In 2016, Wellington artist Shannon Te Ao (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) won the Walters Prize for his video-performance two shoots that stretch far out (2013–4), in which he recites a waiata to a donkey, a swan, a wallaby, rabbits, chicken, and geese. In 2015, we presented it in conversation with Susan Te Kahurangi King’s work in our show From the One I Call My Own. Now we present another Te Ao video-performance alongside our Colin McCahon show, On Going Out with the Tide. Te Ao’s work reaches out to other artists, voices, and sites to create what art writer Martin Patrick has called ‘chaotic entanglements of past and present, then and now, Pākehā and Māori, bi-cultural nation state and indigenous traditions, belief systems, and protocols’. Similar entanglements are already at play in McCahon’s own work, especially in his appropriations of Māori culture—the subject of our show.
In Untitled (McCahon House Studies) (2011), Te Ao walks with and talks back to McCahon. It is one of a number of video-performances responding to historically charged sites that Te Ao has made with cinematographer Iain Frengley. In it, he occupies McCahon's former family home in Titirangi. In the 1950s, McCahon made much of his work there, while—almost unbelievably, considering its tiny size—raising a family of four, with wife Anne. Now, it’s a Museum with an artist residency, administered by a Trust. Te Ao was not invited into the House as a resident, but entered of his own volition. He performed repetitive ritualised actions that channel aspects of McCahon’s life, addressing the competing psychological demands of creativity and family.