(Nga-Ariki, Ngati Whakarongo. b. Porirua,
New Zealand, 1968; lives and works in
Auckland, New Zealand)
COMMISSIONED BY Litmus Research Initiative
Michael Parekowhai, Yes We Are, Wellington, 28 May 2009. Commissioned by Litmus Research Initiative,
Massey University for One Day Sculpture. Photos: Stephen Rowe
(click to enlarge)
Yes We Are
Thursday 28 May 2009, 05.00 – 22.00
Multiple locations across Wellington
First location (5am): Interislander Marshalling Yard (view from SH1 driving south into city)
Final location (9pm): Mount Victoria lookout
Michael Parekowhai began thinking about the invitation to produce an artwork for the One Day Sculpture series by reflecting upon its inevitable conclusion. The artist’s ability, as one critic has suggested, to “expand the mind and seduce the eye” is brought to Wellington today through a public, but itinerant artwork which was conceived as the final work for this nationwide series.
The work consists of a 4.6 metre-high neon sign, mounted on the back of a truck, which spells out the word ‘OPEN’. The sign will be installed temporarily at a series of locations across the city from 5am to 10pm on Thursday 28 May. The first location of the work is the Interislander Marshalling Yard. This location is not accessible to the public but can be viewed from the SH1 driving south into the city from 5am. From approximately 8am, the work will appear at a variety of undisclosed locations throughout the day, arriving at its final location, Mount Victoria at 9pm.
The sign is designed by the artist to be intentionally incongruous in Wellington – part-retro, part-Vegas sign – an intervention which will accrue different meanings in the dark, early morning light in a deserted ferry terminal seen from afar, to the frenzy of the commercial district in broad daylight. Parekowhai’s title refers explicitly to the convention of shops signs which substitute ‘Yes We Are’ for ‘Open’ – an assertive, optimistic and somewhat pre-emptive response to a potential enquiry.
Constructing his own bold, new ‘readymade’, Parekowhai proceeds to enact a series of ‘displacements’ whereby the sign becomes relocated across a variety of contexts during the day. By not allowing us to know a predetermined route for the work, but simply indicating where the work will start and finish, the artist coaxes us to think about the terms of which we encounter a work of art. What does it mean to encounter this sign unexpectedly, how open are we to such new encounters and how does our understanding of this sign operate if we see it in a number of locations? Parekowhai is particularly interested in the potentiality of the term ‘open’ and what such a disembodied sign might indicate about the future of public art in an open field. Conceived as a conclusive work, Parekowhai’s ‘Yes We Are’ indicates that this might be the end of the beginning for public sculpture in New Zealand, rather than the last word.
Michael Parekowhai, Yes We Are is commissioned by Litmus Research Initiative, Massey University. Realised with generous funding support from the Wellington City Council Public Art Fund, Creative New Zealand, Massey University Foundation and Massey University College of Creative Arts.
1.Justin Paton, ‘Special Agent: Michael Parekowhai's Generous Duplicity’, Art New Zealand, Issue 103, Winter 2002
Michael Parekowhai, The Horn of Africa, 2006
Michael Parekowhai's ONE DAY SCULPTURE project will take place in Wellington May 2009.
Parekowhai uses satire in his works to address political and social
issues. His practice engages with a range of European artists and
movements, from Marcel Duchamp to Minimalism and Pop, using them as a
frame in which to consider the place of Maori culture within New
Zealand's dominant pakeha (non-indigenous) society. Parekowhai is best
known for striking, large-scale sculptural works that have a refined
and seductive presence. His work often appropriates the forms of
familiar things, such as toys and animals, placing them in intriguing
relationships that purposely invite a wide variety of interpretations
relevant to the cultural context of New Zealand and beyond. His recent
commission for the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, The Big
O.E., illustrates this artist's particular interest in exploring the
nature and definition of Pakeha culture.
Selected solo exhibitions include The Big O.E., Museum of New Zealand
Te Papa Tongarewa, (2006), Michael Parekowhai: Consolation of
philosophy Piko nei te matenga, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New
Plymouth (2004) and the acclaimed touring exhibition Patriot: Ten
Guitars, Artspace, Auckland (1999). Selected group exhibitions include
The 5th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (2006), High Tide:
currents in contemporary New Zealand & Australian Art, Zacheta
National Gallery of Art, Warsaw (2006), Remember New Zealand, Sao Paulo
Biennale (2004), The 13th Sydney Biennale (2002) and Flight Patterns,
MOCA The Geffen Contemporary, Los Angles (2000)
Parekowhai was born in Porirua in 1968 and is of Nga-Ariki, Ngati
Whakarongo and European decent. Parekowhai holds a masters degree from
the University of Auckland School of Fine Arts and was awarded an Arts
Foundation Laureate Award in 2001. He currently lives in Auckland.