Shannon Te Ao


Untitled (malady)

  • 2016
  • HD digital video file
  • Gift of Sheelagh Thompson marking her 86th birthday and honouring director Jenny Harper's dedication to Christchurch Art Gallery during the five years of its closure after the 2010-11 Canterbury earthquakes.
  • 2017/014

In Untitled (malady), Shannon Te Ao layers multiple historical references to create a poignant work that considers contemporary intimacy, politics and the human condition. Firstly, it is a reimagining of a scene from Charles Burnett’s 1978 film Killer of Sheep, in which a husband and wife dance to Dinah Washington’s rendition of the song ‘This Bitter Earth’. However, Shannon replaces the soundtrack with the dancers’ breathing and the gentle shuffling of their feet. The title Untitled (malady) gives the viewer another reference: ‘A Song for a Leprous Malady’ is a mid-1800s waiata written by Te Rohu of Ngāti Tūwharetoa about contracting leprosy from her lover and the traumatic death of her father, Te Heuheu, in a landslide. These references are grounded in intimate relationships, yet speak to the social politics of their times. With this work Shannon makes space for us to imagine the complexities of our own personal relationships and ways of relating to each other.

(Perilous: Unheard Stories from the Collection, 6 August 2022- )

Exhibition History