Saturday, July 13, 2024

Mammoth digital artwork unveiled at Auckland Uni

University of Auckland’s B201 is now home to a large-scale video installation by internationally acclaimed artist and alumna, Lisa Reihana.

The six-metre-tall video installation has been unveiled at the University of Auckland’s recently refurbished B201 building.

Māramatanga is the first major digital work to be commissioned by the University of Auckland Art Collection. It is one of the largest artworks to reside at the City Campus and one of the only digital artworks currently on permanent display.

The 20-minute video installation is publicly accessible and visible from outside on Symonds Street, where it can be enjoyed by students, staff, visitors to the University and the wider community in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.

Ms Reihana (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine, Ngai Tūteauru, Ngāi Tūpoto) has become one of New Zealand’s most celebrated artists since graduating from Elam School of Fine Arts in the late-1980s. She was awarded an Arts Laureate in 2014, represented New Zealand at the Venice Biennale in 2017 and was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2018.

She developed Māramatanga to complement the meaningful narrative behind the newly renovated B201 building, Aotearoa New Zealand’s highest Green Star-rated building, which has been celebrated for its innovation and sustainability.

“Jasmax’s design of the building captures a beautiful cultural sentiment of moving throughout the physical and philosophical levels from the ground up to the sky, which I’ve incorporated into the work,” Ms Reihana says.

“The video begins with a drone shot over Hokianga Harbour, with dancer Maaka Pepene who references navigators like Kupe. This imagery, blending the outside with the inside, reflects the building’s essence and adds a sense of humanity and fun.”

Māramatanga showcases six performers embodying ātua and ancestral figures that draw inspiration from the carvings in the nearby whare whakairo of Waipapa Marae, Tāne-nui-a-rangi.

The walls of Tāne-nui-a-rangi depict captains and priest-navigators of the canoes that brought the ancestors of various iwi to Aotearoa, as well as Tangi’ia, an ancestor connecting the major Pacific islands with New Zealand.

Reihana collaborated with award-winning costume designer Liz McGregor, known for her work on MulanThe Convert and The New Legends of Monkey, to create detailed costumes that help tell the stories of the depicted figures.

The performers featured in the artwork are students of the University’s Dance Studies programme, including Teuila Hughes, Yin Chi Lee, Chas Mamea, Darren Tanuie and Kalisolaite ‘Uhila.

Each dancer created a short solo dance work to embody their characters, which were then refined with Atamira Dance Company dancer and choreographer Maaka Pepene (Tūhoe Potiki, Ngāti Hine and Ngāti Awa), who also features in the work.

“I’ve become much more comfortable with working with performing artists and dancers and choreographers. I felt this was a really great opportunity for them to be on screen as part of the building and to showcase some of the work that happens in the new building. I loved working with them.”

She was selected from among four leading digital artists invited by the University of Auckland Art Acquisition Committee to submit proposals to create the artwork for the B201 atrium.

Māramatanga is the first video work by Reihana acquired by the University of Auckland Art Collection, which also includes several of her static photographic works. More than 1,900 paintings, prints, photographs, sculptures and video in the collection are on permanent display throughout the University’s campuses.

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