dengan adanya pesugihan tapi dengan ekonomi tidak perna bercukupan di tambah hutang lagi menumpuk sudah berapa banyak paranormal yang saya hubungi tidak ada satupun yang berhasil malahan hutang-hutang saya bertambah banyak cuma Aki wali Sentono yang memberikan hasil melalui bantuan pesugihan putihnya akhirnya saya bisa sukses kini kehidupan saya sudah jauh lebih baik dari sebelumnya ini semua berkat bantuan Aki wali Sentono bagi teman-teman semua punya masalah ekonomi / terlilit hutang mau sukses seperti saya silahkan hubungi atau sms di No. 0823-9369-4699 Aki wali Sentono atau kunjungi website ••{KLIK DISINI Pesugihan Dana Gaib Suci}•• saya akui beliau paranormal yang bisa di percaya karna betul betul memberikan hasil inilah kisa nyata dari saya ibu lilis tidak ada unsur kebohongan dalam hal ini terima kasih

##

1:57 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Comrade Ted beat me to it! This is another brilliant 'poem' I suspect of the kind that had Manhire intrigued. "I kept going back to Scott Hamilton's work." Or to that effect re his judging of a poetry competition (The Grattan). Citroens also reminded me that Ted used to own them in the good old days. Also I recall getting a ride in an old Citroen as a child once...it seemed a beautiful thing to ride in. Someone my grandmother knew on the North Shore.

That picture of the pine trees flattened by a (comet I think it was) is a classic.

I recall Holyoake. When he spoke once re the returning troops from Vietnam he said (I think in response to a protester's shouted comment), he started: "I am not aware...." And at that point his pompous almost Oxonian phony voice was drowned out with laughter. Good thing they didn't get nuclear power stations. No one can ever guarantee their safety. Nuclear knowledge has led humans downward. It shows that in many ways science is leading us backwards. In fact it makes a joke of notions of "progress" and other bourgeois liberal slogans.

But "Hope springs eternal in the human breast" to quote from Pope's great poem...And I have read almost all of Pope's longer poems. Of course he is from a more hopeful time, yet also from a time of satire and wit...A time when the pen was almost mightier than the sword...

But again, a great piece Scott!

11:36 pm  
Anonymous jh said...

"PEACE IS THE FINAL, MOST EXTREME FORM OF WARFARE"


y' can't win

1:45 pm  
Blogger Rahman Saputrah said...

Assalamualaikum wrb,
saya Rahman saputrah, niat saya hanya ingin berbagi kebaikan khusus kepada orang yang mengalami kesusahan,percaya tidak percaya semua kembali pada pembaca postingan saya, awalnya saya seorang pengusaha yang bisa dibilang sukses, tapi banyak yang tidak suka kalau saya sukses,dan akhirnya bisnis saya bangkrut dan saya sempat jadi Pengangguran kurang lebih 1tahun saya punya anak 3 dan masih kecil2,saya sempat putus asa dan tidak tau mau berbuat apa, tapi setiap saya melihat anak saya, Saya merasa kasian, dan kemarin tampa disengaja ada Teman saya memberi saran dia menyarangkan saya untuk menghubungi Mbah Jonoseuh, beliau memberikan bantuan Pesugihan, awalnya sih saya ragu tapi mau nggak mau saya beranikan diri mencoba bantuan dari Mbah Jonoseuh. Dan syukur Alhamdulillah dengan bantuan pesugihan beliau saya sekarang bisa sukses kembali, terimah kasih Mbah. berkat Mbah saya bisa sukses kembali,ini pengalaman pribadi saya khusus bagi teman2 yang sempat baca dan punya masalah silahkan hub Mbah Jonoseuh di nomor 082344445588 dan pasti beliau bisa meringankan semuah permasalahan yang anda hadapi untuk saat ini,
Jenis Bantuan (Mbah Jonoseuh)
1. PESUGIHAN PUTIH (TANPA TUMBAL) 2. TRANSFER JANIN
3. ANGKA TOGEL
4. PELET
5. SANTET
6. UANG GHAIB
7. PESUGIHAN TUYUL..
Adapun bagi yang minat
Minyak (GAHARU) asli indonesia. silakan telpon langsung Mbah Jonoseuh.
Dan terimah kasih kepada yang punya room ini karna saya sempat berbagi pengalaman dan mudah2han bisa membantu,

9:39 pm  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home