Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art Gallery
and Pātaka Art + Museum|Porirua City
“InDigiNous Aotearoa : Virtual Histories, Augmented Futures”
New Zealand Māori artists working within digital environments

01 December 2017 – 20 January 2018
Opening Reception: December 01, 2017 from 8pm to 11pm
Where: Urban Shaman Aboriginal Art Gallery, 203-290 McDermot Ave. Winnipeg, MB

Artists: Reweti Arapere, Hana Rakena, Rachael Rakena, Kereama Taepa, Suzanne Tamaki, Johnson Witehira, Rangituhia Hollis

Virtual histories are a form of fictional writing that apply a ‘what if’ scenario to history. For example, ‘what if Christopher Columbus did not discover the Americas’, or ‘what if Able Tasman did not discover New Zealand’? Of course neither Columbus nor Tasman were responsible for discovering either of those lands, and the artists in this exhibition explore this idea of ‘virtual histories’ in relation to these types of so called ‘true histories’.

The artworks in this exhibition are made by seven Māori artists from Aotearoa New Zealand who use digital media to create real and virtual spaces for Indigenous knowledge. The exhibition includes a range of media from virtual reality and augmented reality artworks, through to video games, projection installation and 3D printing. Each artwork critiques dominate histories and perceptions of Indigenous peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand, and postulates on how different the world might be for Indigenous peoples in the future.

Exhibition curator Reuben Friend says, “the exhibition includes some of the leading figures currently working in Māori digital art and is a major chance to review how Māori digital media has advanced over the past ten years”.

The senior artist in the exhibition, Rachael Rakena uses projection mapping software to project digital images onto real world objects, blurring the line between real and virtual objects and experiences. Her most well-known major installation is held in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and was exhibited in the Sakahan: International Indigenous Art exhibition in 2013. Rakena was one of the leading figures in the exploration of digital and online spaces for Māori art and culture in the early 2000s. Her early works opened the way for many of her peers in this show, such as Johnson Witehira, Kereama Taepa and Rangituhia Hollis who all use digital platforms as a space to teach and explore Māori knowledge systems.

One of the biggest concerns for these artists is the issue of appropriation and intellectual property rights. Photographer and textile artist Suzanne Tamaki uses fashion photography and augmented reality software to explore ways that Māori might express ownership over, and access to, cultural material held in museums and private collections around the world.

Tamaki’s works entitled Augmented Reality Taonga (ART) use pixel recognition technology to create digital 3D replicas of fake Māori artefacts collected by the National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. These fakes taonga (precious objects) were made in England and were illegally sold back to museums in Aotearoa New Zealand under the pretence of being genuine originals. Tamaki’s digital replicas can be viewed on android and ios smartphones and are activated through coding embedded in her photographic works.

Sculptor Kereama Taepa goes one step further into full virtual reality environments to create sculptures in virtual space which can then be 3D printed and presented as physical objects. He calls the philosophical principle for this production method Whakapī (meaning to make like a bee). Taepa says that the construction of a beehive is an additive manufacturing process, where the bees essentially 3D print a home for their young using wax secretions from their abdomen. In this way Taepa reconsiders Māori creative concepts in order to make sense of his contemporary digital construction processes.

Urban Shaman Director Daina Warren says, “the exhibition is part of a conference at Winnipeg Art Gallery and Winnipeg University entitled ‘Radically Shifting Our Indigenous Futures Through Art, Scholarship and Technology. We are very fortunate to have these artists here at Urban Shaman to see how other Indigenous communities across the world are using new media to pass on Indigenous knowledge in the digital age”.

image: Johnson Witehira, “Ko Aotearoa Tēnei – Joseph Savage”, 2015. Digital print. Image courtesy of the artist.

Special thanks to: Arts Council New Zealand Toi Aotearoa, Creative NZ

Urban Shaman: Contemporary Aboriginal Art Gallery acknowledges the support, throughout the year, of our friends, volunteers, community and all our relations, NCI FM, Wawanesa Insurance, the Winnipeg Arts Council, the Manitoba Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts. ~GITCHI MIIGWETCH / HAI HAI

Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art Gallery
203 – 290 McDermot Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R3B 0T2
T 204.942.2674
W http://www.urbanshaman.org/