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How to Swim

_____________ a multimedia work

September 2021, Media 219

Here begins the work.

I am still learning.jpg
i do not know the shape of.jpg
I was born inland .jpg
in training once .jpg
this was a secret place.jpg
but though i rested.jpg
some days I reach the island .jpg
sometimes, _edited.jpg
often times.jpg
bathing in light .jpg
In the paddle cutting the water.jpg
oneday i will train hard enough.jpg
To learn to swim in to walk.jpg
drip drip drip.jpg
I once had to swim through swamp muck.jpg
i am always naked.jpg
aroha mai.jpg
Amidst currents and rocks .jpg
but perhaps.jpg
to break.jpg
imageonline-co-overlayed-image (1).png
imageonline-co-overlayed-image (1).jpg


Here ends the work.

All images remain property of the artist unless otherwise stated.



Text reads as follows:



I am still learning How to Swim. 

I do not know the shape of the ocean in which I train

(it does not have a map).

I was born inland, between the creek and the river.

I had glimpses of swimming in droplets of gold;

in the mist settling over the river while the billy boiled,

currents pulling under the noonday sun. 

In training once I came to a cave

(a pocket of hollow murmurs) 

and rested awhile on my picnic rug amidst the echoes and

whispering damp 

this was a secret place 

but though I rested, I did not learn how to swim.

Some days I reach The Island where the Pipi shells

cut my wrinkled soles, 

others I can only swing my legs from the jetty

over the lake that lies blind beyond,

or take a few steps through the oxygen weed,

growing cold in the amber water

and waiting for the taniwha. 



sometimes, leaning towards swimming is to simply survive. 

Oftentimes I have been for a plunge through oceans

of heads and bodies

(for surely this, too, is swimming).

And sometimes I am bathing in light itself

(this is my favourite paddling-pool).

In the paddle cutting the water, and the clap-clap

of the boat’s hull I have felt the swimmer also. 

One day I will train hard enough and reach the horizon; 

Muriwai, as it is and was and will always be. 


To learn to swim is to walk

through a waking dream on the clouds of the sea;








I once had to swim through swamp-muck to reach the land. 

(I am always naked before I take the plunge 

clinging to the precipice, the crevasse,

the wind and the land.)

Aroha mai, I have not yet learned how to swim. 

Amidst currents and rocks I have heard only echoes

that died away just as they reached my ears;

but perhaps if the lap of the water against the

explorer’s cave were really to became manifest,

if there ever came an echo that did not die away

but swelled instead into the sound of itself,

I would know then that I had learned


How to Swim.

F. Wright, 2021



Here I give thanks to C.S Lewis for his articulation of Heaven in The Problem of Pain:


Lewis, C. S. "Heaven." The Problem of Pain. William Collins, 2015, pp. 150-151. 


And to The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, namely the following poets and poems from which the collated work draws: 

The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, edited by Ian Wedde and Harvey McQueen, Penguin 1985.

Baxter, James K., The Bay, pp. 333

Baxter, James K., Virginia Lake, pp. 333-334

Fairburn, A.R.D, A Naked Girl Swimming, pp.148

Fairburn, A.R.D, The Cave, pp. 143

Duggan, Eileen, Cloudy Bay, pp. 139

Hyde, Robin, from The Beaches VI & VII, pp. 169

Joseph, M.K., Girl, Boy, Flower, Bicycle, pp.234

Wright, David McKee, While the Billy Boils, pp. 103

Frances Wright | Media 219                                                                                                                                                                                                               ID: 941337416


Critical Reflection: on ‘How to Swim’ (2021) and remediation.

The work ‘How to Swim’ (2021) combines text and image to discuss remediation. It presents digital images of a typewritten poem superimposed over twenty-three film photographs and is exhibited digitally as one cohesive image experienced through a scrolling motion.

To create the work, photographs were selected from my analogue archive and framed to represent strips of light I felt evoked a sense of personal memory towards swimming; there is water, there are clouds, and there is the space in-between. I then crafted a poem, the text of which I relayed via my typewriter onto a strip of tissue paper. Each line/stanza I photographed digitally and superimposed over a selected image; by fusing the images together a cohesive aesthetic quality is achieved across all twenty-three images. I then assembled the new images to form a single strip through which the typewritten poem runs; this process felt like the stitching together of a quilt or completing of a jigsaw puzzle. This is how I sometimes understand memory to function.

The work considers swimming as a singular event, my memories of which transcend the ephemeral experience – they are malleable and melded across time. The images function to evoke a sense of familiarity across each remembered experience and present the fragments as a cohesive whole. The poem I hope evokes a sense of reaching towards something greater than myself, a sensation I often experience when submerged in water. This is articulated in C.S Lewis’ The Problem of Pain, to whom I give thanks at the conclusion of the work (Lewis, 150-151).

If we understand the concept of remediation to be a mechanism that takes on the characteristics of another medium, the work is multi-faceted in its discussion of such. It takes analogue forms of text and image and responds to new media, like Instagram, which similarly function through these forms. It answers to Bolter and Grusin’s 'Double Logic' observation, where the ‘new’ of new media comes from the refashioning of older media, while older media simultaneously fashion themselves to answer new media (15).

The work emulates the formal structure of Instagram. As is typical of Instagram’s function the viewer must engage with the motion of scrolling to reveal the entire work. Moreover, composition of endless image and text is reminiscent of the ‘feed’, not to mention the ‘story’ in which text is laid over image and viewed as a cohesive whole. However, there is no way for the viewer to respond to the work by direct engagement with the author/artist; the 'social' aspect of Instagram is therefore lost and the work is stripped back to Instagram’s foundations of text and image.


Aesthetically the work evokes the sense of warmness relayed from analogue media (Sexton, 578). This is amplified by the grainy texture from the tissue-paper superimposition and can be equated to Instagram ‘filters’, many of which emulate the aesthetic quality of the analogue photograph. The superimposition therefore serves as a form of filter through which the final work is viewed. This is a double remediation, as the term 'filter' no doubt originates from filters used on analogue camera lenses. As a final and unintended remediation, the work seems to reflect a film strip in the way the photographs (fragments of light revealed as image) are presented as a strip on the page.


Works cited:

Bolter, J. David; Grusin, Richard A. “The Double Logic of Remediation” Remediation; understanding new media. MIT Press. pp. 2-15. 

Lewis, C. S. "Heaven." The Problem of Pain. William Collins, 2015, pp. 150-151. 


Sexton, Jamie. “Weird Britan in Exile: Ghost Box, Hauntology and Alternative Heritage”. Popular Music and Society, Volume 34, Issue 4, 2021, pp. 561-584.

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