9 September – 26 November 2023
Focusing on the kōtuku and their only nesting grounds in Aotearoa New Zealand, Comfort Zone explores the limits of human understanding, and the distances we put between ourselves and other species.
Also known as the white heron or Eastern great egret Ardea alba modesta, the kōtuku is an intriguing bird with multiple identities, commonly found in tropical and temperate regions. In Thailand, the artist’s country of birth, they are often seen in rice fields but in Aotearoa they are an endangered species at the limit of their geographic and climatic range. The whakataukī “he kōtuku rerenga tahi”, “a kōtuku of a single flight”, is attributed to a rare event and honoured guests that seldom visit, as the bird is not often seen.
Songsataya has woven together footage of nesting kōtuku with images and animations exploring proximities between the human, non-human, and celestial. The artist has juxtaposed the tiny filaments of feathers, seen under an electron microscope, with birds flying high among pinprick stars and ladders reaching between faraway planets – bridging the incomprehensible distances and shifting scales of the universe. An accompanying voiceover subverts any expectations of a narrated “nature documentary”. Instead, responses to a series of open-ended questions seem to test a fundamental sense of connection and belonging within the natural world.
Sorawit Songsataya is a multimedia artist, currently based between Aotearoa and London.
After recently completing the 2022 Frances Hodgkins fellowship in Ōtepoti Dunedin, Songsataya is currently undertaking an artist residency at Gasworks London. Over the past decade, Songsataya has developed an active multi-disciplinary practice which has been exhibited and collected by nationally and internationally significant public galleries and art spaces.
Voiceover by Awa Puna (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairoa). The artist would like to acknowledge hapū of Kāti Māhaki ki Makaawhio as kaitiaki of the rohe where the kōtuku nest.
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