News | 11 November 2016

Māori artists to ‘flash frequently’ at Toi Pōneke

Five Wellington Māori artists have combined to produce an audio-visual exploration of the conflated socio-political interests and multi layered tensions that underpin culture in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Artwork of Alex Batley, depicting element of George Porter Tower.
Alex Batley, Hīrautia 2

Kōhikohiko, a Māori term referring to braided lightning which means to flash frequently, is a collaborative audio-visual exhibition between five Wellington based Māori artists opening at Toi Pōneke Gallery this month.

Alex Batley, Dave Matthews, Adrian McCleland, Eugene Hansen and Shannon Te Ao were brought together by Toi Pōneke Manager Paora Allen to create the exhibition. It will coincide with this year’s Māori Art Market and a symposium celebrating 50 years of Contemporary Māori Art coming up at Te Wharewaka and the Wellington City Gallery respectively. 

Paora Allen initially approached Eugene and Shannon asking them if they would work together on an exhibition.

“After some kōrero we thought it would be nice to activate the Māori concept Tuakana-Teina, which refers to the relationship between an older person and a younger person and is specific to teaching and learning in a Māori context,” he says. “Thus Alex, Dave and Adrian were asked to join in”

Batley, Mathews and McCleland are former students of Hansen’s and Te Ao’s, who are current lecturers at Massey University’s College of Creative Arts. Instead of working as individuals on art works separately the five artists have been working closely like a whānau and pulled together individual experiences that have been informing their practices over many years. 

The installation consists of video projections and a pair of 600 watt vintage sub-woofers speakers. Although the installation is intentionally minimal, the imagery and audio is aimed to embodying an imagined social or political space.

Shannon Te Ao, who was recently awarded the prestigious Walters Prize 2016, says: “The spaces the group was interested in responding to multi-layered, socially and politically and are difficult to navigate. “There is a tension, a frustration in our economics, class structure, you can’t separate them. We are working together on this installation, not trying to define anything but rather piecing together our shared interests.”

Alex Batley has developed an upfront documentary filmic language and has been focusing on the Athfield Architects 1970’s designed George Porter Towers as a site of interest.

“How did a bicultural nation come to create such sites of inevitable violence and alienation? Architecture becomes violence when it takes on the role of dictator,” says Alex.

Eugene Hansen has built a pair of 600 watt vintage cinema sub-woofer speakers that will play low-end bass noise capable of producing 20 Hz frequencies.

“We’re interested in stretching time through audio and video projection,” he says. “These sub-woofers are crazy powerful and allow sound to be driven at the lowest human listening experience possible – it’s going to be uncomfortable for some,” says Eugene.

Paora Allen adds: “What these artists are referencing is often difficult to talk about but what they feel every day can be expressed in innovative and captivating ways.

“Through the use of low end audio to create an uneasy experience and abstract architectural video studies, this audio-visual installation conveys interesting metaphors for current issues and questions we all face today.”

Kōhikohiko is the Māori term referring to braided lightning and meaning to flash frequently, do irregularly (a bit here and a bit there).  It can also be used as a verb to convey piecemeal, irregular and spasmodic. It is also a noun to recite genealogy in a selective way by not following a single line of descent.


Opening Friday 6pm, 18 November 2016

Exhibition dates: 19 November - 10 December 2016

Toi Pōneke, Abel Smith Street, Wellington City