Rebirth in the chaos

An hour and ten minutes of looking through an angel’s eyes

TOWARDS THE SUN | Connor Fitzgerald | play_station, Pōneke 

01.12.21 | written by Whiro Walker

Chaos, darkness, and the void… Te Kore. Sitting in the dark gallery I get a nervous feeling that I am going to be cleansed after watching the film. It’s so dark and my eyes are playing tricks. The film begins gently with flickers of light barely visible across the screen. Trying to work out what they could be. Rain? Sparks? I want to stop guessing and let the film envelop me. Sitting in that feeling of letting go, the score written by Fred Small begins to hum along with the sparks. It is a beautiful atmospheric piece that builds and swells within the work and matches the energy of each shot. Connor describes Fred’s score as “the cloud for this work to lay on”,1 which to me describes their collaboration clearly as two artists who see a vision and act on it together.

Out of the darkness and plunged into a very bright grey light, Connor’s filming style for TOWARDS THE SUN  is revealed as being a single shot on a hand-held camera. The shaky camera shows us raindrops against a bleak grey sky, sitting on a windshield. Then a shot of the Moana, bubbling with foam. The Camera is an extension of her fingertips, exploring and sharing. I think about Connor filming these scenes, building visual poetry in her head—the translation from writing to film, what is lost and what can be explored in this process. The film comes from a book that Connor had been working on in 2020. This book, Tilt Towards the Sun, comes from a pivotal moment in her life: leaving art school, exploring and figuring out her art practise, while also finding herself amongst the chaos of life. Connor hopes to release this book in physical form in 2022.
Shadows and bones of a magnolia tree sit across a dark grey sky with all its leaves gone exposing pale pink flowers. We watch the petals fall and get stuck in the gutter, spending time there, watching their pale pink bodies float in the water. In other scenes, Connor is close to Tanemahuta—wandering through the dark wet forest, there is no score, just the sounds of the bush and the wind. She thrusts the lens into the belly of the earth, showing off all the mud and the roots holding it all together. The absence of the score hints at the person behind the lens, who is experiencing everything we are seeing. Sometimes there will be a thunk of the lens hitting a tree or a leaf or, some of my favorite sounds, crunching steps in the dark woods. Crunch crunch crunch and breathe. It's disgustingly poetic but in an ooey gooey way that gives me heart eyes.

After the chaotic time in the bush the next scene cuts to a close up of a fat squishy caterpillar dragging a cocoon up the side of a harakeke leaf, with long claws like black acrylics. From multiple angles we watch the caterpillar struggle with the heavy cocoon as the score holds itself in a single note and then starts to build as the film starts to cut from birds flying, to watching a canopy of trees fly overhead, to driving fast down a dark black road, and then eventually landing in a pit of flames. The camera plunges into the flames and the wood that holds them, offering close ups of bubbling wood and the smoke that it emits.

The score is telling us that something is coming as it builds and builds and becomes unpredictable. 

The glowing orb reappears and disappears until a transient being emerges from the flames. My heart skips a beat. A luminescent figure caresses the screen, with delicate long fingers expressing their new birth. Adorned with rings, sometimes you may even catch a fleeting glimpse of a head or shoulder. The score evokes a heart wrenching feeling as it comes to a conclusion.

Connor’s approach to filmmaking is a form of witchcraft. She delicately spins us in her web, letting the audience catch fragments of an open heart. Using earth, air, fire, and water Connor casts a spell—a spell that feels like a whisper and a scream at the same time. At the end of the film, Connor brings us back to the beginning with a better view of the sparks that are coming from the flames. But then you realise that it is not a full circle but in fact a slowly growing te takarangi spiral… never ending and always growing. 
Connor Fitzgerald, TOWARDS THE SUN, 2021. October 23 – November 13, 2021, play_station, Pōneke. Currently showing at Artspace Aotearoa as part of Cruel Optimism: New Artists Show 2021, November 5 – February 4 2022.

Photographs by Hendrix Hennessy-Ropiha.

        1.  @connor.tation Instagram post, November 11 2021,

ISSN 2744-7952

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