Kakī, reared and sampled, 2017
Charcoal and shelves on wall
Made in collaboration with conservation Geneticist Natalie Forsdick as part of Art and Genetics 2017.
A post-project conversation between myself and Natalie is available to read in Junctures: Journal of Thematic Dialogue
Through several trips to Natalie's lab at Otago University's Anatomy department, discussion arose around the representational shifts experienced by Kakī under the framework of conservation genetics. Isolated to Canterbury's Waitaki Basin, Kakī (or Black Stilt) are one of the world's rarest wading birds, at risk of extinction via hybridisation with the self introduced Australian Pied Stilt.
A geneticist's perception of their species undergoes several changes in scale, with movement between collective population, and a small sample of individuals. These individuals are further reduced as blood samples, on to targeted DNA fragments. Simultaneously, Kakī experience shifts in state, alternating between unique physical qualities as extracted samples, digital identities as data, and eventually returning to a physical population subject to intensive conservation management. These alchemical shifts are facilitated across multiple sites- the Canterbury based situated habitat and captive breeding facility, and the Otago-based lab and office spaces.
Charcoal, erasers, and tape embed the uncertain manifestations of Kakī into the gallery wall. Digital photographs and video documentation from lab visits are translated into physical moments. Traces of the drawing's making-those that might otherwise go obscured or removed, are collected and preserved.
Kakī, reared and sampled evidences attempts at activating the gallery space as additional site for recognising complex relationships between geneticist and endangered animal. Shifts between whole/sample, physical/digital are given space and time for consideration. In equal measure, the temporary drawings are exercises in finding physical analogues for the urgency permeating conservation genetics, and the impermanence facing a threatened population.