Artist Shannon Te Ao’s multimedia installation With the sun aglow, I have my pensive moods, 2017, explores the physical and emotional depths of love, grief, sickness and healing. The installation revolves around a video installation derived from footage shot in different locations throughout Aotearoa New Zealand. The work explores a poetic assemblage of tenuously related content including a 1840s waiata (Māori song), a dance scene from a 1970s Charles Burnett film, a hemp farm, and a 1960s Clyde Otis song famously sung by Dinah Washington. By drawing together these various threads, Te Ao creates an entangled perspective of the human condition — a perspective that reaches out to connect estranged contexts in order to explore the potential for our own empathetic reach across distant histories.
Shannon Te Ao (Ngati Tūwharetoa, b.1978 Sydney)
Shannon Te Ao is an artist currently based in Wellington, New Zealand. Working predominantly within performative and video-based practices, Te Ao’s recent work has seen him draw from a range of existing literary material, including Māori lyrical sources found in whakataukī (Māori proverb) and waiata (Māori song). He uses these as exploratory devices for various social and political contexts.
The conflation of the physical, social and poetic are recurrent within of a growing body of moving image-based installations and live performance propositions. Within these, language – in the form of short poetic text, prose or song – activates, offsets and contextualises any given site or activity. Recitals or readings are employed to locate imagery within an expansive, sometimes anachronistic and often tenuous domestic setting. Within recent moving image works Te Ao enacts a fragile social agency, blurring the lines between embodiments of the melancholic and optimistic, empowered and despondent, and wild and free.
Recent exhibitions include: Tēnei Ao Kawa Nei at Christchurch Art Gallery (2017); Imagine the Present at ST PAUL St Gallery, Auckland (2016); From the one I call my own: Susan Te Kahurangi King and Shannon Te Ao at City Gallery Wellington (2015); Unstuck in Time at Te Tuhi, Auckland (2014–15) and the 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire curated by Juliana Engberg (2014). In 2016, Te Ao received the Walters Prize – New Zealand’s most prestigious art award.