Shannon Te Ao: With the sun aglow, I have my pensive moods (4 stars)

This article is from 2017

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

Mournful installation set inside former Magdalene asylum

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 in New Zealand. The tone is similarly mournful, in a starkly poetic study of what seems to be an eternal estrangement between humankind and the fractured landscape it barely occupies.

The first of the two approximately five-minute-long 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. Filmed in sumptuous black and white, hills and fields are punctured by pylons as cows graze. Both scenarios are soundtracked with a slow-burning string-led score, and end with a voiceover of the same elegiac verse.

Housed for Edinburgh Art Festival in a former Magdalene asylum for 'fallen' women just off the Canongate, 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.

Gladstone Court, until 27 Aug, free.

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

  • 4 stars

Shannon Te Ao’s powerfully affecting video installations, sound works and live performances often find their starting point in existing literary material (particularly Māori lyrical sources found in whakataukī (Māori proverb) and waiata (Māori song)), which the artist uses as devices to explore various social and…