Changing Practice - Cat Auburn


Changing Practice 

An ongoing un-learning of colonial heritage and habits within arts practice

Cat Auburn’s research into material culture interrogates systems of power. 

Within days of beginning a Research Residency at D6: Culture in Transit, her initial proposal unravelled.

Residency proposal:

  • To visit the collection stores of The Great North Museum (Newcastle, UK) with immigrant groups to explore objects of cultural significance held in the collection stores; the ways in which objects are catalogued, housed and cared for; the hierarchical systems of power and knowledge that led to the acquisition of objects in the collection.  

  • To think about the collection store from the perspective of immigrant individuals and communities.

  • To experiment with a new model of research as a possible alternative to dominant methods of working within and thinking about museum collections in preparation for doctoral study. Doctoral research into the colonial implications of New Zealand’s involvement in the Middle Eastern Campaign of WW1 will be undertaken after the Research Residency at D6.  

In light of her inquiry into the ethics of arts practice and vulnerable communities, different cultures and her ongoing research practice concerning New Zealand’s historical colonial connections with the Middle East, Auburn turned her reflection inwards.

She began to decode her creative practice in relation to her own cultural heritage, looking towards her personal identity and relationship with certain systems of power - colonialism and whiteness - and how her methods of working as an artist are influenced by these systems.

Auburn’s thought process throughout the Research Residency are outlined in the following series of video diaries (please scroll down).


Cat Auburn is pākehā - a white New Zealander of European descent; in Auburn’s case, specifically colonial Britain and Ireland.  Various members of her family left the United Kingdom during waves of European emigration to New Zealand – eras such as the “re-colonising” migration of the late 1800s and at the resolution of both twentieth century world wars.  Auburn’s relationship with immigration in Britain is complex: she has an insider’s cultural privilege due to the colour of her skin and her Commonwealth links; she is also an outsider affected by the alarming anti-immigration policy-making and rhetoric of contemporary Brexit-era Britain. 

Download the transcript for the following spoken videos HERE 

Cat Auburn

As referenced in the videos:


Image detail in the introduction from the Homescapes series by Lindsay Duncanson


Janes, R.R. & Sandell, R., 2019. Museum activism, Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY: Routledge.


Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. Decolonizing Methodologies : Research and Indigenous Peoples. Second ed. 2012. Print.


All text overlay (besides lower panel in Slide Four) is by Cat Auburn.


Text from Slide Three: Jeffery, L, Palladino, M, Rotter, R & Woolley, A 2019, 'Creative engagement with migration', Crossings: Journal of Migration and Culture, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 3-17.

Whose Heritage Symposium – 24th May 2019


The question presented to the roundtable at this event, “How can white academics be good allies to the BAME community (paraphrased)” was taken by Meleisa Ono George.

Image on the current Slide and bottom half of Slide 6 is a detail from the Anima Mundi Tarot by Megan Wyreweden

Changing Practice was developed through a research residency with D6: Culture in Transit in May - July 2019 and has been supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Newcastle Culture Investment Fund.