Amrita Hepi and Scripture for a smoke screen: Episode 1 – dolphin house - Ernesto Arriagada
Credit: Ernesto Arriagada
Stories & Ideas

Tue 03 Jan 2023

Amrita Hepi on Scripture for a smoke screen: Episode 1 – dolphin house

Art First Peoples How I See It: Blak Art and Film Meet the makers
ACMI author icon


Your museum of screen culture

Learn more about this work, showing as part of the How I See It: Blak Art and Film exhibition at ACMI.


I think that letter writing is incredibly personal. It's as much for the person that's writing it as it is for the person that it's being written to. In this film I'm writing a letter to a dolphin, which seems bizarre.

My name is Amrita Hepi and I am a Bundjulung woman from mid-north of this country and then also a Ngāpuhi woman from northern Aotearoa. I am an artist that works with dance and choreography and I have made Scripture for a smoke screen: Episode 1 – dolphin house. It was commissioned by ACMI and SAMSTAG as part of How I See It: Blak Art and Film.

With this work you actually have to pass through a smoke screen. The outside of the space is this smoking wall. Inside is this small room whereby you're invited to lie down.

On a macro level this work is about language, desire and surveillance. It takes a look at this 1960s NASA-funded dolphin experiment where they were testing the intelligence of dolphins. It looks at the relationship between Margaret Lovett and this dolphin that was kept at this Dolphin House, Peter.

On a micro level or on a personal level I was thinking about kind of metrics of intelligence; how dancers have a kind of bodily intelligence, and thinking about whether it's ever actually possible to be mind smart but not body smart, or body smart but not mind smart. I guess on a personal note, like the metrics of intelligence, or even just the shifting metrics, that have been on Mob for a long time.

There's also a big part of it is you can hear my voice in this film and then you can also hear another voice over the top of mine.

[Film voiceover] Peter, I have grown up thinking in English and symbols due to my lineage. There are multiple languages that have existed in my lineage.

[Amrita] When language fails sometimes it can create like some really beautiful things but a lot of the time it can create a dissonance. A lot of the work that I make is like dead serious but with a wink.

Learn more about the work

How I See It: Blak Art and Film

You might also like