Art & creativity  |  8 Aug 2023

The innovative work of Maureen Lander (Ngāpuhi, Te Hikutu and Pākehā) is celebrated in a new exhibition at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū.

Maureen Lander: Aho Marama Strings of Light runs from Saturday 12 August until 21 July 2024.

Maureen Lander String Games 1998. Rope, nylon fishing wire, neon painted string, cardboard, paper, linen, glue, laser discs, CDs, photographic prints, white and ultra-violet light. Collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, commissioned 1998.

The immersive, UV-lit centrepiece of the exhibition, String Games, was commissioned for the opening of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in 1998, says Christchurch Art Gallery Curator Melanie Oliver.

“Artists were invited to reflect on ‘our world’ and values as a country, inspired by treasures and taonga from a specially curated Te Papa collection.

“A series of photographs in that collection led Lander to select whai (Māori string games) as a starting point,” Ms Oliver says.

The photographs, taken between 1912 and 1926, captured Māori communities creating whai, looping muka string around fingers and hands in choreographed movements to create images, often accompanied by waiata or stories.

“Lander’s String Games presents a giant replica of the customary game, made of UV-lit fluorescent rope. Hanging at its centre is a neon-green box – a reference to her second source material from Te Papa’s collection.”

The box represents the museum’s edition of Marcel Duchamp’s Boîte-en-valise – a small case containing miniature prints of the French conceptual artist’s key works that he made in the 1930s.

A film made by Lander shows Duchamp’s prints being taken out of the case, and local taonga relating to whai, being put in. Woven into this is archival footage of Māori creating whai in the 1920s, along with film of contemporary Māori keeping the practice alive today.

“The glowing materials in String Games give it an electric quality, representing the meeting of old and new, and juxtaposing traditional string with the idea of digital strings of binary code to reflect the technological advancements that have transformed our world.” 

Also featured in Aho Marama: Strings of Light is film that shows people interacting with digitally created string games from Lander’s collaborative works Digital String Games I, II and III, as well as a UV-lit, woven work recently added to the Gallery’s own collection, Wai o te Marama.

Main image: Maureen Lander Wai o te Marama 2004, Harakeke, muka, nylon line, fluorescent paint, UV lighting. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, purchased 2021. Photo: Ellie Smith