Mata Mata is a collaborative conceptual art project
by Rangituhia Hollis and Vaimaila Urale
A video taken on a short visit to the Mangere Art Centre in 2012
“Our first goal was to bring into the open and into public use our own interpretations of the customary weapons of Maori and Pacific peoples. It was during our research phase that we largely saw the beauty and presence of the customary weapons in a museological settings where they were typically treated as rarified objects, either hidden in archives or displayed in situ behind glass.In a way the weapons seemed disconnected from the cultures that they were once essential participles of. So we wanted to engage communities not simply as viewers but as active participants in an experiential pursuit, where they could take up our ‘weapons’ and compete with one another.”
These are the words printed on a billboard outside the window of my apartment. I’ve read the sign so many times that I know this excerpt from the bible by heart. At night, through the walls I often hear passersby reciting the text. While these are irregular events occurring days or weeks apart there is continuity evident in the delivery of the phrase, from person to person. The booming voice of each speaker suggests a unanimity that the voice of god would be deep and resonant. In pairs, glass sliding doors rise vertically to indicate the compartmental divisions between floors, faces, external balconies and hidden interior rooms. Thin facades such as these allow for the aural transmission of developing understandings between unseen identities to pass in at least in one direction. Deeper into the hub of the city, the Kenneth Myers Centre on Shortland Street has its own spatial relationship with sound. A two layer brick wall shell, forms a 56 centimeter barrier intended to cocoon the interior from outside noise. As a result identities both inside and outside the walls function without any indication or knowledge of each others movements. Years experiencing intrusive audio bleed between the interior and exterior walls of inner city apartments has contributed to my understanding of just how rare this form of dissociation is in the city. It was this soundproofing that also intrigued Artists Jeremy Leatinu’u and Kalisolaite ‘Uhila when they were approached to develop the exhibition More than we know for the Gus Fisher Gallery. In response to this spatial anomaly; site specific sound engagements became their foundation concept for the exhibition. A mutual starting point from where their works could develop. Put simply Kalisolaite will stand on top of the building to welcome the audience in the Tongan language, directing them inside. While in the gallery video documentation of Jeremy’s physical/sound engagements on the exterior of the building will be shown. Both artists’ performances are intended to use sound to breach the seemingly impenetrable walls of the building. While in previous works sound may have been a byproduct of both of their practices it has yet to have been the focus. Rather ‘Uhila and Leatinu’u typically choose to take on board strategies of resistance to inequities or differences - that either absorb or redirect the energies of a public to whom they are often outsiders. In practice they allow space for others to come to terms with such divisions in their own time, without ever stating these differences overtly. At the time that I write this it is notable that neither of these artists have spoken in their work. Jeremy and Kalisolaite are not without language, they are both apart of a much wider discourse, one that places primacy on the efficacy of the corporeal.
Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”
John 14:6 The BIBLE
Spatial Resonance.It’s early morning at the end of 2012 when ‘Uhila, Leatinu’u and I arrive at the Kenneth Myers Centre. The plan is to kill two birds with one stone, we’ll watch both Jeremy film his performances and Kalisolaite prepare for the performance that he is to undertake on the opening night. We’re between the Centre and a neighboring building waiting at a closed gate. For us to proceed further permissions have been sought. Auckland University security may be watching us through the overhead cameras. They’re unseen in some centralized control room elsewhere. We stand behind a University staff member whose name I forget. The phone call she makes describes our appearances and our purpose for being there. A number on the gate is read out and the gate unlocked remotely. Then we pass through. We are now all inside what Leatinu’u would refer to as one of the hidden spaces that surround the building. Both Leatinu’u and ‘Uhila have been here before, scouting the building for potential sites of interest. This space is one that Leatinu’u has selected. A 16 by 9 HD camera is set up to frame the first of three works in Leatinu’u’s Spatial Resonance series. The composition of the shoot is such that a large steel sculpture by Dr Richard Shortland Cooper is arranged in the frame to be slightly off center. Originally Shortland Cooper intended that the four steel sheets of the work would vibrate as the wind passed through and subsequently would create sound. It’s a heavy seemingly immovable work, stolid and monumental. I move close to listen to it. It may make sound, but I can’t hear anything. Then I move back to view the screen. The camera is fixed. The Architecture and sculpture are also fixed. The camera is activated and Leatinu’u begins his performance. He enters from the right, moving toward the sculpture, taking a position in front of it. My focus is to monitor the recording, I see the work through the lens. After pausing for a short time he begins to hit the work with open palms. His initial strikes appear probing, testing the potential of the sculpture to make noise. The slow attack of his initial blows cause a pleasing echoing sound. However this is lost as the frequency increases and the resonance begins to build in intensity. Gradually through the ensuing cacophony a rhythm becomes apparent. Soon the noise slows and ends. As Leatinu’u walks back out of shot the performance is over. It seems to me as if the sculpture needed to be reinvigorated in order to enhance one of the original aspects intended in the work. When considered along with the three other works in this series The works appear to be building a language of engagement by testing the generative potential of place. In these videos, each scene add new performative variations to a growing codex of spatial engagements.
Jeremy Leatinu’u’s The Welcome Project exhibited at Artspace in 2010 and in his East Street performance in 2011 both used written language to convey meaning. The later of these works was a 12 hour endurance performance promoted by the Auckland Heritage Festival in conjunction with We Should Practice. In this work he wrote down - in chalk on the pavement - the details of the past residents of East Street (off Karangahape Road). Inscribing the date of their occupancy and the residents name in that order. The work took place over the space of a Saturday night and into the next morning. During the late night section of the performance Jeremy often attracted the attention of drunken passersby. Remaining silent throughout, kneeling and writing - he was focused on the monotonous task of documenting everyone. His lack of response to questions or insults was enough provocation for some to react violently to what they no doubt misread as a dismissive demeanor. Fortunately a constant stream of supporters were present and able to intercede in these instances. With fights being broken up around him Jeremy continued on to complete the task. The Welcome Project 2010 in itself was another seemingly innocuous work. The two screens displayed related performances, the left screen was a video of Jeremy holding a welcome sign to greet new arrivals to the Auckland International Airport. The right screen was a video of Jeremy at the bottom of the crater at One Tree Hill collecting and placing volcanic rocks in such a way so as to again spell out the word welcome. For english speakers his welcome statement is a dichotomous expression, an invitation that states a inclusivity while at the same time what ‘they’ or ‘we’ are being welcomed into will forever remain exclusive and nondescript. Denying us an entrant passage as this place is never defined, so subsequently we can never enter.
“I have two lenses. One is a Pacific lens and the other is European. You can rotate the lens so you can look from the inside or outside. My work is about the unheard voices of our community, of our people. It’s about being broad, not being constrained.” (‘Uhila)
On Shortland Street Kalisolaite ‘Uhila climbs the exterior wall of the Centre. Up ladders barely visible from the roadside he emerges on the roof. From the opposite side of the road I see him through the frame of a single lens. Still carrying a camera I assess the scene with the highest resolution available to me. Stepping back to look up and down the street what is becoming clear is that the camera won’t be able to contain the entirety of the spectacle. Think of the film Zidane: A 21st Century portrait where 17 cameras were trained on the football star. ‘Uhila’s performance if it were to be documented similarly, would likewise carry with it the sense of being a study of action within a limited context. Ignorant of ‘Uhila’s socio-spatial activations that expand and contract beyond what this frame can capture. ‘Uhila’s focus is not fixed and cannot be anticipated in his own words he his unconstrained. Now he is leaning over the edge of the building. He peers over the edge and cups his hands to his mouth. Here he is testing the space. A woman pushing a pram passes below. Walking oblivious to the performer above who is now leaning down, poised and watching her with his hands still at his mouth. He doesn’t call out. He appears to be saving the words for the performance. This passerby who entered from outside the frame of the lens, emerged as if from nowhere, creating an effect like that engendered when unsuspecting moviegoers stand up in cinemas in front of telesync (TS) bootleg recordings of films. The passerby has in relation to ‘Uhila unintentionally signalled that the frame of containment that the video lens defines is now broken.
“I wanted to be up high, use the echo of the surroundings, and call people in using my Tongan language. This is the first performance where I will be using my voice. I’ll be calling out, using the energy from the echoes and my surroundings.” (‘Uhila)
For ‘Uhila deciding to finally break his silence has been a decision he has made carefully. When he found that the Kenneth Myers Centre’s former purpose was as a radio station, he realized that this could be related to his Tongan culture. He relayed to me that he became certain of how he would respond to the site after recalling a conversation with his Mother. Who had told him that in her day Tonga didn’t have daily radio or tv communication and news passed by word of mouth. This caused him to focus on one of the significant roles in Tongan culture, that of an Uiaki fono. An Uiaki fono is a specific person in every village or town, who is chosen to disseminate the word of high ranks such as kings and nobles. ‘Uhila in describing this role relates it to its’ western counterpart that of the somewhat archaic Town Crier. On top of the Centre ‘Uhila is difficult to ignore. I have a sense that like a method actor he will immerse himself wholly in the role of Uiaki fono. However at this stage my opinion is merely conjecture. When this text is first read the performance will already be over. So I can only speculate. I am left questioning. He has been given the opportunity to speak, when it happens - whose words will he pass on? And moreover I think of the Dylan lyrics to ‘You’re gonna have to serve somebody’ and wonder who it is that ‘Uhila will be serving? On the night of the performance ‘Uhila as the Uiaki fono will call out loudly, passing on a welcome that will direct his audience inside. Seeing him preparing on the roof I am in two minds, it’s impossible for me not to think of his past works where he’s subordinated himself and now with his figure is so dominant on the horizon it seems as if he’s shifted social classes. Perhaps he can do this at will. There is a change evident in this man on the roof. I see him again as the man I first met some years ago brimming with confidence, and painting with a machete at AUT. Then he was making certain and assured gestures, cutting monochromatic lines into the canvas and creating an artwork, a tangible object and a commodity. In contrast when he was performing homelessness or living with pigs as endurance art he created temporal experiences for those around him. The signs and placards he made as a homeless artist weren’t kept and as far as I know he ate the pigs. These subordinate performances showcased an artist confident enough to shift his public standing so that through his actions he can reveal what remains hidden within his audience to his audience. In the show What do you mean we? 2012, as a homeless artist living off the donations of visitors to Te Tuhi he was both supported by some and hated by others. By simply being there, his performance polarised elements of the community of Te Tuhi and Pakuranga. His presence was enough to intensify feelings of unease amongst those who felt confronted. While his work with a machete in the medium of paint did add a new Polynesian dimension to a largely western tradition. As a homeless man, he was working in a medium that is far less subject to the classifications of scholarly analysis that allow for an understanding of its intricacies to be learnt. Rather they have to be experienced. Simply by being present he was able to trigger uneasy feelings in some, that is without provocation or insult. Throughout the exhibition ‘Uhila carried a council permit to show that he was allowed to be outside the gallery at night. At the end of What do you mean we?, on the closing day when his permit had expired, police officers arrived. They asked for the permit and then proceeded to screw it up, telling him to move along. So while it seems that some things may simply return to how they were before, another truth is added to the works’ layers. On the opening night of More than we know he will perform again, and at this stage this is as much as I know, I can only guess what will happen.
Being there.Early in 2013 I assisted Jeremy as he carried out another series of work. At this time the work is as yet untitled and yet to be shown. The work concerns New Zealand’s four statues of Queen Victoria. The statues are located in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Filmed in four parts the work involves Leatinu’u sitting atop a ladder in front of each of these statues and spending time with the Queen.
“Whenever you see a ladder by a statue it could either mean that someone’s there to preserve it or to deface it. I’m doing neither.” (Leatinu’u)
The series shows that Leatinu’u acknowledges the statues as symbols of the complex historical and political expressions of British imperialism. Through the use of a ladder as both prop and symbol, Leatinu’u generates a subtle shift in power relations. While his position in relation to the ground does become elevated, it never lifts above that of the Queen. There is never a sense that his intention is to supersede her position in a way that would take make him more dominant - If that could ever be done? The work mimics the tradition of placing objects on plinths to elevate the object and refocus our perception of it away from the banal. The ladder performs the same function as the plinth. Through a working class object Leatinu’u is elevated so that we might watch and consider him as he himself is perhaps also considering his own relationship to the Queen. This is a layered meditation that operates in terms that seem to pivot around the notion of class. Leatinu’u has transversed these significant distances in order to sew the points on the colonial map together.
Here I would speak briefly of the expressions of power that are all a part of colonial expansion. I would continue to talk about roads cut through pa sites, dawn raids and a rampant enactment of strategies of displacement. However I would speak from a position of seeing the traces of this juggernaut, without ever having directly felt its irrespective embrace. So I have issues around who it would be to best to engage in this discourse. But in the absence of others to speak, I would conjure them up in a text. Lets make this a cold language we’re speaking - in order to talk the properties of becoming colonized. Let’s take an imagined journey through the streets of Martinborough. A journey that was first highlighted in the work of Bob Jahnke’s Ta te whenua. In that work an aerial photograph reveals that the cities plan was designed with the union jack as its’ counterpoint. I’ve never been, so i must imagine that at this time there’s someone walking toward that center. And this is my point, I wonder if nearing that center if you get the sense of that overlay? Does standing at the convergence of those eight roads allow for some form of colonial revelation? Could they or we experience the extent of imperial vision in relation to the colonial project? This is where the performance artist arrives as key, in order that we might through observation and vicarious osmosis understand the complexity of a problem with further clarity. These questions will never be answered unless we go there, if we can. In this show both of these artists have either stood or will stand where we can’t. Where we don’t have access. They are doing what is needed in order to serve our ever growing understanding of what place can become.
:( Aaaaaaaargghh!! at Statements Art Gallery, Napier 2013.
A pictorial look at the development of the Matamata project
The first CNC Routed pool cues
Colour, Stain and Varnish Testing
Gallery 1 Plan - Drawn up by Tim Chapman
Opening Night of Matamata at the Mangere Arts Centre
From the Matamata Pool Comp
The sole survivors - Winners of the Matamata Pool Comp
“Welcome to the bullshit and boring art world.” (Fu).
In an intervention to the opening speeches of “Don’t misbehave” - the 2006 Christchurch Biennial - Frank Fu interceded the perfunctory rituals of the night as a means to elucidate the Biennials part in a “commodified revolution” (Fu). Pushing his way to the front of the stage, past other speakers Fu delivered a speech that no-one apart himself and his Videographer had prepared for. Frank Fu introduced a construct that he calls the “capitalist game” to outline the hierarchies of the hegemonic system that produces such an event (Fu). Those attending were also thanked for their complicity in supporting the system. Anyone who has ever attended an opening night and stood through the speeches will most likely appreciate the conventional protocols of naming all the relevant players; which typically flows from the top down, for example corporate sponsors, to patrons, curators and so on down the line to installation staff and visitors. So in that regard Fu respected some conventions, his welcome not so different to the prescribed line:
“This is called the capitalist game, which is we have ‘the Man’, which is Art and Industries Biennial Trust and then we have the curator who works for the Man. And then we have the Artist who produces things ready to be selected. Once they have been selected by an extension of the process they have be selected as well, thus they becoming special or lucky. The Curator really becomes the pimp. After selected they choose Artist and they put Artist inside or outside the invisible cage. And then also ask them what their going to do, incase the Artist is going to do something stupid or unexpected…Curator traps the Artist, the Misbehavior and the revolution really becomes the commodified revolution. So after finished Artists bring their commodified revolution to the dealer galleries and then together save the resistance. What a pathetic, its just bullshit…Thank you for sponsoring the bullshit and boring art events” (Fu).
While Fu offers no solutions to improve the flow of power relations, Fu identifies what he thinks that the audience that needs to hear. Asking them to both question their place in a system and their own desires to be accepted and advance in the capitalist game. He doesn’t antagonize the crowd beyond any reasonable expectations getting them to question the implications of their desires is enough. His talk is brief and met with raucous applause. He has trapped the audience, the curators and the ‘Man’ inside a schema that overlays the Biennial as if it were a contracting subset of rampant capitalistic excess. Does he need to offer anything beyond that? Pointing out the Emperor is naked is a good enough start.
view the intervention here: (link)
an attempt at the impossible act of grafting a native tree onto an exotic.
Shannon Te Ao, an interview with Anna-Marie White
1. Tēnā koe Shannon. You have recently moved to Nelson. Where are you from?
Tēnā koe Anna-Marie. Yes, I have recently re-located from Auckland where I have been living and working for the last few years. I was born in Sydney and did most of my growing up there before re-locating to New Zealand permanently in 2004. My father from Taupo, met my mother who is Australian in Sydney after leaving home when he was about 17 and so I have connections to both countries.
2. When I came here, I was welcomed onto the marae at Whakatu as a manuhiri (visitor) and was brought over to the tangata whenua (host) side. After this ritual welcome, I was no longer considered ‘waewae tapu’ - a newcomer. Waewae tapu is also a word for exploration. Raikaihautu was the first explorer of Te Wai Pounamu and is described as having circumnavigated the island and beaten the earth with his kō (digging stick). The Nelson Lakes are recognised as the result of these actions.
Might we consider your performance as an enacted ritual that expresses both definitions of waewae tapu?
The performance itself correlates with the history of Rakaihautu and my own. So, in that sense the work carries an inherent duality. Initially, I envisaged the work as a kind of temporary monument or memorial to Rakaihautu. The actions that contribute to the performance explore my own immediate, physical response to both histories.
3. The Foreshore and Seabed controversy started in this region; arguably the most important political issue concerning Maori in recent times. Given this, it seems significant that you have chosen to beat the mud of the tidal estuary. Was this your intention?
The specific location for the performance was determined as the closest position to that of Rakaihautu’s actual landing. The site and the performance both address models of understanding a place through our physical relationship to the land. This would seem to be fundamental in relation to discussion around the Foreshore and Seabed debate. The nature of the tidal estuary itself is of a transitional, temporal space. Metaphorically, ideal for ongoing dialogue.
4. I have always interpreted the beating action of Rakaihautu as exploratory surgery - as though he was probing and checking out the land. You are giving the estuary a full on beating and if I were to attribute a style to this work, I would call it Expressionistic. What was going on there?
We have tried to capture and present a range of different actions within the performance. I would describe them all as exploratory but further to that I would add gestural and temporal among other descriptives. In the sense that these might describe stylistc traits akin to Expressionism seems fitting up to a point. Where Expressionistic responses to art-making are historically attributed to a subjective perspective, one of our aims with this work was to use the history of Rakaihautu to expand upon purely subjective readings. This work is the result of historical research and artistic response - informed and immediate as opposed to emotional and intuitive.
A cliched and limited example of binary thinking as it relates to race relations, or at least a one sided representation of Maori by a conservative media.
Who we are 2006
Video (4.22 mins)
Artist Statement 2012
Culture cannot be contained as it unfolds. My art enters this stream at many different points, looking backwards, looking forwards, generating its own sound and motion. I am inspired by generations of Tlingit creativity and contribute to this wealthy conversation through active curiosity. There is no room in this exploration for the tired prescriptions of the “Indian Art World” and its institutions. Through creating I assert my freedom.
Concepts drive my medium. I draw upon a wide range of indigenous technologies and global materials when exploring an idea. Adaptation and resistance, lies and exaggeration, dreams, memories and poetic views of daily life—these themes recur in my work, taking form through sound, texture, and image. Inert objects spring back to life; kitsch is reclaimed as cultural renewal; dancers merge ritual and rap. I am most comfortable not knowing what form my next idea will take, a boundless creative path of concept-based motion.
Tight Rope 2011
Public Observations 2010
The Welcome Project 2010
Cutting The Grass 2008