Twelve months, an explorer


Gracia Haby & Louise Jennison
Twelve months, an explorer
February, 2014
Digital print zine
Edition of 100


A 10.5cm X 15cm 28 page B&W zine on gray paper, hand-stitched with black thread.

Twelve months, an explorer is based on the artists’ book A Year of Southern Hemisphere Birds, 2013, by Louise Jennison with explorer’s narrative by Gracia Haby.

Editions of Twelve months, an explorer have been exhibited as part of George Paton Gallery: Artist's Books (reprised) (George Paton Gallery, University of Melbourne, 2014) and PAGE.PRINT.POST: 50 years of Artists Books (Post Office Gallery, Federation University Australia, 2014).


Kakapo (Strigops habroptilus)
MONDAY into TUESDAY 22nd / 23rd
1.40 AM

My first meeting with a Kakapo on Codfish Island (Whenua Hou), New Zealand was as befits this marvelously robust flightless bird, most fitting. It bowled me over one night as it clambered about. Took me by terrific surprise. The ambush! Bewilderment! There was I stumbling in the dark on the forest floor looking for one when one found me. Many may describe such a flightless bird as being ridiculous and stocky, but I can assure you it was I who felt ridiculous and cumbersome as I fell face forward. If one of us was to look the lumbering goose it was not the rampaging Strigops habroptilus en route to create a performance arena to woo a female. All the nightlong I could hear its subsonic mating boom. July’s portrait to scale thus drawn from memory. Its giant claws looked like tree roots, its focus was intent, and even in night’s cloak, its feathers a most luminous green and yellow.

Antarctic Tern (Sterna vittata)
9 AM or thereabouts

Those small crowned seabirds of Macquarie Island in the Antarctic, foraging for food amidst the kelp and making rocky gravel nests hold me fascinated at the 11-month point. I move slow and soundlessly, mimicking the studied movements of my cat at home fortress minding. I move up close to their breeding site, but I am no predator, no foe to the Sterna vittata. I, unlike my feline with her sharp claws and cunning, borrow patience only. I also come equipped with wide-eyed hope tied to bottomless admiration, and a handful of pencils near-warn-down-to-stub and (windblown) paper. I am here to draw a portrait only, and I’ll not disturb William Blake and the heavens either (“A Robin Redbreast in a cage; Sets all Heaven in a rage”). I regret that this project of mine will soon draw to a close, but like the red bills* of the Tern, it’s not faded yet.

* In the breeding season, the bills of the Tern are a bright red which later fade to a dark red in the non-breeding season.