Landscape is central to representations of New Zealand’s national identity. From ‘Clean Green New Zealand’ to the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’, cultural associations of New Zealand appear inherently tied into the physical qualities of the land. Narratives of the landscape are central the history of New Zealand, from Captain Cook’s first sighting of the Poverty Bay coastline to the New Zealand Land Wars and the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. New Zealand is also geographically isolated, cast off to the far reaches of the South Pacific and secluded from the rest of the world. This isolation has allowed a unique environment to flourish; one of sublime landscapes, immense natural variety and unique native wildlife.
These cultural and historic experiences of the land pervade the psyche of the post-colonial nation and are the foundation of many national narratives and anxieties in popular culture. The landscape is recognised globally for its natural beauty, yet it is also alienating and a place of fear and danger, both physically and psychologically. It is vast, yet the mountains and dense bush render it claustrophobic. Large regions of the immense landscape are empty and appear untouched, yet they are filled with the ‘ghosts’ of past events; evident in the photographic works of New Zealand photographers, including Ann Shelton, Laurence Aberhart and Gavin Hipkins.
These landscapes appear to form a visual engagement with the New Zealand Gothic, which although is an established genre of theory as a subgenre of the gothic; until recently the New Zealand Gothic has been applied almost exclusively to film and literature. Synonymously known as the ‘Kiwi Gothic’, the New Zealand Gothic places an emphasis on the land, both on the surface and the unknown that lies beneath, in addition to the possibilities of these elements of the supressed unknown breaking through. The theory acknowledges the innate hauntedness of the landscape and actively plays on the anxieties and dangers caused by it, in addition to the colonial fears arising from the visual foreignness of the land. These anxieties of the land simultaneously suggest feelings of familiarity and alienation, aligning with Sigmund Freud’s theory of the unheimlich. Freud’s term the unheimlich corresponds to feelings of being out-of-place or of a place appearing to be un-homelike. William Schafer contends that a period of hauntedness is necessary to the identity formation of young countries such as New Zealand and that ‘the entrance to the former heim is through the unheimlich’.
Suggestions of anxieties stemming from the land appear to be prevalent in the history of New Zealand as a settler nation, with the landscape presiding over European fears. Schafer states that there is an unconscious cultural link between Pākehā and Māori that is a belief in the hauntedness of the landscape. Furthermore, Schafer suggests that the fear is unique to Pākehā as Māori possess an ‘at-homeness’ through their own history, culture and mythology. However, Robert Leonard adds that the Gothic can be found in the art of all cultures, including Māori; exemplified by Lisa Reihana’s Digital Marae photographic series, however these concerns manifest in different, culturally specific ways.
Since its inception, the Gothic as a genre has given way to many subgenres, each with their own distinctive characteristics and concerns deriving from the parent genre. This division and exploration has allowed for the emergence of the New Zealand Gothic, as traces of Anglo-European Gothic concerns evident in film and literature have been cultivated and developed within the idiosyncratic culture of the isolated antipodean nation. Scholar Jennifer Lawn remarks that the Gothic is “endemic to New Zealand’s self-representation” with wild landscapes, isolated communities and death haunting the images and texts of the young settler county. New Zealand fashion designer Karen Walker agrees with the pervasive nature of New Zealand’s hauntedness, commenting that “there’s a heavy, ominous, slightly restrained kind of feel and I think that comes from our culture and our landscape and just the personality of the country. There’s a heaviness to it”.
The so-called ‘Kiwi Gothic’ retains elements of the traditional Gothic, such as the emphasis on setting and playing on cultural anxieties, however, they have been translated into themes that are culturally and historically specific to New Zealand. Given the colonial past, conflict over settlement rights, the environmental uniqueness of the landscape and the fact that New Zealand was uninhabited until Maori arrived around 1300 AD, the land itself is as central to the New Zealand Gothic as it is pivotal in retelling the nation’s birth, growth and history. Even if only subconsciously, the land and its physical, visceral qualities infiltrate everyday life in New Zealand through seismic activity, volcanoes, mud pools and the varied but sublime landscapes. Kavka notes that the Gothic landscape infiltrates suburban living in the guise of tree roots; roots representing history, the past and ultimately native life, and that possess an uncanny manner of invading homes, disrupting sewerage systems and therefore ensuring the return of repressed waste.
This conflict between the past and the present found in tropes of the ‘Kiwi Gothic’ stems from New Zealand’s colonial history and the alienation settlers experienced upon encountering the sublime landscape and sub-tropical climate. During the mid-nineteenth century, migration was encouraged by the New Zealand Company based in London, in order to intensively colonise New Zealand. Many British people however, were reluctant to relocate due to fears of the wild, exotic land and ‘its reputation as a home of bloodthirsty cannibals’. In response to this reluctance, the New Zealand Company promoted New Zealand as a ‘Britain of the south’ with immaculate pastures and fertile lands, commissioning paintings to demonstrate its potential for prosperous farming opportunities. The realities faced by migrants when they arrived were often the opposite, with steep mountains, dense bush and a sense of alienation from this un-homelike land.
Consequently, these Gothic concerns are rarely depicted from a Māori or Pacific Islander perspective, suggesting this type of alienation is not a concern within these cultural contexts, although like Europeans, they also originated from other lands and therefore potentially encounter different types of alienation. Schafer suggests that both Māori and Pākehā New Zealanders are concerned with the apparent hauntedness or un-homeliness of the landscape, but it is the difference in fundamental cultural traditions and customs that transform these concerns into anxieties for Pākehā Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital suggests that power and understanding are gained through knowledge, with those who have access to certain cultural assets gaining power. Therefore, indigenous cultures including Māori, have access to mythology, traditions and ancestry that makes sense of the land, for example through creation narratives such as Rangi and Papa, from which Pākehā are largely excluded due to a lack of cultural connection to the land.
It is this initial Eurocentric ambivalence in recognising the familiar aspects of the land that disrupts the idea of home and creates an unheimlich or uncanny response to the land as represented in many photographic landscapes, which can be interpreted as a manifestation of searching for home or the familiar. Sigmund Freud’s essay The Uncanny (1919) explores the notion of the unheimlich, which describes a familiar or homelike place that simultaneously presents as un-homelike or uncanny. This double reaction to a place is mirrored by the importance Freud places on visual doubling and repetition, a key feature in Ann Shelton’s work, which he describes as “a preservation against extinction”. Gothic theorist Allan Lloyd-Smith notes that Freud’s use of the term heimlich to denote the familiar (the opposite of the unheimlich) also has a double meaning of alluding to concealment. Therefore, Freud’s uncanny can be explained as a familiar place which is momentarily perceived as unfamiliar, due to an unexpected revelation about that place which may correspond to feelings of fear and anxiety.
Further to Freud’s notion of the uncanny, Martin Heidegger suggests that the unheimlich is not limited to a feeling of the unfamiliar but can be interpreted as actually being unfamiliar. As such the uncanny, within a Gothic framework, can refer to the notion of being unfamiliar in a familiar place following a discovery of concealed knowledge of that place. This idea of the familiar turned into the unhemlich is central to Schafer’s writings on the New Zealand Gothic and its Eurocentric focus, stating that ‘in the process of self-definition, cultures need to pass through a stage of hauntedness’ and that this hauntedness is built from Gothic concerns. Therefore, in order to gain a distinctive home identity, cultures must acknowledge the anxieties that cause national concern and embrace them as part of the process of identity formation. Furthermore, Schafer argues that Gothic concerns are less prevalent in causing anxiety within Māori culture due to the concept of tūrangawaewae. Tūrangawaewae refers to a concept that translates into English as ‘a place to stand’ and is often used to highlight a connection between people and the land, as such it can be viewed as a potential equivalent to the heimlich. However, tūrangawaewae regards the land as tapu or ‘sacred’. Tapu is a complex concept that simultaneously refers to notions of ‘holiness’ and things that are ‘forbidden’, and dictates relationships between people and the land. Consequently, this concept highlights Māori awareness of the complexities of the land is considered as an acceptance of them.
Schafer’s argument suggests that due to the recent history of European settlement in New Zealand and the drastic diversity in topography and environment, Pākehā are more susceptible to the misrecognition of the landscape and being uncanny within it. The distinctive stylistic features of Shelton, Aberthart and Hipkin’s landscapes appear as if viewing the landscape as the scene of a crime, suggesting an uncanny relationship between the artist and the landscape as well as confronting the viewer with an unfamiliar way of viewing the land. This unfamiliarity and susceptibility follows the limited time European settlers have had in which to establish a history and ancestry connecting them to the land compared with the arrival of Māori settlers several hundred years earlier.
The unheimlich place, the unfamiliar home that is necessary to the identity formation of cultures and their connection to the land, is also “the entrance to the former heim”. This suggests that the concealed knowledge that is key to the unheimlich is repressed information, and in order to be ‘at peace’ and at home, it must be acknowledged. Schafer comments that fears and anxieties are of equal importance to identity formation as rationally informed feelings, and that the repression of the apparent hauntedness of the New Zealand landscape is what must be acknowledged to enable an at-homeness. This hauntedness extends beyond supernatural ghost stories of ghouls roaming the landscape and can be explained as the traumas that have existed within the landscape such as murder, violence, abuse and madness. These commonplace but taboo traumas are prevalent in the history of New Zealand, but like many other contemporary issues, they are often repressed or covered up to distance the self from fear. In order to find the home within the unheimlich place that claimed numerous lives and witnessed the suffering of many more, these traumas must be brought out of the closet and acknowledged and remembered.
The landscape is a source of cultural anxiety within literature, film and urban legends in New Zealand as a direct consequence of colonial encounters with the land. It represents both the unheimlich encounter of the initial Eurocentric encounter with the land, in addition to the subsequent traumas experienced by native flora and fauna and by the indigenous Māori population. Consequently, an engagement with photographs that draw attention to the sublime, untamed landscape suggests a return of the repressed anxieties that it is home to.
New Zealand is fêted around the world for its unique and distinctive landscape. From the expansive white sandy beaches at the tip of the North Island, to the immense glaciers that line the West coast of the South Island, with sweeping plains, vast mountain ranges and impervious bush-lands in between, the topography is diverse in its extremes. As within most cultures, the landscape is an important feature in New Zealand art history, both past and present. However, the idiosyncrasy of the New Zealand photographic landscape tradition lies in the foundations of landscape art being distinctly ‘un-Kiwi’.
The landscape is a dominant feature in New Zealand art with an historic trajectory traversing the media of painting, film and photography from the colonial period to the present. The formalistic aspects of New Zealand’s self-representation have been described by art historian William Mitchell as having “a contradiction built into it from the very first. How could New Zealand present itself as a unique place with its own national identity, while at the same time representing itself with conventions borrowed from European landscape representations?”. This suggestion, that the landscape is simultaneously essential to New Zealand’s national identity, while also appearing as a palimpsest of the established European landscape tradition, which is evident in the works of early colonial painters such as Augustus Earle and John Alexander Gilfillan. Many of these landscapes introduce stylistic features of the European tradition and are painted with British foliage such as oak trees and flat pastures instead of the ferns, cabbage trees and undulating topography of New Zealand. Consequently, the initial landscape art of New Zealand does not reflect the true nature or culture of the land.
Following the introduction of photography and the subsequent transition in which photography has replaced painting as the principal form of landscape documentation, contemporary New Zealand photographers including Ann Shelton, Laurence Aberhart and Mark Adams have produced a distinctive stylistic approach to imaging the land; reflective of the country’s idiosyncratic history and the cultural diversity of its inhabitants. Furthermore, this distinctive stylistic quality appears to directly engage with tropes of the kiwi gothic.
One frequently shared characteristic of contemporary New Zealand landscape photography is the unpopulated aspect of such images, exemplified by many works of Ann Shelton and Mark Adams; with many of their works focus on documenting isolate and unpopulated regions of native bushland that are untamed and perhaps untameable. This focus suggests a sense of gothic unease as the artists have selected to demonstrate an encounter with the untamed land that was once a source of anxiety for colonial settlers. However, by photographing the land in this way, the artists force an acknowledgement of the past and subsequently, the past traumas associated with the land, resulting in an uncanny encounter with the home landscape.
Uncanny reminders of unease associated with the past are also present in works that are unpopulated but have an implied presence of domesticity. This is demonstrated in many works by Marti Friedlander and Laurence Aberhart. Of particular note is Friedlander’s famous work Eglington Valley, 1970; a black and white photograph in which a herd of sheep appear to emerge from a cloud of fog on a narrow hill road. The image looks like a scene from a horror film, yet it demonstrates an encounter with a key element of New Zealand’s national identity – sheep. This is significant as it suggests an attempt to tame landscape through domesticity, however the viewer is still distanced from the land through the unfamiliarity of the black and white rural landscape. Like Friedlander, Aberhart works almost exclusively in black and white, but focuses on buildings, memorials and the empty landscape with a technique that is reminiscent of nineteenth-century photography through the use of prolonged exposures. Robert Leonard describes Aberhart’s practice as “referencing photography, colonial history and death, he has photographed New Zealand as ‘the scene of a crime’”. It is this contrast between the unpopulated landscape with an implied human presence that aligns with concerns of the Kiwi gothic, as it creates an atmosphere of unease as it juxtaposes the past with the present, with the past represented through old buildings and memorials still presiding over the land.
The use of black and white or sepia tones is a recurring stylistic element of New Zealand landscape photography. This choice is notable in some works of Anne Noble, in addition to Friedlander and Aberhart, and suggests an anachronistic gaze across the landscape, reflective of this historic unease between Pākehā and the land. Furthermore, the sharp contrasts and dominance of dark tones provides an interesting juxtaposition against the light-filled early paintings of Augustus Earle. While not all of these artists use black and white film exclusively, and others such as Ann Shelton appear not to at all, the dominance of this colour format in contemporary landscape practice suggests it is endemic to New Zealand’s self-reflexive gaze. This gaze is one of unease and distance, and the use of black and white film is suggestive of looking back at the landscape as a relic of the past rather than as home to the vibrant and culturally diverse urbanisation of twenty-first century New Zealand; thus, this distances the current self from the past land and consequently the anxieties of the past.
A further distinctive feature of many of these photographs is the division of the landscape into diptychs, triptychs and friezes. This is most notable in many of Ann Shelton’s works, wherein the landscape is not only presented as a diptych, but as an inverted diptych of the same view, reflected in on itself; a feature reminiscent of the gothic double. Shelton’s 2007 series, Public Places, documents cultural anxieties; abstract fears that simultaneously stem from the land yet have no concrete place and assume the form of urban myths specific to New Zealand. These landscapes form a visual engagement with the New Zealand Gothic as they produce and reproduce the source of gothic anxiety – the landscape – and disturb conventional viewing, creating an element of the uncanny in a literal sense. Although not exclusively landscape-focused Gavin Hipkins, described by Leonard as a successor of Aberhart, also explores themes of nationhood, identity and unease in his series The Homely (1997-2000), which he has explained as “a postcolonial Gothic novel”. Like Shelton, Hipkins creates a sense of the uncanny through the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated, unordered images opposed to Shelton’s technique of doubling.
While not dealing with the landscape explicitly, several other contemporary New Zealand artists working in a plethora of media are also engaging with these same gothic themes of death, identity, place and unease. These artists include Peter Madden, Fiona Pardington, Vincent Ward and Maddie Leach. The dominance of such themes among many contemporary New Zealand artists suggests that there is an endemic gothic sensibility, perhaps stemming from the traumas of New Zealand’s colonial past and its effects within the landscape. Consequently, there appears to be an emerging distinctive gothic style to New Zealand’s self-representation through landscape photography. This distinctive style, with many shared features across many contemporary photographers, is one that invokes the threatening unheimlich landscape encountered by colonial migrants. However, this unique style of photography is significant as it demonstrates a distinctively ‘Kiwi’ approach to self-representation and thus a marked departure from early landscapes which followed the European tradition.
This ubiquitous style is one of sublime landscapes that are unpopulated, but hint that attempts to tame the land have been made through domestic landmarks. Often captured in black and white, or the frame segmented and divided, in many such photographs the landscape is distanced from the viewer as being presented as unfamiliar. By photographing the land in this way, as if the scene of an historic crime, the innate gothic nature of the landscape is revealed, forcing an encounter and ultimately an acceptance of the land and its associated history. The black and white aesthetic that dominates contemporary New Zealand landscape photography also forces a confrontation with the past. It is this past and the traumas that the land still harbours that are the sources of anxiety, as it suggests a return of the repressed truth of the horrors of colonisation.
It would appear that the root of the fear inducing, infiltrating colonial abjection of the land and its history, lies in the reluctance of New Zealanders to view the unheimlich landscape as the home landscape. This is reflected in the distinctive photographic style that has emerged in contemporary New Zealand art, of photographing the land as a relic from the past, cut off from the present through complex framing of empty landscapes, often documented in black and white; it is this unheimlich landscape that is a reminder of the unease associated with colonialism and the traumas enacted on the land and its people as a consequence.
Following the initial misrepresentation apparent in early depictions of the New Zealand landscape, the true reality of the landscape and of how New Zealander’s perceive the land has been overlooked until documented by contemporary landscape photographers. This new approach to documenting the land and acknowledging its haunted past brings the landscape into contemporary culture and as such, the unheimlich can no longer be avoided or repressed. Instead it must be acknowledged, visited and made a part of history as a whole, rather than subjected to sinister historical accounts. Most importantly, it must be acknowledged as part of New Zealand, its landscape and home.
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 I. Conrich, ‘New Zealand Gothic’, in A New Companion to the Gothic, ed. by D. Punter (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), p.393.
 Andrew Smith, Gothic Radicalism: Literature, Philosophy and Psychoanalysis in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Macmillan Press, 2000), p.7.
 William John Schafer, Mapping the Godzone: A Primer on New Zealand Literature and Culture (USA: University of Hawaii,1998), p.141.
 Schafer, p.137.
 In Te Reo Māori, Pākehā refers to individuals of European descent.
 Robert Leonard, ‘Hello Darkness: New Zealand Gothic, Art and Australia, 47.1 (2008), 88-95.
 J. Lawn, ‘Introduction: Warping the Familiar’, in Gothic NZ: The Darker Side of Kiwi Culture, ed. by M. Kavka, J. Lawn, and M. Paul (Otago: Otago University Press, 2006), p.11; Conrich, p.393.
 Michael Fitzgerald, ‘Southern Gothic: Karen Walker’s Edgy Designs Reflect the Darker Tones of Her Native New Zealand’, Time International, 153.20 (1999), p.60.
 Tom Brooking, The History of New Zealand (Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004), p.12.
 Conrich, p.394.
 M. Kavka, ‘Out of the Kitchen Sink’, in Gothic NZ: The Darker Side of Kiwi Culture, ed. by M. Kavka, J. Lawn and M. Paul (Otago: Otago University Press, 2006), p.58.
 The New Zealand Company was established in 1840 by the British government as an immigration agency, assisting and promoting migration to New Zealand; Jock Phillips, History of Immigration: British Immigration and the New Zealand Company. Te Ara, updated 2013, <http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/history-of-immigration/3> [accessed 19 September 2015].
 Charles Hursthouse, New Zealand, the Britain of the South (London: Stanford, 1861), p.50; Wilfred David Borrie, Immigration to New Zealand, 1854-1938 (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1991), p.10.
 New Zealand artist Janet Lilo, who is of Māori, Samoan and Niuean decent, uses a similar technique of multiplying and mirroring the landscape in her recent video instillation Beneath the Radar in Auckland Art Gallery’s 2012, Home AKL exhibition. Lilo’s landscape depicts urban Auckland opposed to Shelton’s rural scenes, suggesting different cultural concerns.
 Schafer, p.137.
 Karen Robson, ‘Teenage Time Use as Investment in Cultural Capital’, in Quantifying Theory: Pierre Bourdieu, ed. by K. Robson and C. Sanders (Ontario: Springer , 2009), pp.106-7.
 In Māori folklore Rangi (the sky father) and Papa (the earth mother) are the parents or creators of the world. Initially they lay together, their children trapped between them in the darkness, until their son Tane-mahuta pushed them apart in order to live in the light. The myth therefore makes sense of the land through personification of the earth and provides a sense of ancestral origin as being from the land itself; David Leeming, and Jake Page, God: Myths of the Male Divine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp.115-116.
 Nicholas Royle, The Uncanny: An Introduction (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003), pp.8-9.
 Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny (New York: Penguin Books, 1919), p.40.
 Allan Lloyd-Smith, American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction (New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc, 2004), p.136.
 Eric Kligerman, Sites of the Uncanny: Paul Celan, Specularity and the Visual Arts (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2007), p.114.
 Kate Withy, ‘Heidegger on Being Uncanny’ (unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Chicago, 2009), p.1.
 Schafer, p.137.
 For example, after Adam Strange was killed by a shark off the coast of Muriwai in 2013 the local iwi, Ngati Whatua Nga Rima o Kaipara held a ceremony at the beach to lift the tapu caused by Strange’s death.
 Schafer, p.138.
 Ibid, p.141.
 Terry Castle, The Female Thermometer: Eighteenth-Century Culture and the Invention of the Uncanny (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), p.7.
 Schafer, p.143.
 W. J. T. Mitchell, ‘Imperial Landscape’, in Landscape and Power, ed. By W. J. T. Mitchell (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), p.21.
 Leonard, p.93.
Borrie, Wilfred David, Immigration to New Zealand, 1854-1938 (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1991)
Brooking, Tom, The History of New Zealand (Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004)
Castle, Terry, The Female Thermometer: Eighteenth-Century Culture and the Invention of the Uncanny, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995)
Conrich, I. ‘New Zealand Gothic’, in A New Companion to the Gothic, edited by D. Punter (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012)
Fitzgerald, Michael, ‘Southern Gothic: Karen Walker’s Edgy Designs Reflect the Darker Tones of Her Native New Zealand’, Time International, May 24, (1999), 60
Freud, Sigmund, The Uncanny (New York: Penguin Books, 1919)
Hursthouse, Charles, New Zealand, the Britain of the South (London: Stanford, 1861)
Kavka, M. ‘Out of the Kitchen Sink’, in Gothic NZ: The Darker Side of Kiwi Culture, edited by M. Kavka, J. Lawn, and M. Paul (Otago: Otago University Press, 2006)
Kligerman, Eric, Sites of the Uncanny: Paul Celan, Specularity and the Visual Arts (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2007)
Lawn, J. ‘Introduction: Warping the Familiar’, in Gothic NZ: The Darker Side of Kiwi Culture, edited by M. Kavka, J. Lawn, and M. Paul (Otago: Otago University Press, 2006)
Leeming, David, and Jake Page, God: Myths of the Male Divine, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996)
Leonard, Robert, ‘Hello Darkness: New Zealand Gothic’, Art and Australia, 46.1 (2008), 88-95
Lloyd-Smith, Allan, American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction, (New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc, 2004)
Mitchell, W. J. T. ‘Imperial Landscape’, in Landscape and Power, edited by W. J. T. Mitchell, 2nd edn (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002)
Phillips, Jock, History of Immigration: British Immigration and the New Zealand Company. Te Ara, updated 2013, <http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/history-of-immigration/3> [accessed 19 September 2015]
Robson, K. ‘Teenage Time Use as Investment in Cultural Capital’, in Quantifying Theory: Pierre Bourdieu, edited by K. Robson and C. Sanders (Ontario: Springer, 2009)
Royle, Nicholas, The Uncanny: An Introduction (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003)
Schafer, William John, Mapping the Godzone: A Primer on New Zealand Literature and Culture (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1998)
Smith, Andrew, Gothic Radicalism: Literature, Philosophy and Psychoanalysis in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Macmillan Press, 2000)
Withy, Kate, ‘Heidegger on Being Uncanny’ (unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Chicago, 2009)