Extended Whānau 39 Whetūrangitia/Made As Stars

  • Pou Auaha / Creative Director
    Tyrone Ohia
  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Members
    Eva Charlton, Max Quinn-Tapara, Viv Teo, Kaye Reihana, Charles Dolbel, Toaki Okano, Jamie Bichan
  • Kaitautoko / Contributor
    Karl Chitham
  • Client
    The Dowse Art Museum

Whetūrangitia/Made As Stars was a major survey exhibition at The Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt. The exhibition features work by artists from Aotearoa, Nepal, Canada, Hawai’i, Sāmoa, Tonga and Laos. With a particular focus on Indigenous Futurism, the show explores the real-time lived relationships contemporary Indigenous artists have with their gods.

We were tasked with designing the visual identity for the exhibition. A unique component of the brief was to ensure that the identity itself functioned as one of the artworks in the show.

All indigenous cultures have connections to the stars, and creation narratives that link us to the wider universe. The title of the show speaks to these themes of origins and cosmology.

Our approach was to create a physical sculpture that spoke to these themes, and that could be photographed to create hero identity imagery.

We look to the stars to better understand who we are and where we come from. The sculpture we created echoes a cluster of galaxies spinning into existence, while also resembling a human face. The four circular galaxy forms reference interlocking takarangi spirals. For Māori, the takarangi is a visual representation of our creation narrative and speak to our cosmological origins.

In line with indigenous futurist thinking, the sculpture itself is made from an unorthodox material – balloons. For us, this material speaks to hā, the breath of life. A force that gives us the ability to live and exist in this world. We worked with a balloon artist to create these forms, which were governed by the tension and malleability of the material. The sculpture was created from eco balloons made of natural plant products. This zero waste sculpture has since deflated, been shredded, and returned to the whenua to decompose.

The final artwork aims to deceive the eye, both materially and figuratively. The black balloons look more like a foreign otherworldly material. Elements of Māori culture, mix with human and galactic forms to give multiple reads. Red gel lighting speaks to the blood that flows through us all and marks our mortality.

To accompany the photographs, we created a distinct typographic layer. Using a futurist typeface that functioned as both a written language and as an abstract pattern layer. Alongside the red accenting, these elements were used across a wide range of exhibition outputs including posters, banners, signage, social animations, a book, and a suite of custom merchandise items.