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P1: AMMON NGAKURU
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Origins and Ends (Orchard) 2019

Nominated by artist Tim Wagg. Presented with support from Creative New Zealand.

A central motif of Ammon Ngakuru’s Origins and Ends (Orchard) is sleep. The most substantial element of the installation is a midnight-blue canvas the size of a queen bed to which the artist has fixed photographs of himself and his partner sleeping (or feigning sleep). Sleep and dreaming are of interest to Ngakuru because they serve as a figure for the complexity of history and the difficulty of coming to terms with the same, particularly in a ‘post-colonial’ context. Dreams, like histories, are incomplete, dependent on dubious memories, and necessarily incapable of capturing the finer details of reality. Indeed, they construct a new kind of reality, one that might feel reasonable, but that tends to fall apart upon closer consideration.

Ngakuru’s installation plays with the slippage between coherence and fragmentation, resisting straightforward sense-making. It’s not immediately clear how the pieces fit together. The display is a little like a museum exhibit that has lost its labels. There’s no doubt that the elements are invested with significance, but that significance resists articulation. The elements themselves exist in a similar condition. A canvas bears blocks of colour that suggest a landscape: sky blue infused with sun yellow, an expanse of dirt brown capped with a stripe of grass green. The word ‘orchard’ has been inscribed along the horizon line, as if standing in for an image the artist has been unable to conjure satisfactorily. Dried night-blooming jasmine flowers have been scattered on the earth, appearing seed-like and generative, even as they are ‘dead’, their rich scent neutralised.

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Ammon Ngakuru is based in Tāmaki Makaurau. He holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts from Auckland University of Technology and a Master of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts. Recent exhibitions include: Since 1984—He aha te ahurea-rua?, ST PAUL St Gallery, Auckland, 2015; The Tomorrow People, Adam Art Gallery, Wellington, 2017; A Shelter for Amnesic Relatives, Blue Oyster Art Project Space, Dunedin, 2017; and Many Happy Returns, Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland, 2018.

Image: Ammon Ngakuru, Orchard, 2018. Courtesy of the artist.


P2: JAMES WYLIE WITH HANNAH VALENTINEjj

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//drift 2019

Commissioned by Deadly Ponies.

James Wylie and Hannah Valentine are both interested in the extension of human beings beyond our immediate physical bodies and surroundings. Wylie has created a video informed, in part, by Valentine’s installations, which have for some years now played with notions of ‘physical education’, incorporating sculptural forms reminiscent of exercise equipment (and often designed to be engaged with in a similar manner). A computer-generated figure works out in a sky-bound space at once seductively and eerily immaculate. This ‘footage’ is paired with outdoor scenes that are manifestly unnatural, evoking by turns an invented environment of the sort one might find in a sci-fi movie or video game, and a terrain emptied of people but bearing their traces. It is perhaps less unreal than not yet real.

Valentine’s contribution quite literally supports Wylie’s. Two arm-like structures wrap around the screen on which the video loops, facilitating but also slightly interfering with its visibility. A foam sheet (not dissimilar to a yoga mat) beneath has been printed with a bird’s-eye view of the world created by Wylie, rupturing the boundary between virtual and physical space. The two artists and their practices have become intertwined in much the same way as our lives have with digital technologies. Although Wylie and Valentine appear invested in the value of the non-digital (encouraging us to engage with the world tangibly within our reach), they also suggest that reality and its borders are in flux and up for negotiation.

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James Wylie is based in Tāmaki Makaurau. He holds a Master of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts and was co-founder of the artist-run space Snake Pit. His work centres on questions of technological progress, promoting reflection in a time of rapid change. Recent exhibitions include: ぐるぐると登り続けること (round and round, up and up), Studio Kura, Itoshima, Japan, 2018; Offline Browser, 6th Taipei International Video Art Exhibition, Hong-Gah Museum, Taipei, Taiwan, 2018; and Sometime, someday, when all is said and done, RM Gallery, Auckland, 2019.

Hannah Valentine holds a Master of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts. Her practice explores questions of the body, movement, and participation. Recent exhibitions include: New Perspectives, Artspace, Auckland, 2016; Flex, Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, 2017; and Looking in, breathing out, Enjoy Public Art Gallery, 2018.

Image: James Wylie, //drift (video still), 2019. Courtesy of the artist.


P3: FAISAL ABDU’ALLAH
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Last Supper 1994/2019

Nominated by curator Gabriela Salgado. Presented in partnership with Te Tuhi and with support from Auckland Art Fair.

The Last Supper photographs of London-born artist Faisal Abdu’Allah were created in collaboration with Kofi Allen over twenty years ago. They have since been through several incarnations. In 2012, they were reproduced as Jacquard tapestries, a form that is here evoked by printing the images on canvas. The reference point for the photographs is, of course, the Last Supper of the New Testament. However, Abdu’Allah has deviated from scripture, reducing the cast from thirteen (Christ plus the apostles) to twelve, with six men replaced by women. Like the artist, the figures are of African heritage. In Last Supper I, they are dressed in clothing associated with Islamic culture. In Last Supper II, the clothing is more immediately ‘urban’. In both images, select individuals hold firearms.

Abdu’Allah notes that these photographs grew out of a ‘shift in consciousness in the 1980s, when the young black intelligentsia from the diaspora in London reconnected with their spiritual and cultural roots erased by the history books’. They draw attention to the tendency for Christian imagery the world over to centre white people, despite the faith’s place of origin, and despite the great number of non-white faithful. They also hint at the fundamental connections between Christianity, Islam (which acknowledges Christ as a prophet), and Judaism (the Last Supper being a Passover Seder). Moreover, the works invite us to reflect on our attitudes. Do the depicted individuals threaten us, or we them? Have they armed themselves, or are the weapons imposed by us? In the absence of a thirteenth figure, perhaps we assume the position of a collective Judas.

During the Art Fair, Abdu’Allah will also carry out Live Salon (Auckland) at Pā Rongorongo on Wellesley Street. The performance—part of an ongoing barbering project by the artist—is presented by Te Tuhi with support from Auckland Council and the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

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Faisal Abdu’Allah is Creative Arts Community Faculty Director and Associate Professor of Art at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is a graduate of the Royal College of Art and was awarded a doctorate by the University of East London in 2012 for his thesis ‘Mirror to My Thoughts’, completed under the supervision of Gavin Turk.

Image: Faisal Abdu’Allah & Kofi Allen, Last Supper I, 1994/2019. Courtesy of Faisal Abdu’Allah.


P4: RUTH IGE
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The stillness 2019

Nominated by artist Christina Pataialii. Presented with support from Creative New Zealand.

Ruth Ige’s enigmatic paintings are characterised by expressive colour and form: calm fields of deep purple, passages of iridescent blue, the occasional shock of cream. At first blush, they appear purely abstract, but they are in fact equally grounded in figuration. Regions of black coalesce into bodily forms: shoulders, hands, and particularly faces. Born in Nigeria and based in Tāmaki Makaurau, Ige is chiefly concerned with exploring blackness, producing images that centre people of colour while remaining untethered from particular places or times.

Although they include few legible reference points, Ige’s paintings are full of texture and feeling. She typically presents her figures alone or in small groups, creating a distinct quality of intimacy. Often, her works evoke formal photographic portraits, the subjects appearing carefully posed, for posterity. At the same time, the figures tend to be featureless, their expressions inscrutable. They sit in privacy and quietude—not absent, but yet to reveal themselves fully. The viewer cannot know the figures and thus cannot discount them. Ige describes her use of abstraction as ‘a form of veiling’, noting that secrecy and mystery can serve to empower.

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Ruth Ige holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts from Auckland University of Technology. Recent exhibitions include: Dirt Future, Artspace, Auckland, 2017; Never an Answer: 12 Abstract Painters, The Vivian, Matakana, 2018; LISTE—Art Fair Basel, Switzerland, 2018; and Two Oceans at Once, ST PAUL St Gallery, Auckland, current.

Image: Ruth Ige, And then you appeared, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.


P5: PĀNiA! IN ASSOCIATION WITH FRANCIS MCWHANNELL & MOKOPŌPAKIjj

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Nounman 2019

Presented with support from The Chartwell Trust, Creative New Zealand, and an anonymous donor.

While showing at the 2018 Art Fair, PĀNiA! announced an ambition to work with American artist Bruce Nauman. Her initial proposal for Whanaungatanga involved a ‘fabulously outrageous and fun’ collaboration with the superstar, but this proved unfeasible (not to worry; PĀNiA! says the idea will keep). Instead, she works with him in spirit, doing so not only at The Cloud, but also at Mokopōpaki on Karangahape Road and at Te Tuhi in Pakuranga. Her Fair project was inspired by Nauman’s word stacks. PĀNiA! invited me to collaborate, requesting lists of my favourite things. Some of my responses were too long, so judicious shaving was required. She kept only words for ‘things, male names, and place names’. This trimming is a light-hearted nod to the fact that we both ‘like men’, as well as a play on the name Nauman—Nounman being a near-homophone.

Making the pun visual, PĀNiA! appropriates a ‘universal man’, turning this very familiar wayfinding symbol into a larger-than-life neon. Should he feel shy, PĀNiA!’s big, buck naked orange Nounman need only reach for his towel, wrapping himself up in a text close to his heart. The curator’s words; the artist’s composition. If Nounman is seen as a work about boys, and one famous big boy artist in particular, then it’s tempting to read PĀNiA!’s declaration as a feminist statement. Whatever the case, a series of mansplaining texts will be available to help visitors unpack the work a bit more. Do feel free to make up your own meanings, but please remember to bring your own soap.

Download: Mansplanation 1Mansplanation 2, Frānz!-planation.

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PĀNiA!, the anonymous and enigmatic but always interesting über-cool-girl, artist-about-town is a country babe at heart. She likes piña coladas, and getting caught in the rain. She’s not into yoga and has half a brain. If you like art made at midnight, and a thick slice of cake, she is the love that you’ve looked for; tautoko PĀNiA! and escape.

Francis McWhannell is an independent curator and writer based in Tāmaki Makaurau. He has contributed to various arts and culture magazines and websites in Aotearoa and Australia. Recent publications featuring his work include Dynamo Hum: Denys Watkins: Selected Paintings 2004–2016 (2017), and Painting: A Transitive Space (2017). Nounman is his first foray into artistic collaboration. It wasn’t his idea.


P6: NIKAU HINDIN
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Te Uru Aute 2019

Nominated by artist Raukura Turei. Presented with support from Creative New Zealand.

With Te Uru Aute, Nikau Hindin (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi) extends her long-term project to ‘reawaken’ the process of making aute, Māori tapa cloth. Along with kūmara, aute (‘paper mulberry’) was brought to Aotearoa from Hawaiki by ancestress Whakaotirangi of Te Arawa waka. However, the production of cloth did not endure. Hindin’s mission to relearn the practice was influenced by the revitalisation of celestial navigation and her involvement with waka haurua throughout Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. This new wave of ancient knowledge is reflected in the aute she makes, which depend on the same precision required for navigation.

Hindin uses the star compass to inform the marks she creates with awe (derived from soot) and earthen pigments. The works function as maps, with lines denoting the positions of stars rising on the horizon. They are not only spatial but also temporal, helping her to remember the declination of stars and the way the night sky changes throughout the seasons. A key component of Hindin’s work is the transmission of knowledge to a new generation of aute-makers. She uses Instagram (@nikaugabrielle) to connect with an international network stretching from Indonesia to Hawaiʻi. She will be present at the Art Fair most days pounding aute, asserting the place of customary practice within contemporary art, and inviting visitors to engage in knowledge exchange in te reo Māori or English.

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Image: Nikau Hindin, Te Wheiao II, 2018. Courtesy of the artist.


P7: LAYNE WAEREA
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Free Dust 2019

Nominated by artist Louisa Afoa. Presented with support from Creative New Zealand.

Free Dust by Layne Waerea (Ngāti Wāhiao, Ngāti Kahungunu) explores different notions of value and exchange. Her Free Arguments, first performed in Cuba Mall as part of Hybrid Spring at Enjoy Public Art Gallery in Whanganui-a-Tara, sees Waerea engage in thorny conversations with strangers at the Art Fair, testing the possibilities of confrontation at a time when many are wringing their hands at the rifts that have opened up between people of different political stripes. Among the topics that Waerea will discuss is the privatisation of natural resources, a subject that carries over into her installation in the Fair café.

Blue Pacific Takeaways imitates the kind of sign one might encounter in a fish-and-chip shop, listing a series of resources for purchase: water, air, and fog. The first two are already being sold. Water is bottled at the named locations, while air from Te Tiritiri-o-te-moana (‘the Southern Alps’) has been canned by Christchurch-based company Breathe EZY for export to China. Fog—which Waerea notes is ‘a winning combo’—is yet to be exploited directly (for now, it’s only good for dressing a picturesque landscape). The titular video, showing dust billows produced by an illicit lunchtime act, offers up another resource that might be monetised, as well as an opportunity to consider how tangata whenua and Te Tiriti o Waitangi might help us manage the resources of Aotearoa for the benefit of all.

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Layne Waerea is based in Tāmaki Makaurau. Her practice centres on installations and performance art interventions that challenge and play with social and legal ambiguities in the public sphere. Recent exhibitions include: Hybrid Spring (with Deborah Rundle), Enjoy Public Art Gallery, Wellington, 2018; and Two Oceans at Once, ST PAUL St Gallery, Auckland, current.

Image: Layne Waerea, Free Dust (video still), 2019. Courtesy of the artist.


P8: CAITLIN PATANEjj

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Mother Tongue 2019

Nominated by artist Kay Abude. Presented with support from Auckland Art Fair.

The practice of Australian artist Caitlin Patane centres on words. She often works with texts written by others, excerpting and publishing these in the form of artist books. For Whanaungatanga, she presents Mother Tongue, a compilation of quotations from women authors and artists that explore the nature of writing and of ‘voice’ in writing. The book inevitably sets up relationships between the women cited, emphasising the fact that a kind of kinship can exist between individuals separated by gulfs of time and place. It also hints at the idea that debts and resonances can never be fully appreciated by those who write or make art, since the historical record is limited by bias and accident. We unwittingly repeat the thoughts and gestures of others, because we share languages and because we share humanity.

Copies of Mother Tongue will be available for purchase from the bookshop within Piki Mai: Up Here ^^ (on the mezzanine of The Cloud) and for perusal at the Samoa House Library Reading Room. Short extracts will be recited at 1pm daily in the Reading Room. The recitals are intended to reinforce the notion that texts, like works of art, require an audience for consummation. Patane is aware of the planned closure of specialist libraries at the University of Auckland and of Samoa House Library’s role in filling the gap that will be left by the Fine Arts Library. By having her work presented at the Reading Room, she not only signals her solidarity but also reminds us that every library closed—and every book moved offsite to the ‘stack’—threatens to curtail the voices of absent authors.

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Caitlin Patane is based in Melbourne, where she is Editorial Assistant at Art+Australia. Her artistic work centres on questions of history, translation, and the social potential of language in its many forms.

Image: Caitlin Patane, Mother Tongue (cover design), 2019. Courtesy of the artist.


P9: RACHEL ASHBY WITH SARAH CALLESEN & OTHERSjj

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I Wish to Communicate with You 2019

Commissioned by Britomart. Located at Takutai Square.

I Wish to Communicate with You by Rachel Ashby and Sarah Callesen takes the form of an installation and performance. Located on land ‘reclaimed’ from the sea, the work develops out of the International Code of Signals (ICS), a series of flags intended to provide sailors with a means of universal communication. The ICS includes flags for the twenty-six letters of the English alphabet, and most have associated phrasal meanings (the title of the work is the phrase for the flag denoting the letter K). The artists have reproduced the flags, inviting a series of amateur and professional musicians and sound artists to assign them new meanings of their choosing, together with a sound of some sort. Members of the general public will then make a selection of flags, becoming co-creators of a live musical performance at 2.30pm on Saturday 4 May 2019.

The presence of the ICS invites divergent readings. On the one hand, the ability to facilitate cross-cultural communication, and so cooperation, may be understood to be full of promise. On the other hand, the code is clearly marked by biases and limitations. For instance, non-Roman letters have no equivalent flags, and some measure of training is required for the system to work. There is an elegant parallel in Ashby and Callesen’s use of music, which is often described as universal, despite the fact that context colours its reception and interpretation. In according performers and audience members alike considerable roles in the development of the work, the artists not only acknowledge the old truism that meaning evades control, but also suggest that impromptu joy can be a most meaningful form of communication.

Download: Performers & Signals

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Rachel Ashby was born Ōtautahi but is now based in Tāmaki Makaurau. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) from Elam School of Fine Arts. She is currently completing a history degree at the University of Auckland and is the host of 95bFM’s contemporary arts show Artbank. Ashby is interested in exploring ideas of collaboration, community, and rupture through sound.

Sarah Callesen grew up in rural Manawatū and currently lives in Tāmaki Makaurau, where she is completing a Master of Fine Arts at Elam School of Fine Arts. Her interdisciplinary practice explores mediated perceptual experiences of the world, the recording and translation of information, and gendered histories.

Image: Rachel Ashby and Sarah Callesen, I Wish to Communicate with You, 2019. Courtesy of the artists.


P10: RAINER WESTON WITH HIKALU CLARKEjj

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CROWD SOURCE 2019

Commissioned by Britomart. Located in Takutai Square.

Rainer Weston and Hikalu Clarke have worked together before, producing a two-person show, HOTEL DEVON ISLAND, at DEMO in Tāmaki Makaurau in 2016. CROWD SOURCE, however, is a newly direct collaboration. Responding to Britomart’s status as a bustling centre of commerce and transportation, the artists have created a monumental video projection exploring ‘notions of sovereignty and group identity’. Their work includes footage of crowds pulled from the internet, simultaneously playing on groups united in physical space and groups connected online. This has been mixed with homogenous computer-generated figures moving in unison, as well as images suggestive of an inundation (a motif of special poignancy in an area of ‘reclaimed’ land that remains barely above sea level).

CROWD SOURCE presents a poetic reflection on contemporary partisanship of the sort found in both sports and politics, hinting at the proximity of kinship and xenophobia, cohesion and sectarianism. It will be projected on the façade of Tiffany & Co. from 6am to 10pm nightly during the Fair.

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Rainer Weston is based in Tāmaki Makaurau, where he is currently completing a Master of Fine Arts at Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design. Selected exhibitions include: HOTEL DEVON ISLAND (with Hikalu Clarke), DEMO, Auckland, 2016; Being Tween, Rockies, Auckland, 2016; The Devil’s Blindspot, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, Christchurch, 2016; The Tomorrow People, Adam Art Gallery, Wellington, 2017; fine moon, poor tuning, MEANWHILE, Wellington, 2018; and sometime, someday, when all is said and done, RM Gallery, Auckland, 2019.

Hikalu Clarke is based in Tāmaki Makaurau. He holds a Master of Fine Arts from Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design and was co-developer of the institution’s DEMO project space. He recently completed a residency with Gasworks in London. Recent exhibitions include: New Perspectives, Artspace, Auckland, 2016; HOTEL DEVON ISLAND (with Rainer Weston), DEMO, Auckland, 2016; The Tomorrow People, Adam Art Gallery, Wellington, 2017; IT’S A POND NOT A MOAT, MEANWHILE, Wellington, 2017; Necessary Threat, Blue Oyster Art Project Space, Dunedin, 2017; and Accurate Community Projections, Te Tuhi, Auckland, 2018.

Image: Rainer Weston and Hikalu Clarke, CROWD SOURCE (video still), 2019. Courtesy of the artists.