Ka mua, ka muri explores experiences of time, history and song. The exhibition’s title, Ka mua, ka muri, is derived from a whakatauki often cited as a central guiding principle within Māori ideology. Meaning “to walk backwards into the future,” it suggests time exists on a continuum where past, present and future co-exist and are inherently tethered through ancestry and action. Central to this is an understanding of the critical importance of language as a vital means to maintain links to indigenous knowledge systems, culture, and identity, a theme that recurs throughout Te Ao’s practice.
Showing for the first time in Aotearoa, the exhibition was originally co-commissioned by two major Canadian galleries, Oakville Galleries, Toronto and Remai Modern, Saskatoon, with the support of Creative New Zealand. For this homecoming exhibition, Te Ao has added new works from his recent 2020 exhibition Mā te wā, as well as a new text work in collaboration with Kurt Komene (Te Ātiawa, Taranaki Whānui).
Working predominantly with performance and film, the elegiac installations of Shannon Te Ao (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, 1978, Sydney) explore fraught dynamics of indigeneity, language, and loss. Te Ao draws on a range of existing literary material including Māori lyrical sources such as whakataukī and waiata, as well as poetic and lyrical texts from popular culture. Richly layered, Te Ao’s works enact a compression wherein past and present co-exist, and daily life is inextricably linked to multifarious social, cultural, and philosophical histories.
Te Ao is a Senior Lecturer at Whiti o Rehua School of Art, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand.
Presented in association with the 2021 Auckland Arts Festival.
Image: Still from Ka mua, ka muri
6 March — 23 May 2021