Who can think, what can think[1] is an exhibition that challenges definitions of ‘intelligence’ in relation to human and non-human cognition by embracing understandings of biodiversity and neurodiversity. To question ‘who and what can think’ requires us to confront the troubling history of categorising intelligence that has led to certain groups of people being excluded, controlled and killed, and plants, animals and whole ecosystems being exploited and destroyed. Despite this history, those who worked to understand and value cognitive diversity in all its forms began to influence positive social change. Growing attention to the subjects of biodiversity and neurodiversity[2] has been crucial to such positive change. This exhibition groups a range of artworks that help to address this complex history and to question how these issues influence us today.

Works that value the minds and neural-networks of plants and non-human animals form the spine of the exhibition. Extending along the gallery entrance wall is a large composite photograph by Jae Hoon Lee that depicts a tangle of tree roots, emphasising their function as a brain-like organ that is highly sensitive to the environment. Switching from the sentience of roots to that of tentacles is Stefan Kaegi’s & ShanjuLab’s theatre collaboration with an octopus, whose decentred nervous system prompts us to question human intellectual superiority.

Concerning the subject of human cognition, a number of works address how certain classifications of intelligence are linked to the control of information, language and social behaviour—with dehumanising results. Those that consider this from a technological lens include Laresa Kosloff’s video that parodies trends of personal branding through a speculative future where neuroscience technology is used to enhance desired personality traits. Kite & Devin Ronneberg’s interactive video installation algorithmically generates a mash-up of digital footage and text to reveal the links between strategies of settler colonialism and the weaponisation of information through AI and robotics technology.

The historical basis for such information control linked to definitions of human intelligence is further explored throughout the exhibition. Martin Awa Clarke Langdon’s performative wall work consists of tohutō (macrons) cut from leather belts that are periodically nailed to the wall referencing the history of te reo Māori being erased from childhood education in Aotearoa. Through a series of drawings and video works, Ana García Jácome traces the history of institutional language and systems used to define disability in Mexico as a means to situate a lived experience of disability within a larger societal context. Inspired by Jácome’s approach, The chronicle of <_______> collective centres the topic of neurodiversity within a series of transdisciplinary timelines representing national and global histories of cognition.

Other works confront current discriminatory systems and propose ways that individuals and society can include a diversity of minds. Simon Yuill’s bold looping statement, “... Ableism of Networks of Ableism …”, encircles an entire corner of Te Tuhi’s largest gallery space in order to address how the contemporary art system disables those who do not conform to expectations of neurotypical social performance. Similarly, by repeating the phrase “don’t fear the meltdown” Prue Stevenson’s text work concerns the social acceptance of autistic ways of being. Neuk Collective also supports autistic needs and other forms of neurodivergence by designing a quiet space and advising Te Tuhi on providing accessible information. Quiet space design is further explored by Bailee Lobb. By creating inflated fabric forms and transparent partitions, she experiments with colour, light, sound and space as a means of creating interior environments that aim to support people with sensory sensitivities.

The exhibition’s many parts are encapsulated in Prue Stevenson’s head-shaped ceramic plant pots that express blissful states of bio- and neurodiversity. Stevenson’s work symbolically emphasises how accepting biodiversity and neurodiversity can be life-affirming for individuals and in turn society—a sentiment that this exhibition hopes to convey as well.


E whakahē ana te whakaaturanga o Who can think, what can think[1] i ngā pōhēhē  mō te 'atamai' o te tangata me ngā mea ehara i te tangata i runga i te ngākau atawhai ki te kanorau koiora me te pūio huhua. Ki te tukuna te pātai 'nō wai te whakaaro?' me whai whakaaro tātou ki ngā raruraru o mua e pā ana ki ngā momo whakarōpūtanga o te atamai e aukati ana i ētahi tāngata, e tāmi ana, e patu ana hoki i ētahi. Me aro anō ki te mahi hao me te ngaronga o ngā tipu, o ngā kararehe me te pūnaha koiora. Ahakoa ngā taumahatanga o mua, nā runga i ngā whakapaunga kaha o ētahi ki te whai māramatanga, ki te whakanui hoki i ngā momo hinengaro rerekē, kei te huri te tai. Kei te kitea ngā hua i te whanaketanga mai o te mōhiotanga ki te kanorau koiora me te pūio huhua[2]. Kua whakarōpūhia ngā mahi toi a tēnei whakaaturanga kia whai māramatanga tātou ki ngā tini taumahatanga o mua, kia whai whakaaro hoki tātou ki te pānga o ēnei take i tēnei rā.

Ko te tahūhū o tēnei whakaaturanga ko ngā mahinga toi e whakanui ana i te hinengaro me te ara pūio o ngā tipu me ngā kararehe. Kei te pakitara, kei te kuhunga o te whare toi tētahi whakaahua nunui nā Jae Hoon Lee e whakaatu ana i ngā pakiaka o te rākau. Kua whakatauritehia te āhua ki ngā mahinga o te roro, e āta rongo ana i ngā āhuatanga o te taiao. Mai i ngā tairongo o ngā pakiaka ki ngā kāwai o te wheke, kei te whakahaua tātou e te mahi whakaari a Stefan Kaegi & Shanju ki te tūhura i te pono o te hiranga o te hinengaro tangata.

Nā, i runga i te whakaaro ki te hinengaro o te tangata, he nui ngā mahinga toi e titiro atu ana ki te pānga o ngā momo whakarōpūtanga o te atamai ki te mana whakahaere o ngā kōrero, o te reo me te whanonga o te pāpori – otirā, ko te tangata tonu te papa. Ko Laresa Kosloff tētahi e whai ana i tēnei kaupapa ki te ao hangarau, arā, he pūhohe tāna ataata mō ngā waitohu o te tangata me te whakamahinga o te hangarau o te pūtaiao pūio o anamata ki te whakapai ake i ngā āhuatanga o te tangata. Kei te whakaputa te toi ātaata pāhekoheko a Kite & Devin Ronneberg i tētahi whakahanumitanga o ngā ataata me ngā tuhinga ā-mati mā tētahi hātepe pāngarau ki te tūhura mai i ngā hononga i waenga i ngā rautaki o ngā kaitāmi me te whakamahinga o te pārongo hei rākau o te riri mā te AI me te hangarau mātai karehiko.

E tūhura ana anō tēnei whakaaturanga i te pūtakenga mai o te mahi hao pārongo me ngā whakamārama mō te atamai o te tangata. E mau ana te mahinga toi whakaari a Martin Awa Clarke Langdon i ngā tohutō kua tapahia i ngā tātua kirikau. Kua hamahamahia ngā tātua ki te pakitara hei tohu o te mukumukutanga o te reo Māori i ngā mahi whakaako tamariki ki Aotearoa Kei te whai ngā tānga me ngā ataata a Ana Garcia Jácome i te hītori o te reo me ngā pūnaha o ngā whare whakahaere e pā ana ki te noho whaikaha ki Mehiko, hei tauira tēnei o te noho whaikaha ki tētahi hāpori whānui. Nā runga anō i te mahi a Jácome, kei te aro atu te mahi a te kāhui toi o The chronicle of <_______> ki te kaupapa o te pūio huhua i roto i ngā takanga o te maha o ngā momo tikanga mātauranga e kitea ai ngā hītori ā-motu, ngā hītori o te ao whānui hoki e pā ana te hirikapo.

Kei te whakahē ētahi atu mahinga toi i ngā pūnaha whakawehewehe, ā, kei te whakatakotoria ngā ara e taea ai e te tangata takitahi me te pāpori te manaaki i ngā tini momo hinengaro. E karapoti ana te tauāki nunui a Simon Yuill, arā, ko "Ableism of Networks of Ableism …” i te katoa o te kokonga o te whare toi nunui o Te Tuhi kia āta kitea te haukotinga o te hunga kāore e whai ana i ngā hiahia o te pāpori e pā ana ki ō rātou mahinga ā-hinengaro nā te mahi tāmi a te pūnaha toi o te ao hou. Waihoki, nā te whakahuahuatanga o ngā kupu "don't fear the meldown" kei te whakaahua mai ngā toi ā-kupu a Prue Stevenson i ngā whakahē a te pāpori e pā ana ki ngā āhuatanga o te takiwātanga. Kei te tautoko hoki a Neuk Collective i ngā hiahia o te hunga takiwā me ētahi atu momo mate pūio i te hangahoutanga o tētahi whare mārire, i ā rātou tāpaenga kōrero hoki ki Te Tuhi e pā ana ki ngā iringa kōrero mā te katoa. Kei te tūhuratia anō te hanga o ngā wāhi mārire e Bailee Lobb. Mā te waihangatanga o ngā porohau papanga nunui me ngā ārai pūataata, kei te whakamātautau ia i ngā momo kano, i te aho, i te oro me te wāhi i runga i tōna hiahia ia ki te whakatū i ngā rūma e tautoko i ngā tāngata e kaha pāngia ana e ō rātou tairongo.   

Kua mau i a Prue Stevenson ngā tini mata o tēnei whakaaturanga ki āna pāta uku mō ngā tipu e whakaahua ana i te noho mārire o te kanorautanga o ngā koiora me te pūio huhua. Kei te whakatairanga ngā mahi a Stevenson i ngā painga ki te tangata takitahi, ki te pāpori whānui hoki, mēnā ka manaakihia te kanorau koiora me te pūio huhua—ko te tūmanako ka rangona hoki tēnā whakaaro ki tēnei whakaaturanga.



[1] The exhibition’s title is paraphrased from the text How we became posthuman […] (1999) by feminist literary critic N. Katherine Hayles.

Kua takea mai te taitara o te whakaaturanga i tētahi wāhi o te kōrero How we became posthuman […] (1999) nā N. Katherine Hayles, he kaiarotake o ngā tuhinga mō ngā take wāhine

[2] Neurodiversity is the idea that cognitive variation is a natural part of human diversity. It is considered an important factor intersecting with other forms of diversity, such as disability, gender, race and sexuality. 

Hei tā te kaupapa o te pūio huhua, he āhuatanga māori noa ngā hirikapo rerekē nō te kanorautanga o te tangata. He take nui tēnei, e whai pānga ana ki ērā atu momo kanorautangata, arā, ko te whai kaha, ko te ira tangata, ko te momo ā-iwi me te hōkakatanga.

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