Honeymoon Latte, 2016
Honeymoon Latte - Installation
MilkSpa - Performances
Mixed media installation
In Honeymoon Latte, and the performance MilkSpa, Gaby Montejo invites participants to consider the underlying cost of their milky coffee; asking ““Is it worth it?”, “To what end?” and “For the benefit of whom?”
The dairy sector is a major player in our land of milk and honey, whether you’re speaking ecologically, economically or culturally. It’s a lot to think about. Agriculture has vastly changed the landscape of Aotearoa. The country has seen the loss of nearly 75 percent of its native forest since the arrival of humans on its shores, and has a paltry 10 percent of its original wetlands remaining; much of the land cleared and drained to make way for farming.
Dairying contributes hugely to our economy; we’re the largest exporter of dairy world wide and we export 95 percent of our produce. It’s cheaper to buy New Zealand butter in the UK than it is here. Meanwhile, our lowland rivers are mostly unswimmable, with nitrate run offs from intensive farming often cited as key culprits in their degradation.
During the opening and select dates during the exhibition, the Honeymoon Latte installation is activated, hosting discussion about this pervasive issue that has the potential to bankrupt the whole country. It is a vessel for casual conversation to occur; participants in bathing suits start on equal footing. Montejo has invited a cross section of people with different stakes in the industry - ecologists, farmers, lawmakers and chefs. At certain times, anyone who has an opinion on or stake in dairy can enter the pool and be heard. In the gallery’s bathrooms one will find swimwear and robes provided for the public to use.
When the spa is closed, a projection shows a typical, idyllic scene of a dairy farm, sporadically interrupted by a commercial shoot of actors enjoying the spa. Montejo highlights milk’s luxury product status, satirising the dream lifestyle and prompting us to ask those difficult questions. With the fragility of our environment becoming evermore apparent, is the economic honeymoon nearly over?
Honeymoon Latte is a new commission for Precarious Nature.
Curators’ note: We acknowledge that mana whenua, mata-a-waka and other cultures and individuals may find the use of milk in this manner problematic. We considered this when programming the work and, after seeking advice from various parties and rigorous discussion, we have decided to go ahead with the work as we believe the message it conveys is worth the discomfort it may cause. We thank everyone for their understanding.
CoCa and Gaby Montejo would like to extend thanks to:
Steve Reekie and Nelson Byrd Woltz for image rights, Pep Merconchini for the soundtrack, Safety Sign Sales for Custom signage, Hirepool for the rental of a submersible pump, Dominion Flooring for the vinyl, Haka NZ for spare spa parts, and Crombie and Price for Soy Milk Powder
Listen to some of the MilkSpa discussions here.
Photo by Janneth Gil