THROUGH THE WINDOW of my computer screen, where time and space collapse into data and pixels, is my only way out into the world of art. Through my screen and into artworks meant for other kinds of screens, I watch ‘A dusty handrail on the track’ (2021), a ten-minute, blackout poem of found phrases. The moving-image work, by Ana Iti (Te Rarawa), consists of scans made on a CZUR Shine Ultra scanner, of what looks like a novel. Throughout the work’s duration one scan transitions into another, like pages turning, only most of their words have been obscured. What we have left are phrases hinging on highlighted words: ‘looking,’ ‘path,’ ‘search,’ ‘track,’ ‘trying,’ ‘waiting,’ ‘undo,’ ‘progress’. These words, and the sentences built around them, combine to create the work’s puzzling narrative.
'A dusty handrail on the track' is the culmination of Iti’s McCahon House Artists’ Residency from July to September last year, during which she focused on two forms of literature: back issues of the reo Māori newspaper Te Pipiwharauroa: He Kupu Whakamarama (1899–1913) and the fiction of three wāhine Māori: June Mitchell’s Amokura (1978); Keri Hulme’s Te Kaihau: The Windeater (1986); and JC Sturm’s House of the Talking Cat (1983) (1). Iti’s research into the newspaper Te Pipiwharauroa gained prominence in a number of recent works including her CIRCUIT Artist Cinema Commission, ‘Howling out at a safe distance’ (2020). In the film she places, over the newspaper, a plain sheet of paper with long, narrow windows cut out for zeroing in on particular words or phrases. The same newspaper features in her billboard series for Te Tuhi, Kimihia te āhua (2020), which builds on the CIRCUIT commission, presenting her textual interventions in a number of public sites.