Otago Polytechnic

Dunedin artist Marion Wassenaar has won the Estuary Art and Ecology Prize 2018.

The only contemporary art prize in New Zealand with ecology at its core, the competition is in its 12th year. It invites artists to research and respond to the Tāmaki Estuary, in South Auckland, underscoring the ecological value of the waterway and encourage action against its pollution.

Marion, who is a lecturer in the Print Studio and Operations Assistant at Otago Polytechnic’s Dunedin School of Art, says she is “thrilled” to have been awarded the $5000 first prize, particularly as she decided to travel to Auckland last weekend to attend the exhibition opening at Malcolm Smith Gallery.

“This was the first time I had submitted an entry for the prize so I was delighted to be announced one of 19 finalists,” Marion says.

“Having grown up in South Auckland, I am aware of the Tamaki Estuary and its environs.

“With my art practice concerns about the human impact on the environment, I felt this would be an ideal opportunity to submit an artwork that addressed the polluted waterways.”

Marion’s winning work, Unplugged (2018, carbon book in laser etched reagent bottle, inkjet prints), features a charcoal water filter made from the carbon remains of a book.

“The idea behind the work depended on me finding an appropriate book. So after scouring op shops and second-hand book shops I came upon Auckland Unplugged, Coping with Critical Infrastructure Failure,” Marion explains in her artist statement.

The book reports on the electricity blackout that disrupted Auckland's central business district for five weeks over the summer of 1998 and reveals the vulnerability of a city's infrastructure.

“This crisis highlights our dependence not only on power supply but also town water supply and waste management and exacerbates a future of unsustainable uncertainty.

“In attempting to create an artwork that conveys the adverse human impact on the environment, while acknowledging the waterways of the Tamaki Estuary and indeed the many contaminated waterways of Aotearoa,  New Zealand, the book AucklandUnplugged… is ironically reduced to pure carbon (charcoal) to be used as a filtering agent to hypothetically purify (or unblock) our polluted waters.”

The Estuary Art and Ecology Prize is funded by the Auckland Council’s Howick Local Board and supported by Gordon Harris and the Rice Family Partnership.

Read more about the prize

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Published on 11 July 2018

Orderdate: 11 Jul 2018
Expiry: 31 Dec 2018