Collection

KA KORIKI TE MANU / THE CHORUS OF BIRDS 'Hinemokomoki', WHEKAU, Laughing Owl, AV5736 Otago Museum
Fiona Pardington

2004

Fiona Pardington
b.
1961
Title:
KA KORIKI TE MANU / THE CHORUS OF BIRDS 'Hinemokomoki', WHEKAU, Laughing Owl, AV5736 Otago Museum
Production date:
2004
Accession No:
2008/23
Measurements:
610 x 508mm (unframed) 1070 x 880 x 40mm (framed)
Media:
gold toned gelatin silver photograph taken with a 4 x 5" Sinar camera printed on fibre based archival paper

Collection Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth. Acquired with assistance from the Govett-Brewster Foundation.

KA KORIKI TE MANU / THE CHORUS OF BIRDS ‘Hinemokomoki’, WHEKAU, Laughing Owl, AV5736 Otago Museum belongs to the long-term photographic project by Fiona Pardington. The project began in the late 1990s depicting Māori taonga, found in cultural and natural history museum collections. Pardington’s series includes taonga such as bird feathers, bird nests, pounamu, shells and violins. In examining a museum collection, Pardington raises questions about how these taonga connect the past with the present and what sort of life is retained in them as preserved specimens.

In this photograph of a laughing owl housed at the Otago Museum, Pardington renders the feathers softly with black, white, and grey tones. This all-over texture is punctuated by the brilliant white patch surrounding the bird’s eye which is wide open and flickering in the light. The composition is reminiscent of earlier works by Pardington in which she depicted pounamu heitiki neck ornaments. The intense gaze of the bird, like that of the heitiki, confronts viewers and subverts their expectations of a passive encounter with the past. The bird looks back. This intangible connection between viewer and subject, the present and the past, is central to Pardington’s work when examining museum collections. David Eggleton writes, “They are not displayed with documentary sharpness, rather their blurs and shadows, their highlighted markings and catalogue numbers, emphasise an inherent spirituality.”