Art response to cultural ID

03:05, May 23 2012
Shannon Te Ao
BROADER SCOPE: Shannon Te Ao in front of projected images of himself.

A collaboration between newly arrived Nelson artist Shannon Te Ao and a Dunedin documentary-maker opens at the G- Space Gallery at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) tomorrow.

Te Ao, who graduated from the Elam School of Fine Arts in 2009, moved from Auckland with his family about a month ago, leaving a job at the Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts.

Temporal Actions for New Arrivals (after Rakaihautu), curated by a pair of final-year NMIT bachelor of arts and media students, features a series of experimental film works documenting site-specific performances by Te Ao and Dunedin's Iain Frengley.

Kirsten Fitzsimons and Liz Boot invited the artists to present their three-minute video shot on the edge of the Waimea Estuary, as part of their professional practice elective course.

Fitzsimons, who also works with digital media, said putting the show together had been a really good experience. "We learned the ins and outs of everything that's involved. It has been really cool."

Te Ao went to Elam with experience in painting, drawing and printmaking, but his art practice quickly became a lot broader. He eventually delved into the world of photography, film and video.


Temporal Actions for New Arrivals (after Rakaihautu) investigated the process of art-making in response to the cultural significance of the area, he said.

One of the specific stories they responded to was the story of Maori chief and explorer Rakaihautu, who was said to have first made landfall in the top of the south.

"The story loosely goes that after making landfall in Nelson, he travelled down the South Island and created a lot of landscapes," he said.

Te Ao's role at the Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts was to manage its 20 exhibition spaces and curate shows, ensuring a balance of New Zealand and international artists.

"It was a really great place to work. I guess it's kind of unique in Auckland in that it's a leading contemporary gallery, as well as one of the biggest community centres in town," he said.

Te Ao and Frengley will spend three months in Wellington from September this year as part of the Rita Angus Artist in Residence programme supported by the Wellington Institute of Technology. "I guess the arts programme there has a focus on technology and culture. We will try something a lot more ambitious – a project with a bit more scale," he said.