Ralph Hotere (b. 1931) Song cycle - the voyage 1975 acrylic and dyes on unstretched canvas 301 x 90cm (irregular) Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection

Ralph Hotere’s Song cycle – the voyage is one of over fifteen banners made by the artist in response to a multi-media performance event that was staged at Victoria University in 1975. The initial inspiration was a series of poems by Bill Manhire titled Song cycle.

Composer Jack Body, pianist Barry Margan, choreographer John Casserley, writer Bill Manhire, and artist Ralph Hotere worked together to present a forty minute programme incorporating sound, dance and projected images to the poems read by Bill Manhire. This performance was part of a general movement in the 1970s that aimed to expand and blur the boundaries of established art forms through collaborative ventures. Ironically, the ‘banners’ were not produced in time for the performances and have subsequently always been seen in an art context.

In this work, Hotere informally arranges Manhire’s text across the top and bottom of the banner. Between the poem lies a long band of darkly stained canvas, on which words float in an echo of the text. Hotere built up the black areas by staining the raw canvas with layers of colour, leaving ribbons of contrasting colours exposed. All the banners were similarly structured; the vertical scale and unstretched states evoke an additional humanising quality.

Song cycle – The voyage was one of nine Song Cycle works by Hotere installed as part of a light and sound installation by Jack Body and David Crossen that evoked the 1975 performance in the Adam Art Gallery exhibition Manufacturing Meaning: the VUW Collection in Context (September 1999- January 2000).