In 2016, Wellington artist Shannon Te Ao (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) won the Walters Prize for his video-performance, Two Shoots that Stretch Far Out (2013–14). In it, 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. Here, we present another Te Ao video-performance alongside our Colin McCahon show, On Going Out with the Tide.
Te Ao 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, bicultural 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. Te Ao 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. Te Ao was not invited into the House as a resident, but snuck in, to perform repetitive ritualised actions that channel aspects of McCahon’s life, addressing the competing psychological demands of creativity and family. Untitled (McCahon House Studies) is one of a number of video-performances responding to historically charged sites that Te Ao has made with cinematographer Iain Frengley.