Aroha for the Glacier

Haupapa: The Chilled Breath of Rakamaomao combines pūtaiao, art and storytelling to draw urgent attention to the global climate emergency and our duty of care for Te Taiao.

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The World Weather Network is a response to the global climate emergency, in which 28 organisations around the globe, including Te Tuhi in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, have set up local weather stations, in an invitation to look, listen, learn and act. Over the next year, artists, writers and communities will share their own regional weather and climate reports – with ‘reports’ being open to creative interpretation – with the intention of creating a network of voices and viewpoints that in solidarity will bring acute awareness to their key theme, ‘Your Weather is Our Weather’. In the process of finding these links and these differences, the climate issue is given local voices, local faces and local knowledge.

Huarere: Weather Eye, Weather Ear is the title of Te Tuhi’s year-long World Weather Network project. Curated by Janine Randerson, six weather reports have been commissioned that traverse the Māori seasonal calendar of the Maramataka, centred in different regions of Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. The latest weather report to be released, Haupapa: The Chilled Breath of Rakamaomao, combines the artistic and scientific talents of sound artist and designer Rachel Shearer, artist Janine Randerson, orator Ron Bull (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Waitaha), glaciologist Heather Purdie and creative technologist Stefan Marks. 

the climate issue is given local voices, local faces and local knowledge

For Koanga, spring equinox, the assembled collaborators have created a weather report from Haupapa Tasman Glacier, Aotearoa’s fastest growing body of wai, a glacier formed from a deep exhalation of Aoraki, the ancestor maunga, as he readied to speak. They respond to the ‘hau’ of Haupapa, translated fluidly as moisture, air, breath, wind, tears and vitality. Within Kāi Tahu whakapapa, Rakamaomao is related to Aoraki and is one of the progenitors of wind and weather. We asked the collaborators questions about this magnificent and urgent project Haupapa: The Chilled Breath of Rakamaomao, grounded in mātauranga Māori.

the ‘hau’ of Haupapa, translated fluidly as moisture, air, breath, wind, tears and vitality

Tell us a bit about your individual backgrounds and practices

Janine Randerson: My art-making includes moving image, sound, film, expanded forms of documentary and the weather itself. This is my second artwork that attunes to live atmospheric data, although I often collaborate with environmental scientists, and also community groups, around weather and ecology. Neighbourhood Air (2012) was the first time I worked with an interdisciplinary group on a data-responsive, shifting online interface based on levels of atmospheric toxins and live weather in Tāmaki Makaurau. We also included stories about our felt experiences of our air quality. Similarly this project at Haupapa glacier explores an intimate connection to the elements and the stories of a radically changing place/body. 

Rachel Shearer: As an artist I work predominantly with sound. I whakapapa to Rongowhakaata, Te Aitanga a Māhaki and Ngāti Pākehā, which influences my interest in ideas around a materiality of sound from both Māori and Western philosophies. I’m interested in the notions of whakarongo (listening with not just your ears) as a strategy for design, connection and hearing the voices of the whenua. I craft compositions where sound becomes music of sorts. I collaborate with moving-image makers, performers, artists and technologists to build relationships of sound, image, movement and texture, aiming to create affective experiences. I make sound installations that engage with site histories, field recordings, composition and all the other themes I have mentioned here. I sometimes write about all/some of this.

Rachel Shearer at Haupapa Awa recording with Hydrophone

Ron Bull: My identity stems from being raised in a family of ‘birders’, this being linked to the traditional Indigenous activity of harvesting tītī, sooty shearwater, from the islands off the coast of Rakiura Stewart Island. This practice, and the landscape of that place, informs my positioning within a meta-narrative, a creation story, that creates sets of relationships between all things that exist between the sky and the earth (Rakinui e tu atu nei, Papatūānuku takoto iho nei) and beyond. Connections between what existed in the past allowing us to be now, and giving direction on what could be in the future. 

Stefan Marks: I am a creative technologist, using my programming and analysis skills to tell stories driven by data. I specialise in immersive 3D visualisations using technologies such as AR [augmented reality] and VR [virtual reality], mostly in the education sector. I have enabled bioengineering students to ‘walk’ through the complex shapes of a nasal cavity and understand its regions and influence on airflow during breathing. My earthquake data visualisations communicate the shapes and size of fault lines and features such as the Pacific Ring of Fire much more convincingly than a flat print in a book or on a screen.

Heather Purdie: I am a glaciologist and physical geographer. I like to blend scientific research about glacier response to climate change with questions about the wider implications of glacier recession, for example the impacts to the wider landscape and how people access and interact with the landscape. 

Underwater glacial fragment, Haupapa Awa, filmed by Janine Randerson

Can you talk about the evolution of Haupapa

Janine Randerson: Haupapa came about after I found Rachel Shearer was also interested in both the cosmologies of snow and ice and their patterns of data, in her sound work Raraunga (2020). About the same time in 2020, I also met Ron Bull at an event, The Complete Entanglement of Everything, at the Dunedin School of Art, where we were both speakers. I was immediately enthralled with his storytelling and the Kāi Tahu reo. I discovered Heather through her publications on glaciers and critical climate research and also drew her into the project. She was wonderfully open to working with artists. Rachel and I invited Stefan into the project once we decided to work with live weather information. Stefan also stitched the underwater images together seamlessly with Rachel’s recordings of the glacier sounds and Ron’s voice, spoken into the atmosphere of Haupapa.

I made the first trip to Aoraki and finally visited Haupapa in 2020. This glacier was a place I had been urged to visit in 2016 by Dr Jim Salinger, a contributor to various IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] reports for more than 40 years. He said the time to document this glacier is right now, before Haupapa disappears completely. At the time I was making a performance video work with Tru Paraha on the other side of Aoraki at Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere Franz Josef Glacier. While the West Coast glaciers are undoubtedly receding, the rate of recession of Haupapa was highly visible to our eyes and ears as we encountered the ice calving from the terminus (the front face of the glacier) from a boat on the Haupapa awa.

the time to document this glacier is right now, before Haupapa disappears completely

Heather Purdie: I first visited Haupapa when I was just seven years old, on a family holiday, and then kept returning, for school (geography field trips), work (Department of Conservation and hikes guiding), recreation (mountaineering) and then research. I have been studying glacial processes at Haupapa since 2006. I was delighted when Janine contacted me and asked if I was interested in their project. I have always enjoyed working beyond science and also work closely with the DOC education programme and local guiding companies, helping facilitate learning about Haupapa and how it is changing.

What does this project mean to you and how are you involved?

Janine Randerson: I have aroha for glaciers in their changeability, their intensive refraction of light, they are living barometers of climate change and they hold ancient stories in their bodies. I feel a deep sense of loss as the glacier slips away, but I think we all wanted to avoid the melancholic mode or memorialising this glacier. Instead we honour this moment of transition from ice to water and the release of the hā, the ancient breath, pollens, sea breezes encased in this ice for centuries.

While recording, I was looking for ways for the underwater camera to become intimate with glacial fragments and also float with the awa in melted glacial liquid. I tried to get as close as possible to the surface of the ice fragments and also underneath them. Pancho, the boatman, managed to hold us steady next to the glacial fragments as the wind lashed the water. The camera was attached to a long boom pole and I was leaning precariously over the edge of the boat. We couldn’t go closer to the edge of the terminus than 150 metres because if a large fragment calved off, a wave could flip the boat. We went back several times to gather the footage in different weather conditions, and on the last trip the mākū (forms of moisture) was everywhere, apparent in the rain and mist.

I have aroha for glaciers in their changeability, their intensive refraction of light, they are living barometers of climate change and they hold ancient stories in their bodies

Rachel Shearer: My role in this project has been to record location sound from the Haupapa area and develop musical drone elements for the web artwork. The drones/soundscapes are triggered by specific data sets from NIWA [National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research] – wind speed, wind directions, rainfall, temperature, etc. I needed to make the soundscapes modular so that they could merge and overlap while maintaining a certain overall ambience. A feature of the location recordings are the ones made with hydrophones from variously 15 to 30 metres underwater in the glacier lake. There was also the recording of atmospheres and kōrero featuring Ron and Heather in the video that contextualises the work. 

The project meant there was the opportunity to listen to that extraordinary part of Aotearoa producing a mixed sense of awe, peace and climate fear. It provided the opportunity to hear Kāi Tahu stories of Haupapa and the names of winds. It meant building creative relationships with Janine, Ron and Heather, and hearing their knowledgeable kōrero in situ. Finally (and during) it meant the data translation process with Stefan back in Tāmaki Makaurau. Aroha atu, aroha mai. Creative collaborations with environment, atua, artist/scientists – a response of sorts to the climate crisis.

this project allowed me to retrace footsteps, our whakapapa from the coasts, up the river valleys, into the mountains

Ron Bull: For Indigenous peoples, our whakapapa is embedded in the landscapes that we live in. This whakapapa reminds us of our relationships to atua, the creation stories and to tūpuna, those that have come before us and the events and deeds that they participated in. In the South, this whakapapa includes Aoraki, the physical landscape and the connection to natural phenomena, including mākū, Rakamaomao (weather patterns), hau (winds and air) and of course Haupapa, which is a physical manifestation of the mauri of the atua. This project allowed me to retrace footsteps, our whakapapa from the coasts, up the river valleys, into the mountains.

Ron Bull sharing hā, breath with a glacial fragment, Haupapa Awa 2022.

Stefan Marks: I was approached by Janine and Rachel and immediately hooked by the project and the prospect of tapping into live NIWA data, something I also passionately teach in my undergrad programming courses. In contrast to my other projects that used 3D technologies and presented the data in all its detail and depth, this project was challenging in that the raw weather data is shaping the audio and visuals in a form that conveys more of a general feeling and mood rather than factual data points. I loved learning about the different names for wind in te reo, and trying to turn those into programming instructions so that the names are called using Ron’s voice when the conditions are right. This was also a challenging project in that I needed to provide different layers of fall-back data in case the live stream is interrupted. For that, I took one year of historical data and integrated it into the system for those occasions.

The biggest challenge was actually to try to make it work on modern web browsers and mobile phones, with all their layers of security and incompatibilities. I spent more time asking people to try it on their various devices and report back any problems than actually developing the main code (all 3000 lines of it). 

Heather Purdie: Projects like this are very important to me. As a scientist and educator, I can reach so many people with my messages about climate change, but that is not enough. Art reaches more people and different people. I see outreach as an incredibly important step in trying to address the hurt we are causing Papatūānuku. If we want to effect change we need everyone to care – art is an incredibly important medium as it can engage people’s emotions.

I see outreach as an incredibly important step in trying to address the hurt we are causing Papatūānuku

Is there a correlation between oratorship and kaitiakitanga?

Ron Bull: I’m often confused by the term kaitiakitanga and its modern usage, particularly aligning this to concepts such as guardianship. I would consider being kaitiaki places one within a power dynamic that references position and privilege. We can be kaitiaki for that we have created and for what has been given to us, such as knowledge and pūrākau (traditional storytelling). We have a duty of care to ensure that the mauri (the life energy) of these things are protected and their mana (integrity) is enhanced. I’m uncertain if we can claim the same power relationship over the landscape. I would consider that landscape and other naturally occurring phenomena (atua) have domain over people. In the past, we would place the onus of kaitiaki over landscapes on ‘mythical’ beings: taniwha, mokomoko, etc., whose role it was to protect the interests of rivers, mountains and the ilk, usually by way of sending messages. Storytelling can highlight the need to heed the warnings of kaitiaki, so I suppose, yes, there is a correlation. Oration gives voice to elements of kaitiakitanga.

We have a duty of care to ensure that the mauri (the life energy) of these things are protected and their mana (integrity) is enhanced

This project fuses pūtaiao, art and storytelling. How do these things come together to convey your ideas? What do these different forms have in common? 

Janine Randerson: I think it is vital to foreground what connects rather than what separates us as artists, scientists and storytellers. I hope we can unsettle the historical division between ‘Western science’, technology and Indigenous knowledge, while also recognising what is distinct about iwi knowledge of place. This is happening in all areas of science, where pūtaiao is beginning to be treated more holistically. I hope artists can be the bridge or mediators between these realms, and also to ‘indetermine’ the standard uses of scientific data sets, which fortunately for us, NIWA gave licence for us to do. 

For instance, we decided at the last minute to include the graphic lines Stefan was using initially as a development tool for the weather data changes, as a second layer to the online interface. If you hover over the right corner and click, you will see horizontal lines representing weather data (snowfall, rainfall, wind direction and speed, solar radiation, temperature) which alters the sound and image and Ron’s voice parameters in real time. (There is also a button on the left corner to make the interface full screen on your computer, or on newer mobile phones.) Hydrologist Christian Zammit at NIWA also helped us to negotiate the API [application programming interface] and data agreement that allows live weather data to be streamed. For me this is a tangible example of people coming together across discipline lines often kept apart, at a time when it really matters that we pull together. 

I hope we can unsettle the historical division between ‘Western science’, technology and Indigenous knowledge, while also recognising what is distinct about iwi knowledge of place

Rachel Shearer: Pūtaiao explores the physical and natural world and its processes. Art and (types of) storytelling communicate these processes in different ways than research articles, data sets or conference posters – which could also be considered as forms of storytelling. Technology is something they all have in common, and a means with which to translate across perceived differences.

Ron Bull: Pūtaiao and all matauraka Māori are essentially forms of scientific knowledge, Indigenous knowledge systems (IKS). The difference between Indigenous knowledge systems and ‘Western’ science is the metanarrative that underpins them. Both are a form of narrative inquiry that asks the questions: What is that? Where does it come from? What has it got to do with me? Western science often relies on a (Cartesian) duality that separates ‘mind’, thoughts and imagination, from ‘body’, logical analysis and justifiable evidence, giving preference to the latter. IKS relies on the telling and retelling of stories that explain relationships and cause and effect. I feel that both, the mind and the body, are ways of ordering the world, the universe and everything into a structure that answers those three big questions. Storytelling – whether that be using words, images or data, which are all different (yet similar) modes of knowledge transference, sometimes answering small questions, sometimes the big ones – relies on viewing knowledge through the lens of a duality, and the need to choose one over another.

The difference between Indigenous knowledge systems and ‘Western’ science is the metanarrative that underpins them

Can you discuss how a project like Haupapa can create awareness of the global climate catastrophe? 

Janine Randerson: I am excited that this project has already had many thousands of visitors to the web platform, both through Te Tuhi’s website and the international platform World Weather Network without the need for travel, although I recognise the energetic expense of online activity as well. If we know more about places like Haupapa, where climate change is both visible and audible, I hope we can accelerate our level of care and aroha for Te Taiao. 

Ron Bull: The combined skills and the complementary knowledge base of the individuals within this project allow the story to manifest itself in different ways – voice, image, data – that can be understood by a wide range of people.

This project, and others like it, gives the opportunity for a broad range of people to hear the voice of the atua, and, in this case, the warnings that come from them. Art encourages us all to pause and to contemplate the purity of the world before humans’ many interactions and interferences. This contemplation may lead to the understanding that the very air we breathe is finite, and, due to humans giving preference to their activities over the needs of other elements within our whakapapa – the atua (naturally occurring phenomena) such as air, ice, trees, mountains, rivers – we have placed everything that cares for us at risk. The atua are the true kaitiaki, the true guardians. We are now taking the last air, the last deep breaths from the very environment itself. From the atua. 

If we know more about places like Haupapa, where climate change is both visible and audible, I hope we can accelerate our level of care and aroha for Te Taiao. 

Do you have any hopes for the legacy of this project? And where to from here? 

Rachel Shearer: I am looking forward to continuing the collaboration towards an install version at Te Tuhi next year. While on our field trip I made a number of multi-channel hydrophone recordings, the best vantage from which to hear the movement and cracking of Haupapa and the tinkling currents in the lake, in the anticipation of creating an immersive-experience version.

Janine Randerson: Several people have let me know they are checking in on the Haupapa platform daily, as a kind of weather report, to feel the different sounds or images. The recent cold weather (early October) has meant the images are more icy and the sounds more high pitched. Ron’s voice utters the cold southerly winds. As the weather gets warmer the images will become more watery, toward the end of November. Although the digital realm has been exciting, I think we are all also really looking forward to creating an installation of the work in physical space at Te Tuhi in May 2023. The artwork is also currently physically installed at Art Sonje in Seoul, one of the other partner organisations in the World Weather Network. I will be back again to Haupapa, too, and I feel I will stay connected throughout its lifetime, as well as to the wonderful human collaborators on this artwork. 


Ron Bull is Tumuaki Whakaako at Otago Polytechnic. He is part of the Kaihaukai Art Collective and, together with Simon Kaan, has produced social exchanges based around food nationally and internationally, including at the International Symposium of Electronic Arts (ISEA) and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. He is a Kāi Tahu knowledge holder of mātauranga Māori knowledge and a linguist. He has worked on collaborative art projects with artists such as Alex Monteith. He is a researcher on cross-cultural collaboration and engagement with place-based narratives through social art practice.

Stefan Marks is a Creative Technologist in the School of Future Environments at Auckland University of Technology. His main areas of research are collaborative extended reality (XR) and data visualisation or, as he prefers to call it, “data-driven, immersive storytelling”. Stefan creates tools to turn complex or abstract information into visual, audible and other sensory forms to allow the human brain to perceive, discover and understand patterns and relations. Some of his projects have dealt with earthquake data, the human nasal cavity anatomy, and artificial neural network connectivity.

Heather Purdie is a glaciologist at the University of Canterbury, with research expertise in glacier mass balance, dynamics and climate change, focusing on mountain glaciers in Te Tiritiri-o-te-moana, the Southern Alps. She is interested in glaciological change that occurs over short temporal scales. Most recently, she has been exploring rapid change at lake-calving glaciers, and the impact that crevasses have on glacier mass balance. She makes regular monitoring trips to Haupapa glacier and Lake Haupapa with a team of researchers.

Janine Randerson is an artmaker of video installations, 16mm films, sound and online artworks, and she often practises in collaboration with environmental scientists and community groups. Janine’s book Weather as Medium: Toward a Meteorological Art (MIT Press, 2018) focuses on modern and contemporary artworks that engage with our present and future weathers. Janine also facilitates art exhibitions, events and screening programmes.

Rachel Shearer investigates sound as a medium through a range of sonic practices – installations, composing, recording and writing, as well as collaborating as a sound designer or composer for moving image and live performance events. Active as an experimental musician releasing audio publications both locally and internationally for decades, Shearer explores practices related to listening to the earth through Māori and Western frameworks. She has received numerous public commissions for site-specific sound installations, including the permanent nine-channel sound installation The Flooded Mirror on the Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland waterfront.