Tōia Mai: Speculating Art and Reality at the Hyphen in Aotearoa-New Zealand
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This practice-led creative research is located at the intercultural hyphen space (Fine, 1994) between Māori and Pākeha in Aotearoa-New Zealand. It attempts to explore some potential parallels and synergies between the metaphysics of te ao Māori and te ao Pākehā through the interactive public artwork Tōia Mai, which is located on the Western bank of the Waikato River at Hamilton’s Ferrybank Reserve, in Aotearoa-New Zealand. As a Pākehā attempting to be guided by a kāupapa Māori methodology within the context of a polytechnical tertiary educational setting, the practice has been in partnership with the Māori achievement office of the Waikato institute of technology (Wintec). Its theoretical framing is located between recent posthumanist critique from speculative realist and new materialist positions, and contemporary Māori scholarship. This research is speculative, as it does not attempt to answer a question or address a specific issue (Haseman, 2006). Instead, this inquiry was conducted through a collaborative and creative-led practice that acknowledges how multiple collaborations, myself, my creative arts research, and my creative arts practice, were all inextricably inter-related in a performative manner (Barnacle, 2009). By exploring how performativity departs from the idea that ‘things’ are bounded and discrete and focusing on how practices happen are as important as what happens, this research traverses performativity’s interconnection with inter-relationality and emergence to reveal how different metaphysical frameworks, can themselves, conditionally exist relationally. Western humancentric claims of objectivity are not universal, but informed by Cartesian and Kantian frameworks that position matter as being atomistic and substantial, in distinction to ideas and representations that lack substantiality. Informed by different traditions, Māori metaphysical approaches have much that could inform contemporary posthumanist concerns, with fundamental differences precluding any claims of correspondence. Western culture’s assumption that reality beyond human finitude is both knowable and accessible is found to be untenable from many Māori perspectives, as it doesn’t acknowledge the world’s volition or how spirituality and materiality are threaded through each other. Recognising the agency of nonhuman entities challenges the primacy of human exceptionalism as a predicate for objective truth and disrupts the claim that ‘knowledge’ is exclusively human. A materialist assertion by Barad (2007), recognises how different practices enact agential cuts within the performativity of matter as phenomena. Applied to Austin’s (1976) original conception of performativity, this informs how language practices can co-constitute reality and operate as acts of discovery. Attempting to practice at the intercultural hyphen has also prompted reassessment of the idea that potentiality lacks tangibility, and can now be considered in relation to the quantum discontinuity and how the unknown is part of the human condition. This non-causal understanding informs my notion of Pull - which occurs when sufficiently complex co-constituted phenomena produces its own drift, or tendencies. Similarly, digitality and materiality are found to exist in continuum with each other, as digitality always has a relationship with the tangible. Finally, the domain of ‘Art’ requires reassessment in relation to taonga, as well as these recent posthumanist understandings, as the primacy of humans as meaning-makers can no longer be taken for granted.