Max Clifford Ka Mua, Ka Muri

  • Tauira / Student
    Max Clifford
  • Kaitautoko / Contributor
    Javier Ruiz (Softbiome)
  • Kaiako / Lecturer
    Derek Kawiti
  • School
    Victoria University of Wellington, School of Architecture

Ka Mua, Ka Muri.
Experimental Furniture Collection.

The Ka Mua, Ka Muri furniture collection looks to introduce traditional Māori fabric art techniques into modern computational design workflows. The research investigates how computational tools can provide new and exciting opportunities to engage with mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge). Complex algorithmic workflows have been used to form emergent patterns that allow for a contemporary Māori linguistic derived and informed by traditional Māori culture. Cultural motifs can become critical parameters, influencing the design process and outcome instead of rudimentary surface-level cultural integration.

The furniture is created by the digital recreation of traditional Māori fabric art techniques central to early Māori settlers' survival in Aotearoa. Māori used and developed fabric construction techniques to build objects ranging from intricate cloaks and fishing nets to architectural structures. Of particular interest for this project were variations in twining and braiding techniques utilised to construct objects surfaces and rigid structural joints. The careful interlacing of different weaving types has established an intricate aesthetic complexity reflected in the furniture. The developed interaction between weaves provides continuity throughout each design, resulting in separate elements of the furniture seamlessly interacting with one another in carefully curated moments.

Innovative 3d printed materials have been represented throughout the development of the objects. The use of modern materiality aims to juxtaposes the traditionally natural Māori aesthetic. Instead, an intriguing modern interpretation aims to subvert any standard traditional Māori design linguistic replication. Functionally graded materials have been researched and implemented throughout the design to add a layer of technical annotation throughout each item of furniture. The gradient between white and black emphasises critical structural joins, directional changes and articulates interactions between multiple sets of weaves. The colour gradient also establishes an accentuated relationship with the contextual placement of the furniture through the colour exchange between the furniture and significant connections to the ground.

The guiding premise of the experimental furniture collection is a traditional Māori proverb, Ka Mua, Ka Muri, that considers a person walking backwards into the future. The notion suggests that the past is discernible, but the future is not. It invites oneself to look to the past for clues to the way forward and highlights that the future is unwritten.

By utilising modern computational workflows, particularly special effects simulation software, time becomes a significant determinant parameter in creating and manipulating the resulting furniture geometry. The outcome presents the ability to engage with the abstract conception of time understood in Māori culture and articulated by Ka Mua, Ka Muri. Māori understanding of time and space is fundamentally different from that of Western civilisations. Therefore, it can be argued that Māori may not conform to the Western model of a three-dimensional object in space but instead believe that objects exist in time as well as space.

Overall, this project identifies the exciting opportunities to utilise mātauranga Māori and apply it in modern focused design outcomes that subvert blatant use of iconography and cultural appropriation that seems to plague Māori culture in many facets of design.