(TO) INDICATE

Winter Seminar, July 2020

Isabella Young, (To) Indicate, 2020. Winter Seminar Installation. Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland, Aotearoa, New Zealand: Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design.
Isabella Young, (To) Indicate, 2020. Winter Seminar Installation. Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland, Aotearoa, New Zealand: Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design.

My work seeks to explore an entangled set of relations with weather phenomena in order to generate work. Rising environmental instability and disaster fuel my concerns surrounding our global climatic condition and provoke questions around agency, relationships and co-existence with nature.

(To) Indicate is a site-responsive work that investigates the atmospheric quality within Aotearoa, New Zealand, with specific focus on rainfall and air borne pollutants. Critical research into local and global atmospheric quality through field-based observation, conversation, reading and engagement with the NIWA database provides pivotal insight for my work as I am producing it.


During the national level 4 lockdown from March 25th to May 1st 2020, fundamental changes occurred in the pattern of air quality of Aotearoa. A significant decrease of anthropogenic emissions were observed and recorded by NIWA between March and June of 2020, recording the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrous oxide (NO), particulate matter (PM2.5, PM10) and sulfur dioxide (SO2). Following the chemical processes that occur as these emissions condense onto water molecules (H2O) within the sky, they fall to Earth as precipitation and can be measured through quality testing.

At the weather station and painting site of my home in Kaipātiki (-36.805, 174.750, about 8 km NW from central Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland), rainwater has been collected since March 2020 on a 14 day sampling basis. The testing of pH, a measure of acidity, has been taken using bromothymol blue drops as colour indication alongside a digital reader.

Two monochromatic paintings have been created during active rainfall on the same day of their indicative sample. A process of site-responsive outdoor painting enables weather phenomena to become active in the formation of the work; precipitation can interact with the painting, producing traces of its own materialisation whilst manifesting atmospheric processes. Colour of each work has been closely matched to reference the pH indicated through the bromothymol blue drops. 

Installation involves the mounting of a pivoting apparatus to each painting, otherwise employed to support weather instruments. This enables the work to become operational in exhibition and not only in its production, in this way, the work moves beyond the decorative to be deployed.

An essential connection is made between sensing, observing, engaging with specific phenomena and its documentation. There is a tension in my work between observation and operation, activity and passivity. References to meteorological instruments and antennae whether through drawing, sketching or display structures deepen an investigation of the parallels that may be drawn between myself within my own art-making process and to the capturing function of weather apparatus.

Isabella Young, (To) Indicate, 2020. Winter Seminar Installation. Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland, Aotearoa, New Zealand: Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design.

Isabella Young, 20th April 2020, pH 7.1, 5.4 mm, 2020. Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland, Aotearoa, New Zealand: Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design.

Isabella Young, 3rd Ma2020, pH 6.7, 1.6 mm, 2020. Detail shot; showing the backing of the canvas frame, mount fixtures and pH indication strip (of Bromothymol blue drops).