Exhibition captures lesser known and entangled histories

Creation Stories, an exhibition by Karamia Müller and Simon Denny, visualises our lesser known histories and connections between Sāmoa, German speaking Europe, and Aotearoa New Zealand.

Simon Denny and Karamia Müller, Creation Story Cable Harness 3, 2022. Courtesy of the artists and Michael Lett. Installation view. Photo: Sam Hartnett

Creation Stories, an exhibition conceived by Dr Karamia Müller, from the School of Architecture and Planning, and Berlin-based artist Simon Denny, an alumnus of the University, visualises shared connections and histories between Sāmoa, German speaking Europe, and Aotearoa New Zealand.

Müller and Denny first met through a close mutual friend and, over the years, found they had a lot in common, including a mutual and ongoing interest in technology and the way it shapes individual and collective experience.

For her masters thesis, Müller looked at how software, which is used as a key design tool in the architectural profession to draw buildings, was unable to adequately express Sāmoan value systems. She also led the 2020 exhibition, Violent Legalities, in which cutting-edge technologies were used to draw attention to the widespread, systematic and ongoing instances of legislative violence against non-Pākehā in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Denny, who represented New Zealand at the 2015 Venice Biennale, is one of the first established artists to explore blockchain ideology in his work, and has a particular interest in how artists are using blockchain technology and NFTs to create novel forms of networked online artwork.

Conversations over the years also revealed that Müller and Denny have a number of intersecting familial and geographical connections – that their ancestral paths crossed in myriad ways, which they began to map for the exhibition.

For instance, Denny’s great-grandfather was Chief Justice in Sāmoa, and after leaving Switzerland, Müller’s great-grandfather was involved in significant commercial activity with Swiss and German colonial enterprises in Sāmoa and Tonga.

Simon Denny and Karamia Müller, Creation Story Cable Harness 2 (detail), 2022. Courtesy of the artists and Michael Lett. Installation view. Photography by Sam Hartnett.

There are also intersecting connections in the creation of currencies. Müller has a cousin who lives in Zug, Switzerland, who was involved in designing the legal infrastructure for open-source blockchain Ethereum.

Denny has familial connections to more orthodox currencies: his great-uncle was head of the National Bank of New Zealand during the mid-20th century and oversaw the change in 1967 from British pounds to New Zealand dollars.

In their co-authored works they have used wiring harnesses, typically used in automobile manufacturing, to create diagrammatic sculptures resembling family trees that capture how commerce, sovereignty, technology and polity connect the Pacific to German-speaking Europe.

The cable harnesses have a striking aesthetic, but as described in Metro magazine, “there’s a deeper metaphor at play here: the same way a car needs the interconnectivity of its wires to work, our own charged entanglements are what keeps the world moving.”

Some of the sculptures function as cryptocurrency miners, drawing on electrical power to solve mathematical equations and “mine” digital money – in essence, pointing to the literal value of connection as they create financial value from the artworks.

The exhibition visualises entangled and intertwining histories, prioritising lesser-known histories and narratives. “I’m interested in centering the Pacific in my research,” says Müller. “The region’s written history has been subjected to multiple colonial perspectives, and so it is interesting to me to go back and revisit those narratives and peer again.”

Working with these ideas in these novel ways has been exhilarating, she says. “It has reanimated my own views on the colonial era.”

Along with new works by Müller and Denny, Creation Stories brings together work from a diverse group of invited national and international artists.

The curated selection of artworks shown alongside their new collaborative pieces were chosen as the pair felt they resonated with the themes of intergenerational knowledge-sharing, global exchange, the mapping of technologies, and familial, colonial, and commercial histories and connections.

Overseas artists taking part include Daniel Boyd (Kudjila/Gangalu peoples, Australia), Sarah Friend (Germany), D Harding (Bidjara/Ghungalu/Garingbal peoples, Australia), Leah Jaynes Karp (US) and Ryan Kuo (US).

Local artists include: Stella Brennan, Joseph Churchward (Sāmoa/New Zealand), Shane Cotton (Ngā Puhi/Ngāti Rangi/Ngāti Hine/Te Uri Taniwha), Julian Jashper, John Denny, Buck Nin (Ngāti Raukawa/Ngāti Toa), Michael Steven (Aotearoa/Germany), Salle Tamatoa and Tunaga Funaki (Aotearoa/Niue), and Leafā Wilson and Olga Krause (Aotearoa/Sāmoa).

The exhibition will run from 6 August to 22 October at Gus Fisher Gallery, and from 6 August to 10 September at Michael Lett Gallery (312 Karangahape Road).

Find out more about Creation Stories on the Gus Fisher Gallery website.

Media contact

Margo White I Media adviser
Mob 021 926 408
Email margo.white@auckland.ac.nz