Wai: overview

Wai (for ISEA 2012 Albuquerque)

Photo of Wai by Jo Tito

Te Hunga Wai Tapu consists of: Dr Te Huirangi Waikerepuru, Te Urutahi Waikerepuru, Ian Clothier, Jo Tito, Craig Macdonald, Julian Priest, Sharmila Samant, Leon Cmielewski, Josephine Starrs, Andrew Hornblow, Darren Robert Terama Ward, Johnson Dennison, Andrew Thomas, Dugal McKinnon, Sophie Jerram and Gordon Bronitsky. Aerial imagery courtesy of Land Information New Zealand.

There are five components to the Wai project. Te Iarere (communication across vast distances) involves data from a tree in Opunake, New Zealand Aotearoa. Tree voltage, temperature and light are measured. The live data readings control audio played in the exhibition space. Ian Clothier conceived and directed Te Iarere. Andrew Hornblow made the custom data sensors. Julian Priest and Adrian Soundy created the web interface. Darren Robert Terama Ward is a Maori musician who plays self made traditional instruments and Andrew Thomas is a Navajo musician specialising in the flute.

The second component is Pou Hihiri (the womb of the universe). The Pou is encapsulated in vinyl graphics, contains woven LED’s and has an audio component. Conceived and directed by Te Urutahi Waikerepuru, Craig Macdonald made the Pou graphics and structure with audio by Dugal McKinnon and Sophie Jerram.

Video is the third component. Indian video artist Sharmila Samant has contributed The Wasteland, an exploration of Wai in New Zealand. The Maori expression for ‘Who are you?’ is ‘Ko wai au’ which literally means ‘of whose water are you’ and is understood by Maori to mean ‘of whose ancestors are you?’ Jo Tito, a contemporary Maori artist currently studying science has made two videos of Wai, which play inbetween The Wasteland and Ruamoko. Ruamoko is made by the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences in New Zealand Aotearoa, and explores both Maori and Western scientific views of earthquakes and volcanoes, the result of of flow phenomena in the Earth.

Julian Priest contributed Sink a model of anthropogenic ocean acidification. A conceptual work, carbon dioxide exhaust gasses are piped into a tank containing brine. Carbonic acid is formed, increasing acidity, which dissolves a scallop shell in the tank.

The fifth component is an animation and audio work by Leon Cmielewski and Josephine Starrs Puwai Rangi Papa.  Projected onto the floor, the words of Te Huirangi Waikerepuru are etched into the mountain landscape of his home – Taranaki Maunga (mountain).

Wai is supported by:

Matahiapo logo

ian clothier logo




Wai opening

Wai opened with a Tomo Whakaari, a dawn ceremony following Maori protocol at 6.53am September 19 at 516 Arts in Albuquerque. We were privileged to have Johnson Dennison, a Navajo Medicine Man contribute some Navajo ceremony.

Te Urutahi Waikerepuru, Dine’/Navajo musician Andrew Thomas and his partner, Dr Te Huirangi Waikerepuru, Ian Clothier, Johnson Dennison, Gordon Bronitsky and Rosemary Dennison just before the ceremonies started.

Te Urutahi Waikerepuru, Dr Te Huirangi Waikerepuru and Ian Clothier outside 516 Arts. Te Huirangi is just about to start proceedings.

This photo was taken just after the ceremonies had ended, however during the Dine’/Navajo portion, everyone was asked to sit, either on chairs or on the floor. Johnson Dennison talked about what his words meant, then chanted a chant suitable to the occasion and recognising the land and the mountains. This was followed by prayer. The entire event was extremely special, particularly for an art work presented as part of an electronic arts event.


Wai installation

Wai at 516 Arts

In the foreground is “Puwai Rangi Papa” by Leon Cmielewski and Josephine Starrs; on the wall is a shot from “The Wasteland” by Sharmila Samant. On the right is “Pou hihiri” by Te Urutahi Waikerepuru

Audio was an important part of the project. Click the link to hear audio by Andrew Thomas and Darren Ward. Darren Ward AndrewThomas

Wai installation shot
On the wall is Julian Priests’ “Sink”, with the Cmielewski and Starrs animation on the floor and Sharmila Samant’s piece projected on the wall.

Wai installation photo

Detail of “Pou Hihiri” by Te Urutahi Waikerepuru


Wai installation photo

“Puwai Rangi Papa” by Leon Cmielewski and Josephine Starrs was project on the floor


Wai installation photo Wai seen through an adjacent art work


pou hihiri

Pou Hihiri

Pou Hihiri – The Womb of the Universe

Project team

Dr Te Huirangi Waikerepuru, Poutua, Kaumatua (Elder), Author
Te Urutahi Waikerepuru, Concept Designer & Artist
Julian Priest, Custom Electronics
Tom Greenbaum, Custom Electronics
Craig McDonald, Graphics Artist
Sophie Jerram & Dugal McKinnon – Sound Effects

Artist statement

The Pou Hihiri is a representation of the womb of the universe. Within its core is the blue print, the DNA, the life‐giving blood of the universe, the unrealized potential of all that is and all that is to come. Pou Hihiri is a visualisation of the receptacle, the womb that holds the great nothing, the long nothing, the deep nothing all of which is yet to be realized. It is pre‐emergent potentiality, at times, heaving, breathing, laboring in its efforts to release it’s burden. Pou Hihiri has the deceptive appearance of stillness, timelessness and spatial immortality.

The pou is part of the exhibition Wai at 516 Arts during ISEA 2012 Albuquerque Machine Wilderness.



Wai dawn opening

Wai will open at dawn, 6.53am September 19th 2012 at 516 Arts, 516 Central Ave SW Albuquerque,  led by Dr Te Huirangi Waikerepuru, as part of ISEA 2012 Albuquerque Machine Wilderness. All welcome.


There will also be a special session of ISEA, at OFFCENTER in Albuquerque from 12 to 1.45pm on Sunday23rd September. All welcome to that event too.


Later that same day, the 23rd, from 4pm till 9pm, the third project for ISEA 2012 Machine Wilderness Bus garden will be presented as part of the Block Party on Central Ave.





wai exhibition

Wai visualisation

Visualisation of the Wai installation

About Wai

Humanity and Earth are at an important juncture: the intersection of past unsustainable approaches to environment and the potential for a sustainable future. An important factor in these issues is listening to the voice of indigenous people on the subject of environment. It is quite clear that the West will not by its own means resolve climate change issues.

Dr Te Huirangi Waikerepuru, a highly respected Māori Kaumatua (elder) from Aotearoa New Zealand has provided the core concept and ideological underpinning for Wai (which means water or flow). The project is selected for exhibition at 516Arts during ISEA 2012 Albuquerque Machine Wilderness.

Wai is an integrating focus – embracing rain and snow in the mountains, rolling downward via rivers to the beach and into the human body via breath. Māori worldview involves seeing an integrated whole with humans in direct relationship with nature.

Notions of integrated systems will be familiar to many, and the connection to electronic art is found in the words of Associate Professor of Zoology Mike Paulin “Scientists, artists and others are transforming the environment into an organism, as Māori and indigenous peoples have always known it to be.” Wai consists of data sensors in Aotearoa New Zealand, integrated with works by Maori, New Zealand, Australian, Indian and Navajo/Dine artists in an electronic art installation.



By Te Huirangi Waikerepuru

Wai is an exhibition whose main theme comes from Dr Te Huirangi Waikerepuru. Wai means water or flow and occupies a central place for Māori. The first stage of this project will be exhibited at 516 Arts in Albuquerque as part of ISEA2012, the International Symposium on Electronic Art.

One of the works in the exhibition Wai is a work by Te Huirangi – Te Taiao Māori.

In 2011 for Istanbul ISEA, Te Huirangi had composed a chart of Te Taiao Māori, the Māori universe. This was presented as a 2.5metre x 3metre chart of words on the wall.

For presentation at Cultura Digital in Rio de Janeiro, the chart was formatted as an animation using After Effects. The background is photo astronomy by Paul Moss, who also took part in the Istanbul show.

The work will be also shown as part of SCANZ 2013: 3rd nature in Puke Ariki New Plymouth opening February 2nd 2013. This will be it’s first exhibition in Aotearoa New Zealand, an important moment for the local audience.

The image above is from a presentation at the Planetary Collegium’s Technoetic Telos on Kefalonia Island, Greece. Previously this detail of the chart had been presented on Waterwheel in Tunisia and had been translated into French.

It is intended that the ISEA Albuquerque version will contain Portuguese and Spanish translations. Part of Te Huirangi’s kaupapa (policy) is that of recognising local cultures.

Clearly there is world wide interest in the Māori worldview and particularly in the context of electronic art. As Steven Kovats observed after seeing the exhibition in Istanbulthe interconnections between the Māori concepts of flow, movement, space, time, collaboration say much about the ideals of open and critical digital culture and theory today.”

Wai or flow is central to Māori who also speak of “Ika Moana, Ika Whenua, Ika Tangata” – fish, fish land, fish people. The Māori expression for ‘Who am I?’ – “Ko wai au?” literally means “Whose water am I?”