Arboretum: Rhizomatic Polynesia

Ian Clothier (Intercreate/Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki, Aotearoa New Zealand)

Projcect Website:

Arboretum: Rhizomatic Polynesia

“Like animals, plants require specific environmental conditions—such as the right temperature, moisture, and light levels—in order to thrive. Even small changes in environmental parameters can affect the reproduction and survival of a species. As global temperatures rise, both animal and plant populations are projected to gradually shift toward northern latitudes and upward to higher elevations where temperatures are cooler in order to stay within their ideal range of environmental conditions.”

Science Magazine

“The results of the analysis were unexpected. More than 60% of plants shifted their distributions downward, toward warmer, lower elevations—despite significant climate warming across the regions under study, the team reported online on 24 July in Global Change Biology. Even more striking, all plants within a region—regardless of species—moved in the same direction.

“Initially, we thought there was something wrong with our analysis—species distributions are expected to shift upward, not downward,” says team leader and plant ecologist Melanie Harsch. “But we redid the analysis and we got the same results.”

A closer look revealed that the downhill movement of plants was likely driven by the changes in precipitation that accompanied warming temperatures. Those regions that experienced less rain and snow at high elevations were those with plants shifting toward lower elevations with wetter climates. “Less snow in winter translates into less water in summer, resulting in water-stressed plants and downward shifts,” Harsch says.

Although plant populations are shifting downward toward greater water availability, they will also have to contend with an increasingly warming climate. “It’s a double-edged sword,” Harsch states, “as temperatures rise, water needs will also increase.”

Science Magazine

“… the timing of flowering in plants and breeding in birds – are generally more sensitive to temperature change, than to changes in rain and snowfall… According to the findings, published in journal Nature, plants and animals respond differently to temperature changes at different times of year and seasonal relationships between predators – such as insect-eating birds and plankton-eating fish – and their prey could be disrupted in the future.”

Plymouth Herald.

Images above are on the digital files sent to Balance-Unbalance 2017. Below is the work in process in the studio as originally visualised.

Incorporated into this small scale integrated system was a feather from the Piwakawaka or fantail, native to Aotearoa New Zealand.


Ian M Clothier is an artist and collaborator, curator, Research Director at Intercreate Research Centre; Senior Academic at Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki; co-founding Director of SCANZ (Solar Circuit Aotearoa New Zealand) with Trudy Lane, Adam Hyde and Nina Czegledy; and past board member of ISEA International.

A hybrid Polynesian, his DNA traces through Te Wai Pounamu (South Island, Aotearoa New Zealand), Norfolk Island, Pitcairn Island, Tahiti and Polynesian culture to Lapita; while other lines trace back through the Isle of Man, England, the Shetland Islands and Nordic countries.

His career extends to eighty five exhibitions in fourteen countries, along with twenty four publication credits. Recent curatorial projects include Water, Peace, Power 2016; Sharing the Waiwhakaiho (2015); SCANZ2015: water*peace; Media Art Projects 2014, and 3rd nature at Puke Ariki in 2013.

Since 2009 his projects have been selected for exhibitions including Diffrazione Festival Florence 2016, Balance-Unbalance 2016 Manizales, Festival of Lights New Plymouth 2016, A delicate balance: rongo taketake a taane Auckland 2015, Pacific Shortcuts Croatia 2014, Balance-Unbalance 2013 Noosa, Machine Wilderness ISEA 2012 Albuquerque, Uncontainable ISEA 2011 Istanbul Exhibition, Cultura Digital Rio de Janeiro, What if at Puke Ariki Museum New Zealand 2010 and ISEA 2009 Belfast Exhibition.

Balance-Unbalance 2017

Balance-Unbalance (BunB)
is an International Conference designed to use art as a catalyst to explore intersections between NATURE, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY and SOCIETY as we move into an era of both unprecedented ecological threats and transdisciplinary possibilities.

Today Upcoming Events

No upcoming events for today

15 Next Events

No upcoming events for today