John Vea

Two Recent Works

14 July 2018 - 22 October 2018

John Vea (b. 1985, Aotearoa/Tonga) is a Tämaki Makaurau-based contemporary artist whose work explores narratives surrounding Moana Nui a Kiwa (Pacific) migration, labour and employment. He draws attention to the often mundane and strenuous physical labour undertaken by communities that make a vital contribution, particularly to the agriculture and construction industries, but which can largely go unacknowledged. 

Vea employs talanoa, a term used by many Moana Nui a Kiwa communities that refers to a conversational, personal encounter where people share ideas, stories and experiences. Talanoa privileges the face-to-face conversation over other methods of communication, such as phone, email or third-party exchanges. Vea uses talanoa to translate the experiences of others into art works that can communicate these stories to an outside audience.

Vea’s practice regularly takes the form of durational performance, using endurance and repetition to investigate the often invisible conditions of labour affecting many migrant workers. The works shown here represent some of the key ideas that emerge out of Vea’s recent output. In Finish this week off and that’s it! (2014), each section of this video portrait was filmed a week apart over a five week period, during which Vea ate below the poverty line, observing how this imposed diet affected his body and strength. Vea picks up a large rock and attempts to hold it for as long as he can. Once tiring completely, he places it on the ground before disappearing off the first screen, repeating the feat on each successive projection until only one version of himself holding the rock remains.

Concrete is as Concrete Doesn’t (2017), was developed out of a residency Vea completed during the inaugural Honolulu Biennale in 2017 and was filmed on Maungarei (Mount Wellington) in Auckland. Through talanoa in Hawaii with the artist and poet Imaikalani Kalahele, Vea developed an understanding of the impact a forced western colonisation had on the social fabric of the Hawaiian people. Using concrete as an allegorical device, Vea conflates the incessant laying of paving stones with the disconnection from land and tradition under a western capitalist mode of production.

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