Paradise Blueprint addresses a history of cultural exchange and myth-making surrounding the so-called bird of paradise native to Papua New Guinea. The bird became currency between Papuans and 16th-century European explorers, being traded for tools, nails and blankets. In the local tradition, the trade-skins were prepared without feet or wings. Once in Europe, this triggered various theories, one being that the birds were living in a world of paradise—that they were a kind of flying serpent that never touched the ground until it died. Paradise Blueprint is a continuation of a previous project in which Zac-Langdon Pole removed the legs of the taxidermied Bird of Paradise to recompose it according to the initial forms of trade and contact between the two cultures. Here, Langdon-Pole has used the amputated legs themselves to create the pattern for a wallpaper that wraps around an entire space. In the wallpaper which resembles a blue sky, the bird’s legs are rendered visible, yet remain mysterious. The use of cyanotype makes a historical reference to the English botanist and a pioneering photographer, Anna Atkins. She used this technique for a handmade book in 1843 that marked the first publication using photographic images. Cyanotype is a process of printing wherein the negative image of an object can be obtained on a treated paper through direct exposure to sunlight. The same technique known as blueprinting was later used to produce copies of architectural and engineering drawings.
Questions of belonging, translation and identification often underpin the work of Zac Langdon-Pole. Born in Auckland, Aotearoa (New Zealand) in 1988, he currently lives in Berlin. Langdon-Pole is the latest recipient of the BMW Art Journey Prize (2018) and, in 2017, he was awarded the ars viva Prize for Visual Arts in Germany. He studied at the Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland (2007–10) and at Städelschule, Frankfurt (2014–15). Some recent exhibitions include Arus Balik, NTU Center for Contemporary Art, Singapore (2019); scions, Kunsthalle Darmstadt (2018); ARS VIVA 2018, S.M.A.K., Ghent, and Kunstverein Munich (2017–18); Discoveries, presented by Michael Lett Gallery, Art Basel Hong Kong (2018); emic etic, Between Bridges, Berlin (2018); Trappings, Station Gallery, Melbourne (2017); La Biennale de Montréal (2016–17); and Oratory Index, Michael Lett Gallery, Auckland (2016).