A thought-provoking series of photographs, moving images, and a zine, the exhibition explores the controversial history of UFO sightings in Aotearoa New Zealand. From the 1909 ‘great airship flap’ to the 1978 Kaikōura lights, Caryline draws on a wide range of archival materials to shine the light – and a fresh perspective – on some of our most legendary UFO sightings.
It has been an enduring fascination for the Whitecliffe Photo Media lecturer who has been researching the topic since 2016. But it’s not the sightings themselves that hold the greatest intrigue – it’s the space between the event and its recounting that has really captured her imagination.
“My interest is not focused on whether UFOs are real or connected to alien life, but more to explore the psychology of seeing and the witness's confusion or conviction in what they have seen,” says Caryline, who began her research after attending a UFO meeting with a friend in Auckland.
“At the same time, I’d been watching Ancient Aliens on the History Channel and the difference between this sensationalised American documentary and my experience at this UFO meeting was massive. This got me interested in the New Zealand perspective on Unidentified Flying Objects…how were these objects and lights described in terms of what was seen, how did people react to these encounters, and what was the official response to these sightings?”
Curated by Andrew Kennedy, Disco Volante is Caryline’s third iteration of the project. In 2017 she had a show at In Situ Photo Project in Christchurch, exhibiting photographs of locations around the North Island where UFO sightings had occurred, and last year she was part of a group show at The Dowse Art Museum, The Truth is Out There. Her current exhibition, which runs at Te Tuhi until January 28, includes material sourced from the NZ Ministry of Defence UFO files released in 2010, and eventually, she hopes to draw on these documents, other archival material, and her own photography to release a book.
It has been a passion project for the award-winning multimedia artist – and one which has dished up its fair share of surprises.
“It’s incredible how persistent some of the people were in writing to the Ministry of Defence about their theories of what these UFOs could be. One person wrote consistently over a period of around 20 years. I also found it surprising that the Ministry responded to pretty much all of the correspondence - and how definite the official response was that these sightings were not otherworldly.”
Were there any sightings that really stood out? You bet! Caryline found researching the Kaikōura lights and the 1959 Moreland UFO sighting particularly compelling.
“The Kaikōura Lights is an interesting one in terms of having eyewitness accounts, radar recordings, and TV footage of the same sighting – and also how unnerved the pilots and TV crew were by what they saw. Even Prime Minister Robert Muldoon took a personal interest in the case, asking the RNZAF to investigate.”
And what made the Moreland UFO sighting so memorable? “The media and public attention was so overwhelming that Mrs Moreland (who had made the sighting) ended up moving away from home and changing her name.”
Disco Volante runs at Te Tuhi from November 12 - January 28.
Find out more: https://tetuhi.art/exhibition/disco-volante/
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