The Dowse, Lower Hutt, N.Z. October 19 2016 – March 12 2017
I Too Am in Paradise was an organic sculpture installed in the Dowse courtyard and consisted of a series of unfired clay urns, each bearing the phrase “Et in Arcadia ego” and containing a young kōwhai ngutu kākā (kākābeak) plant. Using the title of the renowned seventeenth century Nicolas Poussin painting, the words act as a momento mori, a further reminder of transience and mortality.
The urns, made from recovered porcelain clay and cotton rag pulp, were arranged on shelving designed to suggest niches of a columbarium. In keeping with the theme of impermanence and sustainability, the structure was made from untreated pallets. The project embodied the idea of living with uncertainty as weather conditions and the care the plants received would determine how well the plants grew and how quickly the unfired urns decayed.
Kōwhai ngutu kākā plants are found only in New Zealand and both of the two species that exist are threatened with extinction. They were originally use by Māori for gifting and trade and to acknowledge this tradition, when the installation period came to an end, the plants were gifted to people in the community who wanted to participate in the recovery of kōwhai ngutu kākā.