Ugly (Chicago, IL), November 17, 2019 - January 17, 2020
considers land use, perception, and the pictorial formation of landscape as relayed through Taranaki Mounga (Mount Taranaki), a dormant stratovolcano located near the artist’s hometown of Ngāmotu, Aotearoa (New Plymouth, New Zealand). Taranaki’s surface and surroundings are embedded with a multitude of discourses, including seismic events, Māori mythology, and settler-colonial violence. To view and consider Taranaki is to simultaneously absorb these histories and events. This becomes a key influence in this body of work; the artist formulates methods of depicting Taranaki that take these discourses into account while also referencing and moving beyond traditional conventions of pictorial landscape — conventions long used to perpetuate and legitimize colonial expansion. Photographs, found image, video, and sound come together to consider Taranaki as a site of complexity and multiplicity. The creation and presentation of this work at a great distance from its origins further invites a deeper questioning of the capacity to experience Taranaki through an intermediary. While addressing specific histories, this work more broadly question notions of representation as they relate to land and landscape, and how these representations may be altered through perception, distance and memory.
In producing this body of work I would like to acknowledge the eight Iwi of the Taranaki region who are the original occupants of Taranaki Mounga (Mount Taranaki) which this exhibition considers: Ngāruahine, Taranaki, Te Atiawa, Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi, Ngāti Tama and Ngāti Maru. Their rights to this land were forcibly removed in 1865 by the British Crown, enacting the New Zealand Settlements Act of 1863, perceived as a punishment for “rebellion” against the crown. The New Zealand government returned Taranaki Mounga to the Taranaki Māori Trust Board through the Mount Egmont Vesting Act of 1978. The board then returned the ownership of the land to the Government as a Taonga (treasured possession) of the nation — though the credibility of this has been debated. Taranaki Mounga was recently recognized as a legal personality by the government. This gesture repeals the Mount Egmont Vesting Act and grants a joint governance over Taranaki by the aforementioned Iwi and the Crown. In achieving legal personality, Taranaki is recognized as a living entity with the same legal rights as a human being.
Furthermore, I would like to draw attention to the land upon which this exhibition took place, which exists on the unceded ancestral homelands of The Council of Three Fires — made up of the Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi nations. It was also an area of trade for many other nations, including the Ho-Chunk, Miami, Menominee, Sauk and Meskwaki. The displacement of these nations by the federal government came as a direct result of the 1833 Treaty of Chicago, in which the government used manipulative tactics in order to coerce signatures from the Native American representatives present and further settler-colonial interests in the area. The city of Chicago was founded on this land soon after.