Kim Pieters

the whiteness of the whale (2011)

1 hour 24 secSingle channel / Digital Video / Colour / Sound

the whiteness of the whale shows a wintery landscape: snow-covered fields; mountains; irrigation equipment; clear, crisp skies. The image oscillates between clarity and fuzziness and, over the course of the work’s full hour, shifts between abstraction and recognisable objects and views. At points, our vision is obscured by a grey bar that bisects the frame (the strut of a car’s windscreen? a fencepost?), which suggests that the camera is moving, traversing its subject.

Later, glimpses of a road indicate that we are watching the landscape through a car window. In an interview for CIRCUIT’s Thickness of Cinema symposium in 2018, Pieters talks about her process of amassing imagery, travelling around Otago and taking photos out of the car window “of whatever is going by and of course many shots of the places we end up in with their various moods”.

In this work, the sound by Stephen Clover ebbs and surges with the image. Long notes are held alongside the seething sound of waves. At thirty-six minutes, the sound changes to a staccato synth melody over top of a pulsing bass. The sound is a full-length album by Clover entitled Dead Bees.

the whiteness of the whale encourages a sustained look at a majestic landscape—so white, clean, and beautiful—whose brightness is, at times, almost unbearable. The title of this work, with its nod to Moby Dick and Captain Ahab’s obsession, references those scenes or objects that are unattainable, uncapturable, or that might exert a particular psychological pressure on the viewer. The white whale is here, perhaps, the mountainous sublime so close to Pieter’s home in Ōtepoti Dunedin.

Other works by Kim Pieters

CIRCUIT is the
leading voice
for artist moving image
in Aotearoa New Zealand,
distributing works,
critical review and
which reflect our unique, contemporary
South Pacific context.