Shannon Te Ao

May 9, 2021 – December 19, 2021
my life as a tunnel



Shannon Te Ao (Ngāti Tūwharetoa / New Zealander, born Australia, 1978) implements Māori traditions to explore the ambiguities and tensions within interpersonal relationships as well as the complex dynamics between Indigeneity, language, and loss. The starting point for my life as a tunnel (2018) is a scene from Charles Burnett’s iconic film Killer of Sheep (1978) in which the protagonist, Stan, and his wife—whose marriage has experienced much strain—slowly dance to the haunting Clyde Otis song "This Bitter Earth," originally recorded by Dinah Washington in 1959, capturing a pivotal moment of physical and psychological exchange between two individuals. This two-channel video is installed on two separate, back-to-back screens. Two male figures move intimately together to an a cappella version of "This Bitter Earth," translated into te reo Māori (Māori language). Their engagements seem affectionate, but there are subtle, yet palpable, moments of disquiet. This layered and poignant work weaves together past and present and asks: What can be found once something is lost?

This exhibition is organized by the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, and was generously supported by William B. Jaffe and Evelyn A. Hall Fund.

Exhibition Curator

Jessica Hong

Exhibition subject: Modern & Contemporary ArtOceania