Emily Parr, Through the time spiral: ʻOli Ula (2021). HD video still. Courtesy of the artist.
Emily Parr (Ngāi Te Rangi, Moana, Pākehā), Through the time spiral: ʻOli Ula
4 December 2021 – 2 April 2022
Number nine Eden Crescent is along the road from Gus Fisher Gallery, beside the brick wall from which the spring ‘Te Wai Ariki’ emerges. Until 1976, a beautiful two-storey house with twenty-something rooms, wide balconies and stained-glass windows stood here. The house was named ‘‘Oli Ula’ for a garland strung with the fragrant red flower of the Sāmoan ‘oli tree. Built in the early 1900s by Gustav Kronfeld, a Jewish merchant, and Louisa Silveira of Lotofaga, the walls were adorned with measina. Louisa made a vibrant home for their ten children and Moana peoples arriving in Tāmaki Makaurau.
Through the time spiral: ʻOli Ula reconstructs the artist’s great-great-grandparents’ family home using a su’ifefiloi methodology, reflecting the Sāmoan tradition of making flower garlands in which a mixture of flowers are sewn together and strung into a necklace, an ula (Refiti, 2014; Lopesi, 2021). Travelling through the time-spiral, Parr guides the walkthrough in a voiceover assembled from recorded memories of Moe (Gustav and Louisa’s eighth child) and his son Tony. Remaining faithful to their words, she brings them into the present tense and links their memories with her own words — stringing the flowers into the ula.
The work considers The Booth as a kind of communicative portal, able to send and receive messages across space/time. During the First World War, Gustav was interned on Te Motu-a-Ihenga under suspicion of aiding the Germans, spending several years separated from his family. Among Parr’s family’s archive from this period are messages that travelled between postal censors and military authorities; the family and the government; the island and ‘Oli Ula. Imagining Te Wai Ariki as a witness to these unfolding histories and utilising The Booth as a means of conveyance, the work connects Te Motu-a-Ihenga and ‘Oli Ula; 2021 and the early twentieth century; Parr and her ancestors.
The Booth is Gus Fisher Gallery’s space for site-specific proposals, open annually for applications from artists across any career stage.