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Shannon Te Ao: Ka Mua, Ka Muri

Ka mua, ka muri is a new moving image project by Aotearoa New Zealand-based artist Shannon Te Ao (Ngāti Tūwharetoa), exploring our experience in time, history and song. The title is derived from a whakatauki (proverb) often cited as a central guiding principle within Māori ideology. Meaning “to walk backwards into the future,” it suggests that time exists on a continuum where past, present and future co-exist and are inherently tethered through ancestry and action.

Event/Exhibition meta autogenerated block.


Remai Modern

The exhibition consists of a two-channel film, which uses the road movie genre as its starting point, and locates two sisters in the immediate wake of an unnamed tragic event. Within the simple setting of their moving vehicle, the protagonists deliver two separate verses that consider ways that one might understand the temporality of our lived and understood experience, cited through events within both the natural and spiritual realms. Following on from Te Ao’s most recent work, what was or could be today (again) (2019), these songs were developed in collaboration with Kurt Komene (Te Ātiawa, Taranaki Whānui).

Shannon Te Ao, Ka mua, ka muri, Installation view, Remai Modern, 2020. Photo: Blaine Campbell

Te Ao often uses the processes of translation as a method with which to invite shared authorship and a multiplicity of voices. At the heart of the exhibition is an acknowledgement of the critical importance of language as a vital means to maintain links to indigenous knowledge systems, culture and identity.

Shannon Te Ao, Ka mua, ka muri, Installation view, Remai Modern, 2020. Photo: Blaine Campbell


Shannon Te Ao (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) was born in Sydney in 1978. He holds a BFA from University of Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts and an MFA from the College of Creative Arts at Massey University Wellington. Te Ao’s recent solo exhibitions include: my life as a tunnel, The Dowse Art Museum, Wellington (2018); With the sun aglow, I have my pensive moods, The Edinburgh Art Festival, Scotland, and Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, Auckland (2017); Tenei ao kawa nei, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu (2017); Two shoots that stretch far out, Taipei Contemporary Art Centre (2017); Te huka o te tai, Artspace, Auckland (2017); Untitled (McCahon House Studies), City Gallery Wellington (2017); Untitled (malady), Robert Heald Gallery, Wellington (2016); and A torch and a light (cover), Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, Auckland (2015).  In 2016, Te Ao was awarded the Walters Prize.

Curatorial Team

Ka mua, ka muri is co-commissioned by Remai Modern and Oakville Galleries, with the support of Creative New Zealand. The exhibition at Remai Modern is organized by Rose Bouthillier, Curator (Exhibitions).