Shannon Te Ao’s evocative installation, Ia rā, ia rā (rere runga, rere raro) - Everyday (I fly high, I fly low) will be presented in Gwangju, South Korea, as Aotearoa New Zealand’s contribution to the 15th Gwangju Biennale Pavilion (2024). Curated by Karl Chitham and presented through a unique partnership between Te Tuhi, the Dowse Art Museum and the Office for Contemporary Art Aotearoa, the exhibition will open on 7 September and continue until 1 December 2024

Ia rā, ia rā (rere runga, rere raro) - Everyday (I fly high, I fly low) Shannon Te Ao

Everyday (I fly high, I fly low). This seemingly simple description of a moment in time belies a much more emphatic declaration of interconnectedness during a period of radical turbulence and unrest.

The unseen protagonist of this work is the tīwakawaka, a small bird endemic to Aotearoa New Zealand and linked to Māori narratives associated with birth, death and the veil between the two. Māori histories tie tīwakawaka to the atua (gods) including Māui. Tīwakawaka played a pivotal role in the events leading to Māui’s demise and as a result are often considered a messenger of ensuing life events, or as a harbinger of death.

The imagery within this work captures two young men in motion. Each gesture and movement frozen in time like the mercurial and erratic dance of the tīwakawaka. Alongside the synchronized thirty-six still images contained within this installation, a pao (song), composed and performed by Kurt Komene, supplies the soundtrack as both script and score. Komene’s lyrics, like the flowing actions of the performers, follow the tīwakawaka’s flight path - rere runga, rere raro, I fly high, I fly low. It is on its wing – through its flashing, fluttering journey that we are guided toward and away from the present moment.

Originally commissioned by Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art, this new iteration of 'Ia rā, ia rā (rere runga, rere raro) - Everyday (I fly high, I fly low)' shifts the encounter with Te Ao’s work from one of a viewer looking on, to the participant being immersed within the imagery and soundscape.

Shannon Te Ao (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Wairangi, Te Pāpaka-a-Māui) Shannon Te Ao’s recent film and photographic works conflate markers of place, movement and experience. Often elegiac in tone, imagery within his work reflects upon personal narratives, historical events and collaboration as means to explore Māori thought and experience. Te Ao has exhibited widely nationally and internationally with his seminal work two shoots that stretch far out (2013–4) shown in the Biennale of Sydney in 2014, later earning him Aotearoa New Zealand’s most coveted award, the Walters Prize, in 2016. He has completed commissions for the 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT10) and 13th Gwangju Biennale. Te Ao recently presented solo exhibitions at REMAI Modern (Saskatoon); Oakville Galleries (Toronto), and Te Uru (Tamaki Makaurau Auckland), and curated the exhibition Matarau at City Gallery Wellington. Te Ao is a member of the rōpū (board) of Coastal Signs (Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland).

Karl Chitham (Ngā Puhi, Te Uriroroi) Curator of the exhibition, Karl Chitham is Director of the Dowse Art Museum, Te Awakairangi ki Tai Lower Hutt, Aotearoa New Zealand. He has curated extensively including recent projects Takiwā Hou: Imagining New Spaces, Malta Biennale; Nell X Colin McCahon: Through the Wall of Birth and Death; Reuben Paterson: The Only Dream Left co-curated with Aaron Lister; and Shane Cotton: Te Puāwai. Chitham is a trustee of Wairau Māori Art Gallery, the first dedicated public Māori art gallery in Aotearoa. He has written for multiple arts publications including co-authoring the ground-breaking publication Crafting Aotearoa: A Cultural History of New Zealand and the Wider Moana Oceania and has been a selector including for the New Zealand Pavilion at Venice 2021.

Gwangju Biennale Pavilion The Gwangju Biennale Pavilion takes place alongside the Gwangju Biennale’s curated exhibition, Pansori, a soundscape of the 21st century, by artistic director, Nicolas Bourriard, which explores sound, visual narrative, and the mapping of our complex contemporary world. For Pavilion, international arts and culture organisations, invited by the Gwangju Biennale Foundation, will present a diverse array of exhibitions at locations across the city of Gwangju, resonating with the theme of the main exhibition, while constructing distinctive exhibitions that offer perspectives from different angles.

2024 marks the 30th anniversary of the Gwangju Biennale, and this year will also feature the largest Gwangju Biennale Pavilion since its initiation in 2018, showcasing exhibitions from 32 countries, including Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam from South East Asia, and from other regions, Argentina, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, Qatar and Sweden.

Initiated by the Office for Contemporary Art Aotearoa and presented by Te Tuhi and The Dowse Art Museum, Shannon Te Ao’s installation will be shown as the Aotearoa New Zealand contribution to Pavilion, at Suha Gallery, 158-4 Dongmyeong-dong, Dong-gu, Gwangju, from 7 September to 1 December 2024.

The exhibition presenters are very grateful to Jenny and Andrew Smith, Jo and John Gow, Ambassador Dawn Bennet and the New Zealand Embassy team in Seoul, and the Gwangju Biennale Foundation for their generous support for this project.

The Gwangju Biennale Foundation have said: “This year’s Gwangju Biennale Pavilion serves as a platform where diverse creative entities, including institutions, collectives, and individuals, come together to share knowledge and resources, and to foster vibrant communication. These ongoing collaborations transcend boundaries between nations, cities, and institutions, demonstrating the potential for diverse participants to form a community, shaping the future together. Moving forward, the event is expected to enable flexible and close exchanges across Gwangju, leading to the expansion and development of these relationships into lasting, sustainable partnerships.”

Presenting organisations Collectively the partnership between Te Tuhi, The Dowse Art Museum and Office for Contemporary Art Aotearoa is committed to providing opportunities for wider audiences to experience Aotearoa New Zealand contemporary art practice and to encourage exchange and dialogue nationally and internationally.

Te Tuhi is a leading platform for contemporary art in Aotearoa New Zealand, with a primary focus on commissioning new work by creating stimulating contexts for artists to respond and work within. Alongside the gallery in Pakuranga, Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland, Te Tuhi runs Parnell Studios and Project Space, operates O Wairoa Marae in Howick, and runs Arts Out East, the community arts brokering for the Howick Local Board area. Te Tuhi is an independent charitable trust supported by Auckland Council and the Contemporary Art Foundation.

The Dowse Art Museum is a major regional gallery committed to showing contemporary art in all its forms with a particular interest in local, national and international practices that fall outside expected conventions. Operated by Hutt City Council since 1971, the gallery is located in Te Awakairangi ki Tai Lower Hutt, in the Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington Region of Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Office for Contemporary Art Aotearoa (OCAA) works in partnership with other organisations and individuals, both from New Zealand and internationally to enable and facilitate the presentation of work by New Zealand artists at major overseas exhibitions and to encourage exchange and dialogue between visual arts practitioners from New Zealand and their international counterparts. OCAA was formed in early 2024 and is based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.

Images: Shannon Te Ao, 'Ia rā, ia rā (rere runga, rere raro) - Everyday (I fly high, I fly low)', 2021, three channel video with sound. Courtesy of the artist and Coastal Signs