‘Landmark Techno Māori CD-ROM Available Now’, Media Release, 18 October 2001.
The Techno Māori exhibition has moved into another dimension with the release of an innovative CD-ROM, designed as a third ‘virtual gallery’ alongside the exhibitions at City Gallery Wellington and Pataka Poirirua Museum. This is the first time either institution has produced a publication and gallery presentation in CD-ROM format. The CD-ROM features animated films, video and images ages by leading contemporary Māori artists, music by Wai 100%, artists’ statements, and essays.
‘This is a landmark art publication in New Zealand in terms of both its presentation and content’, says City Gallery Wellington director Paula Savage. ‘It has the depth and high standard our publications are known for but its exciting range of digital work, in keeping with the nature of Techno Māori, makes it something entirely new.’
Features of the Techno Māori CD-ROM include:
- Rongotai Lomas’s celebrated animated film Te Ika a Maui
- Film footage of Peter Robinson’s installation at the Venice Biennale
- Artwork reproduction, statements, and resume from the nineteen artists featured in the exhibition
- An animated poem by Roma Potiki, ‘Getting Brown in Hyper Town’
- In-depth essays by curators Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, Deidre Brown, and Mark Amery
- Music videos from Te Kupu, Mika, Toni Huata, and Voodoo Chile
- Music by Wai 100% and aural postcards from New York.
Now available at both City Gallery and Pataka Porirua Museum, and selected booksellers, the CD-ROMs are already a notably popular aspect of the show, with people of all ages trying them out on computers installed at both venues. Techno Māori: Māori Art in the Digital Age brings together work by a selection of contemporary Māori artists who use digital technology to produce their work, or whose work reflects the digital age we live in, such as Peter Robinson, Michael Parekowhai, Lisa Reihana, and Natalie Robertson. The CD-ROM was designed by Eyework Design and programmed by Oktobor, both award-winning local companies.
The CD-ROM is available from City Gallery Wellington and Pataka Porirua Museum, priced at $15.
Julie Paama-Pengelly, ‘The Great Maori Artist’, Tu Mai, December 2001.
Tihei Mauri Ora!
It’s Great to be a Māori artist?
Could it be that the ‘Art World’, overcome by the madness that struck many millennium revellers, has suddenly taken unprecedented interest in Māori Art? The dawn of a new century has brought an enormous proliferation of Māori Art exhibitions, both minor and extensive, exploring a breadth, but not always a sophistication of Māori art. Should Māori not be flattered by the long over-due accolades of fine art status—to be at last, basking in the light of ‘discovery’?
Of course, any Māori success also inevitably encourages a ‘white’ backlash, murmurs of ‘too many Māori exhibitions’ to the detriment of ‘New Zealand’ voices. The disgruntled mutters often don’t get penned to paper, especially within art scholarship and art criticism, for fear of a backlash against the perpetrators or perhaps the idea is that ignoring them may make them go away. Māori are notably fearful of applying a critique to their own, partly for fear that non-Māori will amplify negative comments back against Māori. For Māori have battled for fifty years to be celebrated alongside their non-Māori peers within the galleries and they know too well that at any time the honeymoon may come to an end.
Māori on the other hand could perhaps be more rigorous, self-reflexive, and self-critical of their art production. Certainly in terms of our population base and in the name of excellent art, we suddenly seem to be enjoying more than adequate attention in a discipline where thousands of non-Māori struggle year after year, but never gain recognition. Yes, we can celebrate our major achievements. It is crucial however, that we also critically evaluate these exhibitions and move to new standards of work.
Māori voices have already begun to reject exhibitions that have unmanageable numbers and purport to make very general statements about where Māori Art is today. Māori dissatisfaction with principles of exclusion and inclusion according to who is/is not in ‘the loop’ is causing dissension among the artists themselves as they become aware that there are those promoted ahead of them. However, it is equally evident that artists who produce work primarily to gain public gallery status have to ‘deliver the goods’ if they are to remain in the public eye. Was it not one of our most respected artists, Ralph Hotere, who said that Māori should produce ‘Good Art’, it not being good enough to simply produce art that is Māori.
In the end sustaining interest in Māori art will be dependent on Māori artists’ consistent ability to produce excellent art. The participation of Jacqueline Fraser and Peter Robinson in the Venice Biennale, Italy, is proof that some of our artists are reaching this pinnacle.
While supporting our artistic community is a Māori concept, we look to those artists that excel to be our teachers and to set standards. To develop our arts, some artists invariably need to be less frequently in the public eye in order that younger artists with merit can be fostered. Often non-Māori curators apply more rigorous standards of selection than Māori, who compromise in desperation to have Māori voices heard. Many Māori artists are often guilty of failing to apply the standards of professionalism to their practice that can be a strong determinant of success—or not.
It is time for Māori commentators to lead the way, with renewed curatorial rigour, both visually and literary. The warning is there, especially for many of our young artists that are carried along on this new tide of public enthusiasm. While we are currently flavour of the new century and there is the appearance of room for everyone, curators need to be careful that they are not creating false expectations. The gravy train may not be around for long and we need to be future artists of distinction. More than ever before emerging artists, dare we say it unheard-ofs, are up there on the stage and not only is the freshness of their work in question, but also the thin premise of curatorial grouping itself.
While all eyes in the next two months will be on the fresh Māori graduates from all around the country, we can dwell on some of the numerous current exhibitions that are solely Māori groupings. Techno Māori at City Gallery Wellington and Te Pataka, Porirua, and Purangiaho at Auckland Art Gallery, stand as the most ambitious.
For the Wellington City Gallery ‘round two’ follows on the heels of Parihaka, which, while widely heralded as a success, had serious problems combining ethnographic information with ‘art’ to make a compelling exhibition of statements about the importance of Parihaka as site of Māori resistance in New Zealand. Techno Māori ambitiously attempts to expose Māori as savvy innovators and technological initiators. However at times this premise is extremely thin. The Māori doll becomes a redundant theme and the computer-generated imagery often lacks any real new invention. One can’t help thinking that a few of the works make a bolder statement and over-shadow the others in the process. Lisa Reihana certainly makes this point very clear with her outstanding works in both exhibitions.
Purangiaho, on first appearance, is less ambitious, but achieves perhaps more successful ends. There is valid attempt made to link customary and contemporary practice without sacrificing technological innovation. There is also a concern to expose a ‘whakapapa’ of each artist’s works in terms of development of their practice. Here Lisa Reihana’s collaborative Digital Marae seduces with graphic, high-coloured slickness. Māori superheroes leap off the wall, challenging those of the marketing industry that constantly sell foreign heroes. Selecting a number of young emerging artists however, is always risky and the curator often has to rely on intuition. Māori figurative imagery is used with degrees of success and some of the younger artists lack the breadth of practical expression that allows a meaningful application of the whakapapa concept.
Yes, currently there is a notable, self-conscious concern with representing the new visionary Māori Art directions. Is this embarrassed shift bred from fear that there might be little left to say in the mainstream modernist realm, or is it contrived to strategically position New Zealand art to the World? Whatever the case, we as Māori must be careful not to be falsely led by this interest. It is up to us to position Māori art, strategically and intelligently, at the forefront of innovation, and ensure that our artists lead the way and don’t simply just fill up the spaces.
Jonathon Mane-Wheoki, ‘He Kahui Whetu Hou’, Art New Zealand, no. 100, Spring 2001. Excerpt.
Techno Māori: Māori Art in the Digital Age, to be held concurrently at Wellington’s City Gallery and Pataka Porirua Museum of Arts and Cultures, opens shortly after Purangiaho in Auckland. The exhibition builds on a concept first trialled in Hiko!: New Energies in Māori Art at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery Annex, Christchurch in 1999, which featured seven younger artists—Darren George, Kirsty Gregg, Olivia Haddon, Eugene Hansen, Lonnie Hutchinson, Keri Whaitiri, and Grace Voller—whose work investigated new modes, technologies, and media such as installation, performance (body), video, and computer art.
Techno Māori, likewise, brings together recent work by a small selection of contemporary Māori artists, expressing the diverse ways in which Māori artists are utilising or inspired by digital technology and reflecting the ease with which young Māori relate directly or indirectly, to the fact that Māori and non-Māori alike now live in an electronic and global age. As with Purangiaho, Techno Māori will consider how new ideas in Māori art relate to, extend or originate in, or deny custom and tradition.
‘Strings Attached’, Dominion, 3 October 2001.
Auckland artist Maureen Lander’s three-dimensional fluorescent web of geometric shapes, Digital Strings, is part of an exhibition at Pataka Porirua Museum of Arts and Cultures, the Techno Māori: Māori Art in the Digital Age, which is also showing at Wellington’s City Gallery.
Digital Strings, began as a collaboration with another artist, John Fairclough. It was inspired by a traditional Māori string game, which recounts the story of an important figure in Māori mythology, Tawhaki, and his journey to the heavens to bring back knowledge.
‘If you think about it, digital, it’s something you play with using your fingers and a language of computers, strings of binary code. The interplay of old and new’, Ms Lander said.
The artist was also interested in photographs by an early-twentieth-century photographer and filmmaker, James McDonald, of Māori playing traditional string games. The games used movement to recount stories and the installation ascends the wall, just as Tawhaki went skywards for knowledge. Ms Lander has also installed Binary Strings, a sequence of loops and straight lines of string representing digital code, at the City Gallery.
‘Sassy Interaction’, Creative New Zealand: On Arts Newsletter, no. 22, October 2001. Excerpt.
At City Gallery, Wellington an exhibition described as a snapshot of Māori in the digital age has just opened. Techno Māori: Māori Art in the Digital Age brings together works by contemporary Māori artists such as Shane Cotton, Dean Hapeta, Lisa Reihana, and Michael Parekowhai, expressing the diverse ways in which they are utilising or inspired by digital technology.
The exhibition is running concurrently at two public galleries—the City Gallery and Pataka Porirua Museum of Arts and Cultures. A CD-ROM and website will act as a third ‘virtual’ exhibition.
‘With digital technology, we can replicate the same work at a different gallery’, says Mark Amery, City Gallery programme co-ordinator. ‘It becomes an interesting play on how digital technology and art interact.’
Amery says the aim of the ‘techno’ exhibition is to get younger audiences interested in art. There’s a range of interactive works on offer, including works by a Māori artist living in New York who’s sending ‘interactive, aural postcards’ from the Big Apple. ‘It’s an exhibition that combines traditional Māori art with new technology imagery’, Amery says. ‘What’s also fantastic is the way these artists are using a global language to explore indigenous concepts. It’s really progressive in terms of digital art internationally.’
Polly Greeks, ‘Colonial Cringe’, Evening Post, 27 September 2001.
Armed with the tools of the 21st century, 19 Māori artists are demonstrating they’re keeping up with the times in a new exhibition opening in Wellington and Porirua this week. Titled Techno Māori: Māori Art In The Digital Age, curator Deidre Brown says the various artworks demonstrate the diverse ways digital technology is being used by contemporary Māori artists. Artworks range from Maureen Lander and John Fairclough’s Digital String Games to Ngahiraka Mason’s digital images of Western-style picturesque locations superimposed with Māori text recalling their indigenous significance. Rachel Rakena has used video images to explore the relationship between identity and land, while Wayne Youle has taken photographs of kitsch plastic Māori dolls at the mercy of a colonial Action Man.
Brown says the exhibition raises interesting questions for some Māori about their ability to adopt new technologies while maintaining traditional art practices. ‘For instance, at least one craft artist politely declined an invitation to participate in Techno Māori as she believed her work was concerned with, and judged by the standards of the handmade.’
The exhibition demonstrates the emergence of new media, however, not the replacement of traditional art, she says. ‘Since many of the artists view technology as a tool … it has been appropriated into a Māori conceptual framework.’
Janice Wilson, ‘Techno Māori Strongly Linked to Canty’, Chronicle, 29 November 2001.
A Wellington exhibition of Māori art in the digital age has a strong Canterbury connection in the form of co-curators and art historians Dr Deidre Brown and Jonathan Mane-Wheoki. Techno Māori: Māori Art in the Digital Age has been showing at the City Gallery and the Pataka Porirua Museum of Arts and Cultures in Wellington since October, and brings together work by contemporary Māori artists who use or are inspired by digital technology.
It seems appropriate that the curators of such an exhibition used the latest technology and the Internet to pull the exhibition together, organising it predominantly by e-mail.
‘Most of the time it worked really well. Sometimes we had to get on the phone or fly up and see them, but most of the exhibition was compiled using e-mail’, Dr Brown said. She filled the hard drives of two computers while organising the show.
The exhibition is a follow up to Hiko!, a show staged at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery in 1999. Its Canterbury connection is furthered by the inclusion of the work of five graduates of the University’s School of Fine Arts: Shane Cotton, Darryn George, Eugene Hansen, Nathan Pohio, and Peter Robinson.
Project co-ordinator Mark Amery said Techno Māori showed that Māori artists were world leaders in using digital technology in cultural art. ‘The digital age isn’t … about the world coming to Māori; it’s about Māori coming to the world.’
Dr Brown said exhibitions looking at the impact of the digital age on cultural art had been held in other countries, but the historical, cultural and land-based content of much of the New Zealand work made this exhibition quite different. ‘What came through very clearly in the work was a sense that we could maintain a Māori identity (in art in the digital age), which was not something that had cropped up in other cultural exhibitions around the world.’
The use of digital technology was growing and ‘you’d be surprised how many there are using it’, she said. ‘A number who produced what might be considered traditional fine arts, like paintings, used digital tools or included digital elements in their work.’
Dr Brown said the exhibition had received good media coverage, particularly on radio, and a CD-ROM featuring work from the exhibition had been selling well.