Amy Howden-Chapman

Advice For Our Aerial Ocean

October 9 – November 8


Amy Howden-Chapman

Image of tape covered sign in Te Urewera, formally Te Urewera National park, on the day of transition from ownership by the Crown’s Department of Conservation to Te Urewera as a distinct legal personality with ownership over itself.



Through a series of new works Amy Howden-Chapman, uses sound, photographic images and architectural interventions to consider how language - metaphorical and legal - affects the way we think about natural resources. 


The Aerial Ocean is a metaphorical and poetic phrase first used by nineteenth-century evolutionist Alfred Russel Wallace to describe the atmosphere. The phrase captures the complexities of the atmosphere’s currents, and makes clear the atmosphere’s finite mass, and volatile nature as a functioning system. 


Advice For Our Aerial Ocean positions this metaphorical idea of the atmosphere in the New Zealand context, working with the conjecture that efforts to protect the atmosphere could be informed by the recent Waitangi Tribunal treaty processes that assigned ‘legal personalities’ to some natural resources. 


The new legal entity of Te Urewera means that the national park is owned neither by Tuhoe, nor the Crown, but has its own authority. Similarly, the Whanganui River has been recognized in New Zealand law as an interconnected ecosystem with its own legal rights. 


If rights for natural resource entities are valid and workable, how might this affect our understanding of the Aerial Ocean, a finite mass currently being negatively affected by an increasing concentration of co2 and other greenhouse gases which cause climate change?  

How might ventures like emissions trading schemes, which seek to limit pollution of our natural recourse through market mechanisms, be altered by the introduction of new, empowered resource entities? 


Amy Howden-Chapman was born in Wellington and lives in Los Angeles, USA. She has a MA in creative writing from Victoria University, and a MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. She Is co-founder of The Distance Plan, an organization that promotes discussion of climate change within the Arts. Her work has been exhibited widely in New Zealand and internationally, most recently by The Living Art Museum, Reykjavik, Iceland. She is currently the McCahon House artist in residence.