Nathan Pōhio

Homemade Glider Kitset
2010
1280 x 940 mm
lenticular photographic print
Edition 2 of 5
Titled, dated and signed verso
Courtesy of the artist and Jonathan Smart Gallery, Ōtautahi Christchurch

Estimate: NZD 11,000 — 16,000

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"Before Homemade Glider Kitset, in 2010, I had been working a lot with found and gifted lenticular photographs, making video artworks with them based around the idea of moving images after a moment in Alphaville, the famous Jean-Luc Godard film from 1965. I got really into Buster Keaton as well earlier in my career and I brought this research on cinematic behaviour and techniques together into Homemade Glider Kitset, which then enabled me to make a lenticular work and bring other Ngāi Tahu people into my practice. In this case I invited musician Marlon Williams just before his star was set to zoom off into the stratosphere, an excellent Buster Keaton stand-in, that’s the look he wore. I was particularly interested in three standard Keaton moves and I brought these together within the one frame, blank stare, closed eyes, focused stare – Keaton used this sequence a few times. I am mostly working from his film Our Hospitality, about the absurdity of feudal histories and concepts of ownership and loves ability to break these things down and heal and, of course, ‘hospitality’, or ‘manaakitanga’ as a term has been the used extensively within cultural artistic contexts over the past decade or so. However serious, Homemade Glider Kitset is also a very funny work, it’s a funny thing to experience, well presented but just slightly clunky, in just the right way." - Nathan Pōhio

Read the full interview with Pōhio below.

Artist Biography & History
with Artspace Aotearoa:

NB

In 2019, Nathan Pohio was involved in CURATORIAL INTENSIVE AUCKLAND, organised by Artspace Aotearoa and Independent Curators International. Pōhio was a volunteer at Artspace from 1997 — 1998.

Exhibited

Curiosity Killed The Gap (group), 21 November — 20 December 2003, curated by Tobias Berger

Nathan Pōhio

 

Nathan Pohio lives and works in Ōtautahi Christchurch and is a graduate of the film programme at Canterbury University’s Ilam School of Fine Arts.

He has worked consistently with lens-based technologies since his first exhibitions in the late 1990s. Pohio’s art-making has been influenced by his interest in pre-cinema optical tools popular in the nineteenth century, devices that were invented to create the appearance of moving image in the period between photography’s invention and the popularisation of film.

His work Raise the anchor, unfurl the sails, set course to the centre of an ever setting sun! saw Pohio selected for the 2016 Walters Prize, and subsequently in 2018 for the quintennial international art exhibition documenta 14, in both Kassel, Germany and Athens, Greece. — Artist bio courtesy of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Interview between Nathan Pōhio and Remco de Blaaij, Director of Artspace Aotearoa

Remco de Blaaij: Nathan, let’s start off with your relationship to Artspace and also perhaps Auckland as a city, when does your history here start?

Nathan Pōhio: My history starts here with Artspace around 1996/1997 when I moved to Auckland for some time after I got bored by Christchurch and wanted to do something else. I literally got a lift from a friend and ended up on Karangahape Road and actually called in at Lisa Reihana’s home. But she wasn’t home. However, Lisa Crowley opened up and she instantly asked if I needed a place to stay and I said yes. At the time many of us who studied at Ilam then left for exciting Auckland, so we were known to come in flocks and in need of some help. So that was very kind, but I quickly sorted myself out and got my own place. I then started to volunteer for Artspace when Robert Leonard was the Director and Kelly Carmichael the gallery assistant and I stayed there for two years. It was a great and good education.

I got to know many people in the community at that time and I made some lifelong friends there. I particularly struck up a good friendship with Billy Apply actually and we actually ended up exchanging work, which I still have lying around here somewhere. I gave him a bag and a pin of a wānanga that I visited. Billy was always at the copy machine of Artspace and he was very easy to get in touch with and always supported the young artists and very active in that space.

I really fell in love with Auckland. I hated it for the first 8 months, but after that I came to really love it, especially these friendships. What was great also that at the same time I got CNZ funding to make my first film and I did all the Auckland interviews at Artspace with the help from Robert Leonard. I then moved back actually midway through the project back to Christchurch to film that leg and the plan was to be there only temporarily and then move back to Auckland.

Unfortunately, upon landing in Christchurch when my sister picked me up, she explained that my dad was in hospital and he was in a bad condition. He deteriorated quite quickly and died within that week of my arrival. During the tangi, I would sleep next to him in the nighttime and then in the daytime would do my filming. I got an invitation to also make an artwork and that was when I made ‘Sleeper’, soon after my dad died. So I missed my siblings a lot, didn’t have the energy to return to Auckland and I stayed here until today really and life carried on.

But of course I needed to keep myself busy and I enrolled at this course of the New Zealand Broadcasting School, because for one, I never really learned at the time to use a computer properly, so I did that for a year, faffed around with cables and wires, learned how to edit etc and learned a lot. Met my later partner, got a child, moved to Dunedin and came back again to Christchurch. Did a lot of animation jobs and then became involved in the opening up of the Christchurch Art Gallery, late 2001. I got invited to show with them, but I also sneakily asked if they would have casual work as well. They did and I ended up as a technician there when it was still the Robert McDougal Gallery which then later transformed into the CAG. I was later doing exhibition design and then 14 years later, then after the earthquake I started to do curatorial work through Lara Strongman.

Remco de Blaaij: If you would classify those early years though for you, the mid 1990’s, how would you describe that time?

Nathan Pōhio: Look, those times were really exciting and high-energy in New Zealand. I think also internationally the late 90’s especially were really active for the arts environment and a lot of NZ artists went to get a lot of attention, but there was also a great influx of people and visitors. I know that Artspace had a particular role in stimulating and leading that space for sure. Also here in Christchurch there was a lot of activity that was mostly led by the smaller galleries, such as the Physics Room. Really a lot of subversive work was shown also there, especially political work that was shown. There were also spaces like Fiat Lux, established by Megan Dunn and her partner at the time, which was an exciting space with a lot of energy. Billy Apple was everywhere ofcourse, he was always around and really supporting these young artists and in particular involved in Artspace, as I said, always at the photocopier, almost every day. Really important to do that as an artist.

Remco de Blaaij: How did your Marlon Williams work start?

Nathan Pōhio: So this was 2010. I had been working at CAC for seven years, but I never had done my Masters Degree and I was starting that and combining that with my work. Doing daytime work and the degree in all of the evenings, it was full on. I developed this idea for my Master’s project, but in fact it probably goes back also to my Artspace time, as I was thinking about this work already then. When I was at high-school I got into Buster Keaton in a big way and I would take the library books that would be on him time and time again home. There was one particular aspect though I was interested in, and it was how a particular researcher analyzed the ‘blinking’ of Keaton, which happens in a few of his films and which can be described as a ‘shift of focus’.
The film that I was watching was called ‘Our Hospitality’ from 1923. This was interesting, because at the time also ‘manaakitanga’ was fastly becoming a term from te Ao Māori that entered the vocabulary, also in the arts environment. Te Ao Māori was a lot on my mind and I was hoping to work in particular with more Ngāi Tahu artists. As said, in my 1990’s Artspace days, I had envisioned these to be already as three separate photographs, big prints on a wall, of the same face. One being ‘spaced out’ , one with the eyes closed and another one with the eyes open and really focused.

Then for my Master’s I had to think about Marlon and that he would be an ideal candidate to play Buster. Ofcourse, Marlon is a Ngāi Tahu artist and he was the son of a friend of mine, so I had known him indirectly for a bit. He was completely unknown then. Goodlooking, I knew he had the voice of an angel and he actually already dressed back then a bit like Buster, so he was already there in a way! So I emailed him if he would be interested and I showed him the kind of dress I would propose and asked him if it would be a problem?

It appeared not, because we booked a photo studio and Marlon rolled up looking amazing and completely like Buster Keaton, 19th century style, with a hat and I had just to direct him. I worked with the photographer McKenzie and we had a great day. Unfortunately the earthquake happened and since I was in the Red Zone I was stuck at home, very much like the lockdowns we see now. This was the time I was able to finish the project though and I combined the idea of these three photographs into one photo, but as a lenticular print.

What was important though was this idea of movement. With the lenticular print I was able to focus on the movement of the viewer, as the movement happens not by moving the object, but indeed the person who views. For me it is really a moving image work and relates to film.

The installation was always envisioned as a three part work, and that’s where the tile comes from ‘Homemade Glider Kit’. There was going to be a single channel film, starring Marlon and two lenticular prints. It really refers to the optical prints and their history as pre-cinema media, which I have always been interested in. Going back to the 17th century, they were initially made in wood. I am always trying to look at these pre-cinematic links and history.

Remco de Blaaij: Nathan, could you speak more to your involvement in Te Ao Māori and when that urgency came into your practice more prominently, what is the history of it in your own practice? And could you speak to the future need for artists to be connected to Te Ao and tikanga Māori?

Nathan Pōhio: From the outset of my art making, I only spoke of working from within the contemporary Māori experience. In a way grappling with the idea of what a contemporary Māori experience is and working within that limitation, constantly fed and challenged by its dualities, conflicts and beauty.

In more recent years through working with wider Ngai Tahu whānua, especially working on Te Matatini 2014, wānanga with Paemanu, opportunities as a curator, the following conversations with significant seniors and most recently weavers, my exposure to some of our knowledge has seen a resolve appear and confidence build in me, and so therefore you see it more prominently in my work. If there is a sense of urgency then it may be due to the excitement of seeing so many generations coming through the ranks, it is exciting, and some are sophisticated artists seemingly coming from within Te Ao Maori itself. I wish Jonathan Mane Wheoki, my former mentor, were here to see this, this most recent wave of matauranga maori in art making in Aotearoa.

Remco de Blaaij: You have a love for film and cinema, but a lot of your work is presented as a 'still'. How do you think about this tension between moving and static images and how did cinematic considerations influence your early work?

Nathan Pōhio: Well if you hold a piece of film in your hands, you are engaging with a material stripped of the mechanics of cinema – where the illusion of moving images is located, it's mesmerising. My taking many photographs to make my own filmstrips, sliders, is a way to evoke that senior material. At art school I noticed film cuts are vertical and sound cuts are diagonal, this has informed the graphic nature of my filmstrips, the diagonals being like tones, they create a specific visual energy that holds the eye. The slider works are made up of these fundamental qualities of cinema, although I am not working with celluloid, video still supports my expressing a love for it. I once saw a Violet Faigan artwork in a Terry Urban curated exhibition. Violet made a hand-cranked panoramic of her drawings on a scrolled piece of paper, my slider works come from that same visual history. There is so much area to explore in cinema, pre cinema history is actually related to painting before photography, before film, so it’s a vast area to investigate and not limited to cinema itself.

Before Homemade Glider Kitset, 2010 I had been working a lot with found and gifted lenticular photographs, making video artworks with them based around the idea of moving images after a moment in Alphaville. Homemade Glider Kitset enabled me to make a lenticular work and bring other Ngāi Tahu people into my practice, musician Marlon Williams just before his star was set to zoom off into the stratosphere. An excellent Buster Keaton stand-in, that’s the look he wore. Three standard Keaton moves are brought together within the one frame, blank stare, closed eyes, focused stare – Keaton used this sequence a few times, I am working from his film Our Hospitality a film about the absurdity of feudal histories and concepts of ownership and loves ability to break these things down and heal. It is also very funny work, it’s a funny thing to experience, well presented but just slightly clunky, in just the right way.