I am still alive.

Hello! Well I am now self employed so thought it was time for a post! I've left working as an academic to pursue my own business as a designer. It was a hard journey, I felt I'd put so much into trying to make the role work for me but at the end of the day I just don't think it was the right type of environment for a creative person like myself to work in. I felt constantly frustrated and held back, life is too short for that sort of vibe!

My business is called GemFire Design. I've built up a simple website and have started advertising locally. It is VERY strange not having a large list of jobs, and working alone. I am slowly getting used to it - trying not to get distracted by my cat, painting or the garden! It's funny cos it's like I'm allowed to be more real with myself and there's a greater emphasis on forging my own path - which is a new skill to learn. (though the process is more like learn-unlearn-learn) putting the fragments back to-get-her.

I've just completed a whole lot of paintings - enough for an exhibition I think! I've enrolled in a distance certificate in Landscape Design - pretty exciting!

So more of an update than anything else. So many words over the last few years, but I'd rather listen. X


Kia Ora. I havn't had much to reflect on lately, the last year has been more doing and enjoying the present moment. I've been trying to let things be - nulling my concern to record and document things, letting things fail and slip trusting that I will retain the important bits.

I spent the weekend in Wellington, where the NZFestival is on. The main reason (apart from a break form Dunedin) was to see Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch (Germany) perform CAFÉ MÜLLER / THE RITE OF SPRING. Wow, what a treat! I love Pina's choreo SO MUCH. The rite of spring was the the most epic thing I've seen in a long time - dirty, raw, cathartic, rhythmic, a thought provoking piece which materialised a raw sense of beauty. Pina's work is like watching a time lapse of the universe from birth to death. It mimics natural process and our place as humans in it, she works in-between. It's like glue, the message soars beyond the medium - but in a way that is through, the result of any good work.

On Saturday we went to Calexico. I've always wanted to see them play live, I adored the older songs. The crowd loved the more traditional latin numbers. The Wellington Opera House gallery was.. erm... interesting. Very hot, crowded and steep! Joey burns played an incredible solo, his voice like liquid gold. We then wondered round Cupadupa (Cuba street festival) which was the closest to a carnival I'm ever going to get. So many people, food smells and colourful things to see. The highlights for me were the bizzare monsters made out of tube balloons, and the non-electrical carnival rides down at the waterfront.

Sometimes I feel that people take themselves too seriously down south. I swear I saw more smiles in Wellington than in a year in Dunedin. There's a critical vibe down here that can be hard to escape...especially when it's not sunny.

Something I continue to look forward to is gardening. My garden is finally shaping up to what I envisioned - I spend time thinking about what I'll do next. My cacti collection has grown to the point where I've run out of room. I've started growing cacti seed as it's near impossible to get much of a selection down here. I've started a visual diary to record various things botanical in nature. I still see myself working more closely with the environment one day, but until then I have the weekends.

Teaching has been fun lately. I always get nervous, this is something that doesn't seem to lessen with time no matter how much my confidence grows but I continue to try to challenge myself, because I think it's important. A highlight of 2015 was delivering a workshop for "Design for Social Change" at Transforming Feminisms. The conference was rad - a breath of fresh air compared to others. It was nice to deliver a workshop with a template that each participant could fill out to help them realise their own communication solution to a complex social problem. The feedback was really positive. It felt more concrete than just showcasing 'the ideal'. It's been on my list to film and upload the workshop - watch this space. I will continue to work in this area.. somehow..

Recently I collaborated with Hahna Briggs on 'Solo Community' for the annual Fringe Festival. Another thing I have yet to folio... I helped her pick the music based on the wave of her 5 solo pieces and then I created a 30 minute BW video montage whcih we projected across the entire set. It was quick and fun and we ended up winning best dance. Here's a wee gif of the poster (I love making gifs)

Here's a rough clip of paint doing it's thing.

'Positive' Design

This is a quick and easy goodie with some very important facts that every designer should be aware of.

The increasing importance of Zoom

It seems to me that a lot of issues in Higher Education fester in the gap between theory and practice. Good research should amalgamate these dichotomies, fleshing out the problem space, creating bridges which often come in the form of models or frameworks. The scaffolding differs depending on the context. It's scaffolding none the less.

I am not convinced that theory and practice are mutually exclusive to begin with, I think there are more similarities than differences. We cannot talk about theory without practice and vice versa, yet setting them up as dichotomies forms a problem space to work in which is very convenient for us (if not self perpetuating)

Filtering happens all the time, the problem I feel lies here - in linguistics, semiotics, ontology, epistemology - in perception, sense making and communication. Often when I read academic lit. this is what sticks out to me like a sore thumb, it doesn't matter what the subject area. I hate that these things are skimmed over as a precursor to the argument - and not the argument itself.

Post modernism acknowledged the complexity associated with culture, truth making and judgement criteria. Modernism on the other hand offers a notion of truth that seems hard to resist, idealistically.

The invention of 'Zoom' allows us to explore both these frameworks, their relationship with a single lens simultaneously. We need to start conceptualising and communicating in layers, whilst keeping the complex clear by utilising the device of zoom. Zoom can be seen as a tool which can help us communicate micro, miso and macro levels of information with ease, because, really, everyone wants to see different pictures of the same bigger picture.

ecological queer thinking?


It has been a while since I have posted. Life has been full, I've been working away - designing odd jobs, setting myself up for the year ahead, growing tomatoes, dealing with anxiety, soaking up the sun, listening to the new Beck, Bjork, Sleater-Kinney and Father John Misty albums (all great by the way).

I was wondering what it would take for me to write another post...

The recent happenings at Auckland Pride. 

What occurred is important in a global context and more important in a national one. I'm not going to attempt to describe it all here, I'd probably just add to a secondary or tertiary misrepresentation (I wasn't there). I feel like my pals comic sums it up.

On a much broader level, I try to identify the problem. The problem space is something I've always grappled with, and never really found a term for. Aspects of sociobiology have helped me visualise the problem space. Linguistically, words which come to mind seem to be framed by the relationship between concepts/ideologies on one end of the spectrum and their 'opposing' force on the other end.


inclusion < > exclusion
majority < > minority
in < > out
individual < > community
rich < > poor
and so on.

The 'evolutionary' ideas offered largely by Dawkins, in particular, I think are politically apt at this time for Aeoteroa. For example, the recent 'right' to marry can be seen as a cultural meme within the above problem space. How does this 'gene' affect our .. queer webbing ? how do we react to it as cultural capital? and how does that in turn affect the way we see ourselves? 

Likely, I need to read more queer theory, political stuffs and social theory to find the terminology I am seeking. But it seems that I am not alone in trying to make sense of our shifting. It's almost like the queer community in NZ is a tectonic plate.

I even react to writing 'the queer community of NZ' as there seems to be multiple fractures within the plate itself. This isn't necessarily a bad thing (I don't believe that a 'fracture' is negative) But when 'Pride' take place, and aims to front itself as a unified thing of 'yayness'.. and those fractures aren't recognised/respected/seen allowed then they are gonna rumble.

And rumbling is what we have. I say, thank you!! it seems without this kind of existential/ activist approach to things we wouldn't be pre-empted into even having these conversations or reflections. This kind of  'she'll be right, we're all good' mentality is the type of shit kiwis seem to be quite keen on. It's docile. It's myth supported, it's unrealistic, traditional, deluded and often enforced by those in power - the privileged.

Well fuck that.

Activism is an integral part of our his/hers/trans/tories. It helps move us. It assists our place in this evolutionary organic and complex space.

Dunedin is lucky to have Ryan Conrad visiting, he will be creating discussions around Equality - Liberating the queer political imagination.  You can see the detes of Against Equality on the Facebook page.  Perhaps he will offer some insights into all this. Ryan asks "What is equality? are we seeking to be equal to the way the straight world does things? Why would I seek to be equal to systems, traditions and institutions that historically and presently oppress people? Why would you want to be equal to that?"

There's lots of reasons why, but where do those reasons really come from?

As an organiser of Dunedin Pride, I feel a huge responsibility to create space/s that allow dialectical oppositions - but also feel safe enough. This is a privileged position. We must never forget that this stuff is very personal and emotionally triggering. We must react to and nurture our horrible statistics. As with anything, our space is in constant flux, and growing. Let's build from bottom up, together. So. let's take pride in this - In our work, in our creative selves and all those before and after us.  Viva la queer revolution. 

A design for life

(( My gift post from 'blog secret santa' many thanks to whoever wrote it! <3 ))..

Ford Bridge Cable car Ferry

Ways to cross gaps and obstacles. They've all been used to cross bodies of water.

Tunnelling is unusual in that it requires a tougher challenge in moving earth and spoil which has a density and weight above that of the water being crossed.

In London, England, there is a crossing that joins the North and South parts of East London. Named Blackwall, it is made up of not one but two tunnels, each bore created some 70 years apart. The southbound bore, opened in 1967, contains sweeping curves and elegant turns as it meanders from North to South. The northbound tunnel was designed some 100 years earlier and opened in 1897. As you enter the tunnel you see evidence of its Victorian roots; polished ceramic tiles which reach some 300 metres into the void.

What is also noticeable is the space inside the tunnel. The northbound bore is squat and angular when compared to its more recent partner. This manifests itself in a restriction over the height of vehicles which use the tunnel, even to the extent that only vehicles up to 4m in height are allowed to use it and the right hand lane is limited to vehicles under 2.8m.

The tunnel heads North in a much more stilted way. The Victorian bore is navigated by a number of short straights and angular turns which force the traffic to slow and carefully make their way through the tunnel. As a result, it is not unusual to be caught in queues of 2-3km on the approach to the tunnel as the sheer weight of traffic trying to make its way to the north of the river far exceeds the capacity of the crossing .

The stark contrast in the design of the tunnels demonstrates the design thinking of their time. The 60s tunnel was built for the management of motor vehicles and the Northern end of this bore has a distinctive clover leaf design to sweep motor vehicles in and out of the tunnel as efficiently as possible. The Victorian tunnel was first mooted in the late 1870s when transport was on foot and horse drawn carriage. It has been suggested that the sharp turns in the original tunnel were put in place as a measure to prevent horses from bolting on catching sight of daylight in the gaslit gloom.

What the tunnels also demonstrate is a lack of forethought in the design thinking at the time. It would be almost impossible for the Victorian designers to understand to consider the scale of usage of the northbound tunnel by motor vehicles. Similarly, the southbound bore experiences delays on a daily basis, mostly in the evening, as more than 100,000 vehicles attempt to travel to south East London, Kent, and beyond. The tunnel was designed to carry less than half that on a daily basis.

A contraflow arrangement was put into pace to ease congestion from 1978 but this was abandoned in 2007 as the priorities of the planners changed. We are now living in a moment in time where the use of the motor vehicle is being restricted and large cities, such as London, are considering a number of alternative travel and commuting options as part of wider transportation plans.

So what's a designer to do? Is design a question of the now, the next, the near future, or the far future? Is it reasonable to expect people to condone far future design without having a basis in reality?


Dunedin has recently 'won'  ultra-fast broadband.
1 Gigabit per second, that is the ability to download one gigabyte in 8 seconds.

The city also receives:
- a development fund of $200,000 fund provided to support entrepreneurs and innovators taking new services to market.
- a community fund of $500,000 fund to kick start community related developments that showcase how gigabit infrastructure and UFB can be activated for social good.

I wont bother going into the format of the competition, cos, it's over, thank god. Needless to say it was a horrible year long campaign - wrought with annoying #hashtag invasions and massive amounts of advertising for chorus. In the end though, it seems that Dunedin businesses and the city's council spend of $300,000 if justified (only because we won) can't diss a $200,000 profit.

Ok, so cool, yay UFB for all right? well no. From what I can find it all seems pretty unclear as to the details of how the fibre will roll out. But as it sits currently, to find out if you are in an ultra fast broadband area you can take a look here.

I am not in the zone (pah). For my area Opoho it says "UFB fibre up to 200 Mbps between Jul-2018 and Jun-2019". Admittedly, it seems UFB for local consumers was never really the focus (although conveniently not mentioned) - schools, medical centres and businesses are the priority.

Here's why I don't care about this (in a naive venn) 

We seem to have forgotten that the internet is not a one way highway. It is a global quagmire of mixed infustrature, technologies, softwares, policies and gatekeeping by Internet Service Providers (who will likely cap the speed) the vision of 5G is a hell of a lot more complex than fibre upgrade.

This from the Chorus website:
"The Giga-town Wholesale Service will have a headline downstream speed of 1 Gigabit per second (1Gbps) across the Chorus access network. The headline speed is the peak speed attain-able in the access network, but is not necessarily representative of the actual speeds that the end user will receive all the time. The maximum upstream or downstream line speed the Gigatown Wholesale Service can support on the end user's line may be limited by a number of factors."

these limiting 'factors' chorus lists as:
- the service and plan offered by the broadband provider
- wiring in the home or office
- equipment and devices
- the applications being used
- the internet beyond the access network (including how the broadband pro-vider has configured its backhaul network); and
- content sources (for example the performance of equipment such as servers at the remote destination).

It is the 5th point there that my 'us' and 'them' diagram refers to. Even if my household could get the giga, I'd be relying on slow tron outside of this mini fast zone. (also lets not forget that existing fibre already covers the entire CBD and a large amount of the city)

So, at this point in time, what we have 'won' I am seeing as a really fast Intranet.

Still, the advantages are pretty huge, thoughts like this come to mind:
- Dunedin as innovator towards 'the internet of things' (has it's own pro's and cons) basically our city can become a testing environment so the advantages of super fast wi-fi.
- synchronous storytelling/events (i.e. ultra-HD in real time) (this would be cool for arts)
- local service devices such as social networking, or smart transport.
- 3D images and cloud services

.. the list goes on. Now, unless you are blind these are what could be massive advantages for research linked to the university, start up businesses and innovative software developments in prep for 5G design.

So how's it gone elsewhere?

You can make your own mind up about Chattanooga in Tennessee, it was one of the first cities to roll out giga fibre and this has said to of been credited with playing a role in attracting a swell of economic investment into Chattanooga, including the expansion of Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant and the establishment of Amazon.com facilities.
The city has also seen the creation of a digital innovation centre that is driving development of next generation fibre applications. Is Chattanooga a smart city? Could Dunedin be NZ's first smart city?

So, what's up with 5G? (5th generation wireless systems) is it even a 'thing' ?
It seems that in South Korea it is - "Bullet trains around the world keep getting faster, with some in China running as fast as 500kmh and 600kmh," a ministry official, who declined to be named, told AFP in Seoul. "If we have the technology to allow fast internet access in these trains, it can open new opportunities for us globally.” 

hold up you say...but...dunedin doesn't have bullet trains...

5G is more than just speed, and as a designer this is what excites me. In BBC tech news Prof Rahim Tafazolli who is the lead at the UK's multimillion-pound government-funded 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey emphasises  "5G will be a dramatic overhaul and harmonisation of the radio spectrum. That means the opportunity for properly connected smart cities, remote surgery, driverless cars and the "internet of things".   ah ha! this is the big picture thinking. Not to be pessimistic here, but I seriously doubt Dunedin can imitate this, but hey why not think big?

Gigabit services will be made available in Dunedin by the end of February 2015, and with support from Chorus, from there it will be up to the Dunedin community to "leverage all of the benefits that gigabit fibre infrastructure has to offer."

Sounds cherry.

So Dunedin, get ready to update your router and start thinking about 6g in 2040.

Le Cirque des Voleurs (Circus of Thieves)

I painted this piece for an upcoming show. Le Cirque des Voleurs (Circus of Thieves) a two night rock and roll circus with a dark twist. Really, I just kept the idea of 'circus' in mind. It was fun.

Also did the poster: