We are pleased to present FLAGGED, a project by Billy Apple® and Tāme Iti, from 8 -12 October. Both artists will attend a function at the gallery on Thursday 10 October from 5.30pm.

FLAGGED is part of a new series of short-run exhibitions presented by Starkwhite that will feature periodically in the gallery schedule, providing artists with shorter exhibition periods for high-concept projects and ‘less-is-more’ presentations. It follows other short-run run shows by Martin Basher in February and Clinton Watkins in September 2019.

This high concept project brings together Apple’s and Iti’s works involving two New Zealand flags each marking milestones in our histories. It follows on from their recent collaboration titled Ruatoki where they installed site-specific works in the small Bay of Plenty settlement of Ruatoki located in the foothills of Te Urewera, the sovereign territory of Ngāi Tūhoe who in 2014 settled with the Crown over brutal late 19th century land confiscations by the New Zealand Government. It is home to Tūhoe artist Tāme Iti who is well known for both his activist roles and his art practice.

Their narratives of Ruatoki are both personal and shared. Apple has deep family links to Ruatoki having intermittently spent much of his early childhood and teens there in the care of his aunt and uncle, Edna and James Te Mautaranui Merritt who was Bay of Plenty commissioner of Native Affairs, later known as Māori Affairs, and where he formed a friendship with Arnold Manaaki Wilson, one of New Zealand’s pioneering contemporary Māori artists. Apple’s contribution to the Ruatoki project was at the invitation of kaumātua Tāme Iti presented in the wharenui, Te Ranimoaho on the Te Rewarewa Pā effectively adding a new function as gallery to its traditional spiritual role; and Iti’s contribution was a compelling Augmented Reality work with layered audio, visual and real time elements that downloaded onto your phone as you walked along experiencing the infamous ‘Line of Confiscation’. The Ruatoki project was coordinated by James McCarthy. To access a remote view click here.

Billy Apple® and Tāme Iti are presenting two flags in this Starkwhite exhibition. Apple’s Study for a New Zealand Flag III, 2019 is hot off the press using newly released Statistics New Zealand’s 2018 census population data of 16.5% Māori/ 83.5% other. His conceptual flag’s composition is determined by the representation of Māori/other population data using the proportions of the golden ratio in tones of 100% black. Apple’s Study for a New Zealand Flag II, 2017 used the 2013 census data of 14.9% Māori. The addition of a third flag in this series is proving to be an interesting gauge of Māori population growth against overall population increases of nearly 500,000 over five years with net migration being the main driver. This reached a peak of over 70,000 in 2017 while the natural increases contribute around 30,000 annually.

Iti’s flag is both cultural artefact and art work operating within the strand of his practice that he describes as the ‘theatre of protest’. On 16 January 2005, during a pōwhiri on the Tauarau Marae to welcome visiting Waitangi Tribunal members, Iti fired a shotgun into the Union Jack on the New Zealand flag. This was reported in the press as a symbolic ‘re-enactment’ of the Crown’s confiscation in the late 19th century of Tūhoe land and the killings and subsequent starvation that ran on into the 20th century. Initially ignored by police, the matter was raised in parliament by Act MP, Stephen Franks and the police subsequently charged Iti who was then convicted with discharging a firearm in a public place. The Court of Appeal over-turned the conviction ruling his action foolhardy rather than harmful.

The first flag in Apple’s series (from 2009 using 2006 census population data of 14% Māori) was the catalyst for the artists’ working relationship and is now in the permanent collection of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. It sold at auction in 2012 for $10,000, the funds going towards a legal appeal lodged against the 2012 firearms convictions from the controversial 2007 Te Urewera antiterrorism raids. He was sentenced to two and half years in Waikeria Prison but was released after 9 months, described as a model prisoner who spent his time working on his writing and painting.

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