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The Dam (O)

The Dam (O)

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  • Tue 4 Feb ’14, 9:30am – 4:30pm
  • Wed 5 Feb ’14, 9:30am – 7:00pm
  • Thu 6 Feb ’14, 9:30am – 7:00pm
  • Fri 7 Feb ’14, 9:30am – 7:00pm
  • Sat 8 Feb ’14, 4:00pm – 7:00pm
  • View all sessions


Nga Taonga Sound & Vision, 84 Taranaki St, Te Aro, Wellington


All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Free Admission


The Film Archive

Gavin Hipkins’ short film "The Dam (O)" - which showed at the Oberhausen Short Film Festival and New Zealand International Film Festival this year - begins its season at the Film Archive. "The Dam (O)" incorporates naturalist and abstracted footage from Auckland’s five dams built during the 1920s. Navigating the metaphor of the dam as a psychological block, this poetic film explores the potential of drama, absurdity, and suspense.

Hipkins has been labelled a tourist. He is a tourist in a literal sense: many of his earlier photographs were taken spontaneously on a cheap pocket camera traveling in New Zealand and abroad. Hipkins is also a tourist in the sense of the modernist tradition, experimenting with mediums and forms that draw attention to the materials and the processes he uses: he hitch-hikes between styles and art movements, referencing our relationship with the past, and challenging traditions of colonial representation and national identity on his journey.

Recently Hipkins made the transition from still photography to moving image. Elements of both self-consciously blur the lines of genre in "The Dam (O)."

Using footage shot at five dams built during the 1920’s in the Waitakere Ranges, a man wanders incongruously in his suit and tie. His physical journey is also a psychological journey. Like the protagonist in John Mulgan’s "Man Alone," he must overcome small obstacles on his way: take off his shoes and socks to cross a stream, and decide which railway track to follow. But he hits a psychological block; the dam.

The questions Hipkins postulates in "The Dam (O)" are driven by the distance tourism effects: the cultural and historical perspective to view things clearly. Is it in part our relationship with this place and its past that is the source of our displacement in this work? Our great kauri forests, of which this was one, were decimated by European settlement when the trees were felled and exported for timber and gum.

Standing on this precipice, with a view of our forebears and their real and imagined relationship to the land, their Romantic assertions of nationalism, and also with an understanding of what it means to be a contemporary New Zealander, Hipkin’s camera allows us to see who we are through a protean and multifaceted lens.

"The Dam (O)" stars leading New Zealand actor Matthew Sunderland.

Gavin Hipkins is an Auckland-based artist who works with photography and moving image. Since 2012 his films have been shown in galleries and festivals internationally, including: Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, Germany (2013); Armory Film, The Armory Show, New York (2012); Centre Pompidou, Paris Recontres Internationales: Nouveau Cinema & Art Contemporain (2011); The New Zealand International Film Festival (2011-13).

The film will be on display in the mediagallery from 29 November - 20 December 2013 and 13 January - 8 February 2014.

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