Cover image of the review

Kirsten Lyttle: Digital Mana

25 Feb 2018
2 Feb - 11 Mar 2018

Kirsten Lyttle (Waikato, Ngāti Tāhinga, Tainui a Whiro) is a New Zealand-born, Australia-based artist who has built a practice on the intersection of photography and weaving: two art-making traditions that initially seem to have little in common. However, Lyttle’s signature combination asserts that the distinction between customary Māori weaving practices and digital photography is not, in fact, as clear as it might seem. This is an assertion underlined by the title of her current exhibition at the Centre of Contemporary Photography, Digital Mana, which seems to propose a reformulation of the mana (authority, prestige, status) associated with the woven feather cloak (kahu huruhuru) in the digital age.

Kirsten Lyttle, Gundulu/Emu Kākahu huruhuru, (2018), Macramé cord (Cotton), Cotton twine, Digital prints on Fuji lustre paper. Dimensions variable 143cm (width) x 118cm (height) approx. Image Credit: Linsey Gosper.

Digital Mana is a small exhibition of works drawn from Lyttle’s ongoing PhD research, and it has the feel of a work in progress. The show centres on a cloak Lyttle made by combining photographic prints and woven fibre, a work supplemented by a series of more conventionally presented photographs of feathers. Kahu huruhuru are prestige garments in Māori culture. Laboriously made by skilled weavers, they are worn by chiefs and dignitaries. Lyttle’s is woven using a customary technique; however, instead of stitching feathers into this base as is usual, she has attached photographs of emu feathers. While in this instance the juxtaposition feels overly literal to me, Lyttle’s insistent combination of digital and analogue technologies opens an interesting area of investigation. As in earlier projects, such as her woven photographic portraits of female South Pacific weavers, Te Whare Pora (2014–15), the works on show in Digital Mana foreground the materiality of the photograph.

To read for free enter your email address.

Log in with your registered email address.

Memo can continue to publish free, quality, and independent weekly art criticism with the support of our readers. Consider becoming a Patreon supporter or making a donation.