Phil Dadson is a seminal figure in New Zealand’s art history, both for pushing the boundaries of sound and intermedia art since the 70s and for his influence on a generation of now leading mid-career artists. His highly inventive transdisciplinary approach to making art includes solo performances and exhibitions, building experimental musical instruments and sonic objects, video / sound installation, music composition, graphic scores, drawing, sound sculptures and improvisations with invented instruments. Video remains a constant passion for Dadson, as much for its ability to synergistically combine image and sound as for its unique physicality (perhaps not so obvious today with technology closing the gap between film and video resolution.)
A member of the founding group for Scratch Orchestra in London, 1969 (with Cornelius Cardew, Michael Parsons and others), Dadson returned to New Zealand to establish Scratch Orchestra (NZ) and later From Scratch (1974). From Scratch (whose founding members included Bruce Barber, Geoff Chapple and later, Don McGlashan and Wayne Laird), while now defunct, is internationally acknowledged for its legendary performances on original instruments. It was the subject of Gregor Nicholas’ film ‘Pacific 3-2-1-Zero’, awarded the Croisette d’Or Grand Prix at the Cannes Music Film Awards in 1994, which is now included in the Permanent Film Collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Dadson continues to exhibit and perform prolifically both in New Zealand and internationally. In 2013 he exhibited and performed with the Kermadec exhibition in Santiago Chile; devised and curated ‘Sounding Tiritiri Matangi’ a collaborative event with twenty plus musicians creating sonic interventions on the island’s walking tracks (repeated in 2014), devised Sonic Cycles, a bicycle-choir for the Teza site-occupation in New Brighton, Christchurch, and exhibited Bodytok Quintet as part of Scape 7 Biennale. In 2014 he toured with Taonga Puoro player Rob Thorne and Chilean musician Enrique Siques in X-Current, culminating in a performance at Audio Foundation (Auckland) as part of the S3D Invented Instrument minifest.
Appointed to the Sculpture Department at Auckland University’s Elam School of Fine Arts in 1977, Dadson held the position of Head of Intermedia/Time-based arts from 1986 – 2001. Throughout his career Dadson has been the recipient of many key awards and fellowships, enabling numerous international residency, exhibition and festival opportunities. In 2001 he received a New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate award, in 2003 an Antarctic Artist Fellowship and was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) in 2005.
Dadson lives and works in Auckland, New Zealand.