6 Apr 2019

Reuben Friend and Ioana Gordon-Smith - A camera on the shore

From Saturday Morning, 10:04 am on 6 April 2019

In the year that marks 250 years since Captain Cook’s arrival in the Pacific, the exhibition From the Shore, showing at Pātaka Art + Museum, responds to notions of the colonial gaze.  

From the Shore considers the influence of Māori filmmakers Barry Barclay and Merata Mita on a current generation of artists, specifically those working with moving image. 

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Photo: Reuben Friend / Ioana Gordon-Smith

The exhibition takes its title from Barclay's metaphor of indigenous cinema as 'a camera on the shore' that reverses the direction of the colonial gaze.

“One of the things we do at Pātaka is we always try to find a way of representing the world, or art, through an indigenous lens,” says Pātaka director Reuben Friend.

As you walk into the gallery you are greeted by two videos of Barclay and Mita talking about the philosophical foundations of their work.

“They are hugely influential,” says curator Ioana Gordon-Smith.

In addition to making films they wrote widely and were mentors, travelling the globe, she says.

“When you’re working on a project you reach out to people to learn more and they are universally loved for just their sheer generosity and helping out other filmmakers.

“I think one of the things that was really distinctive about them is that they were really critical of the colonial gaze, the kind of camera from the perspective of the ship in which was either minimising or exaggerating indigenous culture for easy consumption.”

Barclay created a series of ‘production notes’ as to how you might use the camera differently to enhance indigenous values.

It allowed people to tell their own stories, on their own terms in their own ways, says Gordon-Smith.

Indigenous ways of seeing are key to the exhibition. 

“I think they’re all trying to give dignity to their subject matter, using a camera, and I think that’s both using the camera differently to heighten particular indigenous perspectives.

“There’s not a fixed idea of ‘this is the indigenous story’ that’s being presented through any of the works,” says Friend.

Fixed notions of masculinity that harm queer indigenous men are examined in Tanu Gago’s work.

“Through this series of vignettes, he’s critiquing the way in which those images are constantly erasing other identities and the real harmful impact they can actually have," says Gordon-Smith.

For Gago’s community, there are such concerns for being able to find reflections of themselves in images, she says.

From the Shore features the work of Tracey Moffatt, Tanu Gago, Rob George, Nova Paul, Lisa Reihana and Tuafale Tanoa'i aka Linda T. Curated by Ioana Gordon-Smith.

“I think Ioana’s done a really clever job at picking artists that really talk to how Merata and Barry, the energy that they put into not just film in New Zealand, but getting us to be critical about the way we show film.”

(NB: Māori Moving Image: An Open Archive, exploring the history of Māori artist moving image from the 1970s to today, is currently exhibiting at the Dowse Art Museum.)