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20 March 2021

Panel discussion: Making Art and Meaning during COVID-19

Russ Flatt, He Taonga Te Tamaiti, 2020. Inkjet print on wallpaper. 2590mm x 5035mm. Commissioned by Te Tuhi, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.
Dion Hitchens, Te Haa, the Breath, 2020. Installation with mild steel, stainless steel, electronics. Components & dimensions variable. Commissioned by Te Tuhi, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Photo by Sam Hartnett.
Lisa Boivin, Discovering Gratitude as the World Falls Around You, 2020 (installation view). Digital collage photograph. 643mm x 795mm 35mm. Commissioned by Te Tuhi, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Photo by Sam Hartnett.


COVID-19 has altered the way we are in the world. What does it mean for artists to engage with issues at home and abroad? Is it more or less complicated to make art from political, cultural and social viewpoints than it was 12 months ago? Uncertainty may dominate our thoughts but not our spirit as we make positive efforts to create a new normal.

A panel discussion with Ngahiraka Mason, curator of A Very Different World and some of the artists commissioned to make works for the exhibition including Russ Flatt, Dion Hitchens and Lisa Boivin (via Zoom).

This event is presented by Te Tuhi in association with Auckland Arts Festival Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki Makaurau and the New Zealand Maritime Museum Hui Te Ananui a Tangaroa.


About the panelists

Dion Hitchens

Dion Hitchens is Tūhoe and Ngāti Porou, Chinese and European. Commitment to a spiritual meditation practice is a daily routine and a pathway to realise human and mental oneness. Hitchens’ art practice is patterned after the Buddhist discipline of slow breathing to calm the mind and focus on nothingness. Sculptural installation can be a medium to communicate mindfulness. The rhythms of land, ocean, human breathing and the natural world are places to maintain nonbeing. Learning is a lifetime goal.

Lisa Boivin

Lisa Boivin is a member of the Deninu Kue First Nation in Northwest Territories, Canada. She is a bioethicist and a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine. Boivin uses digital collage as a pedagogical tool to confront colonial barriers that Indigenous patients navigate in the healthcare system and offers Indigenous teachings to resolve them. To help humanise clinical medicine, the artist situates her arts-based practice in the Indigenous continuum of passing knowledge through images.

Ngahiraka Mason

Ngahiraka Mason (Tūhoe, Te Arawa, Ngāti Pango) is an independent curator, critic and visual historian with research and curatorial interests in the material culture and histories of Polynesian peoples and community relationships with museums and collections. Mason is the former Indigenous Curator, Māori Art at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Her exhibitions and publications focus on historical, modern and contemporary art. Recent projects include Wānanga|Wānana at Bishop Museum, Honolulu (2019); Honolulu Biennial: Middle of Now/Here, the inaugural Honolulu Biennial (2017); and the international touring exhibition Gottfried Lindauer’s New Zealand (2014-16). She has published in American Quarterly (2020), and presented at the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM) conference (2019) and at NIRIN, the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020). Mason is a founding trustee of the Wairau Māori Art Gallery Charitable Trust, Whangārei, and a former trustee on the Te Māori Manaaki Taonga Trust. Mason lives and works in Honolulu, Hawai‘i.

Russ Flatt

Russ Flatt (Ngāti Kahungunu) makes staged photographs to create an environment to express and communicate an awareness of contemporary issues. Flatt’s careful and specific choice to work with models is a way to address identity and contemplate Aotearoa’s political realities, social constructs and ethnic diversity. The artist’s approach is situated in Victorian photography in the use of striking scenic backdrops, portraiture and photomontages and the examination of political themes. Flatt lives and works in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.

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