Taking its title from a kīwaha, a saying, that expresses a feeling of wonder or surprise, Ata koia! gives form to what it feels like to be alive today. Featuring newly commissioned and pre-existing mixed-media, sound and moving-image artworks, the exhibition features artists Abigail Aroha Jensen, Brook Konia, Cathy Livermore, Josephine Jelicich, Qianhe ‘AL’ Lin, Qianye Lin, Rachel Shearer, Tira Walsh, Ufuoma Essi and Wukun Wanambi. Asked by curator James Tapsell-Kururangi how they felt about today, the artists responded by contributing artworks that reflect each artist’s lived experience of contemporaneity, variously in dialogue with the shapes and forms of the past, present and future.
On entry, viewers are greeted by two opposing newly commissioned artworks by painter Tira Walsh and artist and furniture maker Josephine Jelicich, recalling the space of a wharenui. Staging a dialogue across space and time, Walsh’s nine-panel painting Black out Days (2022) harkens back to the work of Māori modernist Ralph Hotere while Jelicich’s brushed aluminium wall Messages from the Stars (2022) responds to the spaces and materials of the urban landscape.
Resounding throughout the gallery space, Te Huri Wai (2021) is an eight-channel audio work by Rachel Shearer and Cathy Livermore with Pita Turei. Originally exhibited in Ōtautahi Christchurch, the artwork in its initial iteration sought to personify the winds and water described in the tribal narratives of southern Aotearoa through various iterations of hau – translated as breath, wind and life energy. Te Huri Wai’s restaging in Ata koia! explores the tikanga and ethical implications of transporting a Kai Tahu narrative to Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.
Occupying Te Tuhi’s courtyard is a newly commissioned sound work. Abigail Aroha Jensen’s Inside my Papahou, ngā āhuatanga o te kuku o te tangata e te kēhua (2022) consists of a two-channel audio emitted from speakers embedded within four embellished blocks of concrete, a new medium for the artist. Transmitting a ghostly soundtrack of traditional Māori instruments and “found” sounds, the artwork lends a pōuri, or mournful, affect to the artist’s interpretation of today. Inside the gallery, curator and writer Brook Konia presents a text artwork, I can see the universe from my house (2022), a personal reflection on the artist’s life in the form of a fictionalised story.
The exhibition also features three moving-image artworks. Artist sibling duo Qianye Lin and Qianhe ‘AL’ Lin have produced a large-scale three-channel video artwork titled 人参果之歌 A Very True Heart (2022). Centring around the narrative of the ren-shen fruit, a fruit in the shape of an infant that is said to grant near-immortality to those who eat it, this new commission marks a shift in the artists’ practice away from editing found footage, to, for the first time, producing all original material for their video works.
The other two moving-image artworks in Ata koia! are by international artists. Wukun Wanambi is an artist and the Cultural Director of The Mulka Project, a production house and community archive that strives to sustain and protect Yolŋu cultural knowledge in Northeast Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory of Australia. His video artwork Nhina Nhäma ga Ŋäma (2014) splices together footage of song and dance, performed by different clan groups, on the same screen, reproducing the ceremonial practice by which these groups perform sequences of song and dance alongside one another. The second international artist featured in Ata koia! is Ufuoma Essi, an artist based in South London. Her film Bodies in Dissent (2021) draws from archival footage to examine the body as a site of remembrance and resistance.
→ List of works: Ata koia!
→ Pantograph Punch – Ripening Together: Magical Fruit and a Precious Offering in 人参果之歌 A Very True Heart by Gabi Lardies
About the artists
Abigail Aroha Jensen
Abigail Aroha Jensen (Ngāti Porou through Te Whānau-a-Tūwhakairiora and Te Whānau-a-Ruataupare; Ngāi Tāmanuhiri through Rangiwaho; Crow and Steele clan, County Antrim) is an artist who places herself within her whakapapa by responding to space with oro, painting and installation. Previous exhibitions in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland include Occupied territories at RM gallery with Avigail Allan and Naomi Allan; Manawa i te Kāniwha, a mural produced in collaboration with George Watson for Artspace Aotearoa; and Pūtahitanga Kura, an artwork produced by Jensen and Watson for The Lightship, a digital light wall along Bledisloe Wharf.
Brook Konia (Ngati Porou, Kōtimana, Pākehā) is a curator and writer who focuses on contemporary Māori art. He has previously worked as Assistant Curator Modern and Contemporary Māori Art at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, curator intern for Toi Tū Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and exhibition attendant for Dane Mitchell’s 2019 Venice Biennale presentation, Post Hoc. He is currently studying towards a Masters of Māori Visual Arts at Massey University’s Toioho ki Āpiti and is a trust member for Enjoy Contemporary Art Space.
Cathy Livermore (Waitaha, Kati Mamoe, Kai Tahu, English, Irish, Scandinavian) is an artist, educator, activist and healer. Over the past 20 years, she has pursued an artistic and pedagogical practice that explores the impacts of social and environmental constructs on our experiences of connection and purpose. Through kaupapa Māori and intercultural spaces of collaboration, Livermore questions the dynamic impacts of postcolonial realities on our identity and worldviews. As an educator, Livermore has developed pedagogies that incorporate kaupapa Māori and Pasifika worldviews within tertiary performing arts programmes in Aotearoa and has also developed Mauri Tau, an embodied wellbeing practice shaped by a Māori cultural worldview.
Josephine Jelicich has participated in exhibitions at Precinct 35, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington; 5hell, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland; and The Physics Room, Ōtautahi Christchurch. She graduated with a BFA (Honours) from the College of Creative Arts Toi Rauwhārangi at Massey University and in 2019 completed the Furniture Makers’ Programme at The Centre for Fine Woodworking, Whakatū Nelson. She makes furniture and art alongside her work as a gallery technician.
Qianye Lin & Qianhe ‘AL’ Lin
Qianye Lin and Qianhe ‘AL’ Lin are an artist duo and siblings who work with audio-visual installation, writing and performance. They are interested in language, perspectives and storytelling in the embodiment of a fragmented linguistic experience. Their artworks have been exhibited at The Physics Room, Ōtautahi Christchurch; Coastal Signs, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland; and Papatūnga, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. In 2021, a book accompanying their moving-image artwork Thus the Blast Carried It, Into the World was co-published by Coastal Signs and New Public.
Rachel Shearer (Pākehā, Rongowhakaata, Te Aitanga ā Māhaki) is an artist researching sound as a medium through installation, composing, recording, performance, writing and moving image. She also collaborates as a sound designer and composer for moving-image and live performance events.
Tira Walsh (Ngāti Wairere, Ngāti Hāua) is a painter whose practice focuses on translating the complex and clashing physical sensations of being in the world, drawing influence from cinema, popular music and everyday life. Walsh’s work has been exhibited at Sydney Contemporary; Two Rooms, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland; The Vivian, Matakana; Wallace Arts Centre, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland; Gallery 9, Sydney; and Sanderson Contemporary, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. She has been awarded residences at Altes Spital in Solothurn, Switzerland through the Kaipara Wallace Arts Trust Award and at the Karekare House, supported by Eden Arts.
Ufuoma Essi is a video artist and filmmaker from south-east London, whose work spans film, moving image, photography and sound. Using the archive as an essential medium, her work revolves around Black feminist epistemology and the configuration of displaced histories, with the aim of interrogating and disrupting the silences and gaps of political and historical narratives. Previous exhibitions and screenings include South London Gallery; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Black Star Film Festival, Philadelphia; Maysles Documentary Center, New York; Barbican, London; Lisson Gallery, London; and Chisenhale Studios, London.
Wukun Wanambi is an artist and Cultural Director at The Mulka Project, which he has led since its inauguration in 2007. He is renowned for reviving the saltwater imagery of his arm of the Marrakulu clan, which had not been painted intensively since his father’s death in 1981. Wanambi has received multiple awards and has been heavily involved in major communal projects, including the Sydney Opera House commission and the opening of the National Museum of Australia. His bark paintings, larrakitj (burial poles) and multimedia projects have been exhibited at Raft Artspace, Darwin; the Art Gallery of South Australia; and the Sydney Biennale.
About James Tapsell-Kururangi
James Tapsell-Kururangi (Te Arawa, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Mākino, Tainui, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau-a-Rākairoa) is a curator, artist and writer currently working as assistant curator at Te Tuhi. His curatorial practice centres local Māori histories and focuses on building relationships within the community of artists he works with. His artistic practice is built from his whakapapa, in which he composes waiata that he frames within moving image artworks. He is also curator of the independent art space Papatūnga at Parnell Station, Tāmaki Makaurau.