When did you last pause to think about the relationship you have with nature?
That’s one of the questions posed by Ōtepoti Overlays. The walk through installation juxtaposes native flora once found in Central Ōtepoti Dunedin against contemporary versions of nature. Ōtepoti Overlays is open to the public July 8th - 11th on the food court level of the Meridian Mall 10am – 4 pm.
Curator and science communicator Liv Taylor-Peebles describes the Human Nature Relationship as a culmination of stories told by individuals and communities, about the world around us.
“These stories have tangible and intangible aspects. A familiar story in the Western world is that nature is something we see, touch and change. But our relationship with nature isn’t just an externality. We also imbue it with emotional and spiritual narratives. These are just as real, but don’t have the same social validation as their tangible counterparts.”
She says Ōtepoti Overlays is a liminal space to consider these narratives through a local lens.
“Inner worlds underpin how we interact with the world around us. So it’s important to hold space for them in everyday life, especially in the context of a sustainable relationship with nature.” After walking through, visitors are encouraged to share stories of their own intangible relationship with nature, or thoughts on the installation's themes.
Holding space for the intangible relationships we have with nature is not a new concept in Aotearoa New Zealand. Inherent in mātauraka Māori (Māori knowledge or wisdom) is kaitiakitaka, the confluence of intangible connection with and guardianship of, the natural world. Te Ao Māori acknowledges humans are not removed from or superior to the world around us, we are a small piece of the larger whole.
Ōtepoti Overlays is supported by the Dunedin Dream Brokerage, which aims to revitalise empty urban spaces with temporary artistic and creative projects. “Ōtepoti Overlays has a focus on in-place narratives, so it fits well with the DDB’s kaupapa of supporting local storytelling,” says Broker Kate Schrader.
Liv is a postgraduate at the Centre for Science Communication at the University of Otago. Ōtepoti Overlays is the creative component to her Masters thesis, which explores the inner worlds of the Human Nature Relationship, and the role they have in sustainability transformations.