Sunday, 13 August 2017

Shannon Te Ao: With the sun aglow, I have my pensive moods

Gladstone Court until August 27th
Four stars

The title of Shannon Te Ao's new twin video installation may resemble that of a Godspeed You! Black Emperor album, but the landscape here is the artist's native Aotearoa New Zealand. The tone is similarly mournful, in a starkly poetic study of what seems to be an eternal estrangement between human-kind and the fractured landscape it barely occupies.

The first of the two five minute or so films is a close-up of two Maori women slow-dancing in a field, silently holding on for dear life itself before the inevitable goodbye as the sky above them broods its way from day to night. The second focuses on the landscape itself. Filmed in sumptuous black and white, hills and fields are punctured by pylons as cows graze. Both scenarios are sound-tracked with a slow-burning string-led score, and end with a voice-over of the same elegiac verse.

Housed for Edinburgh Art Festival in a former Magdalene Asylum for 'fallen' women, the room is filled with foliage to create its own environment. It is the over-riding ache of absence and loss from the films themselves, however, that makes this such a hauntingly beautiful experience. (Neil Cooper)

The List, August 2017

ends

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