Lana Lopesi – 13 May, 2015
Perhaps it's time to stop back patting and generate discourse that is generative and inclusive, not theoretical. 'Since 1984: He aha te ahurea-rua?' enters this unresolved art discourse around community and engagement, making little effort to connect. Maybe I'm scornful because I feel left out. But a closed wānanga mimics almost exactly the privileged feeding of New York bourgeoisie by Rirkrit Tiravanija.
Waikare Komene, Johnson Witehira, Tanya Ruka, Rik Wilson, Elisapeta Heta, Sarah Hudson, Will Ngakuru, Ammon Ngakuru, Rangituhia Hollis, Jeremy Leatinu’u
Since 1984: He aha te ahurea-rua?
Curated by Martin Awa Clarke Langdon
17 April - 22 May 2015
Curator Martin Langdon sets up a couple of great paths of interrogation in Since 1984: He aha te ahurea-rua?, asking what is biculturalism and what are the effects of institutional biculturalism? Consequently the exhibition can be defined as two parts: works in the space, and a wānanga.
In the space artists explore wide viewpoints on ‘institutionalised biculuturalism’, spanning the school yard to national monumentism and crossing from installation to new media. Yet they all feel complimentary to the pallet podium in the corner holding the gallery space for Elisapeta Heta’s Noho Symposium.
Elisapeta Heta’s wānanga was a work that unfortunately I was not privileged to experience - nor were many others. The exhibition synopsis states “Heta’s work will provide the occasion for a full weekend of korero among invited participants”, but what a tease. The shared experience of the wānanga seemed to be based on ideas of whakawhanaungatanga (or the action of relating to others), manaakitanga (hospitality, kindness, generosity) and korero. As an outsider it’s hard to guess what the actual korero that occurred that weekend was about, other than conceptually being interested in discourse itself.
The wānanga’s focus on indigenous ideas of engagement and conversation aligns with relational contemporary art spanning back to the 1940s. This is not a new form of art making or looking. Engagement is a word hot on everyone’s tongue. It’s written into the strategic plan of every council, gallery space and funding body. Yet after 55 years post Joseph Beuys’ social sculptures, 25 years post relational aesthetics and 15 years post decolonising methodologies, haven’t we had enough discourse about discourse?
Perhaps it’s time to stop back patting and generate discourse that is generative and inclusive, not theoretical. Since 1984: He aha te ahurea-rua? enters this unresolved art discourse around community and engagement, making little effort to connect. Maybe I’m scornful because I feel left out. But a closed wānanga mimics almost exactly the privileged feeding of New York bourgeoisie by Rirkrit Tiravanija.
Does anything change by giving it a mātauranga Māori basis? Or, by framing it as art, are you welcoming the same levels of exclusivity? When decolonising methodologies are applied as art, quite often they become relational art issues, continuing to promote exclusivity regardless of the framing.
The exhibition synopsis doesn’t claim to be about engagement, but it is. Perhaps too I’m confusing inclusion protocols surrounding wānanga and inclusion protocols surrounding relational contemporary art. Decolonising methodologies applied as art, often becomes relational art, continuing to promote exclusivity regardless of the indigenous paradigms.
I consider Since 1984: He aha te ahurea-rua? as a whole to be a critical discussion set up for a predetermined peer group that many are not a part of. So much so that the whakawhanungatanga and manaakitanga that seem to have been so integral to this core group are lost on its wider audience. Who is this exhibition for? I don’t think it’s for me.
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