• Chantel Matthews

Exploring matter as material

Updated: Feb 22

16 February 2021

Experimenting with drying ikura and turning it to dust to see the potential in what it could be.

March 3 2020

Development - Postcards

I'm here, not to save lives. I need evidence. Approved, I drink a litre of juice and water. I give blood. Emptying its contents, I replace it with my own.

Reversing the gaze, 2020.

kids microscope, rock salt, mana wahine blood, colouring

I wanted to test the idea of what it means to use my blood again in work, given the experience I had with my last work. Having to remove work because it breached ethics and causing others offence (understanding academic and institute protocol not followed in my case) was fine. Still, it was the idea that the thinking dismissed. What followed was a sense of shame, dirtiness, embarrassment. The intuitive part of my art-making process discarded. The decision was reactive, just like my act. Perhaps why I want to delve deeper into the concept of work that may come from thoughts of intuitive making if one does see it in the context of mana wahine and in particular mātauranga māori indigenous perspective. Where traditional, spiritual knowledge visible and invisible is passed down or through in some form of wisdom.

Luce Irigaray has observed “[f]luids are implicitly associated with femininity, maternity, menstruation and the body. Fluids are subordinated to that which is concrete and solid.”3 Therefore, the body is something that should be controlled to enable a prescribed representation of self-identity. In particular, menstruation has been codified as an uncontrollable bodily function that needs to be organised, managed and contained. Hence the cyclic continuation of performative acts to create the appearance of a ‘natural’ state. Judith Butler explains, “gender is not a fact, the various acts of gender create the idea of gender and without those acts there would be no gender at all. Gender is thus, a construction that regularly conceals its genesis.”4 To understand menstruation as gendered blood is to recognise the ritualisation of difference through cleansing practices, psychoanalytic classifying and other constructs that affect the position of women.

Tappenden, Alice, and Ann Shelton. “Bloody Women Artists: Enjoy Contemporary Art Space.” Enjoy, November 1, 2015, 7 May 2020, http://enjoy.org.nz/publishing/the-occasional-journal/love-feminisms/text-bloody-women-artists.

Feedback - FA how the transference of blood from Māori wāhine to non Māori wāhine insights ideas of care and ethical responsibility.  To be gifted blood from Māori wāhine brings with it such a strong sense of what it then means to care for and nurture that gift: how might such a gift materially enact the intertwined roles of guest and host.

how you are exploring how mana can function materially.  There is a really interesting relationship between the idea of blood as something the body relies on for sustenance and to live and mana itself.  Do you think of mana as 'life giving' in the same way as blood?

Thinking through the idea of (Kaleidascope) as a sterile object that functions by manipulation, built to gaze at beautiful forms.

3D Printed Workshop

Extending on the first manascope experimentation, we created a 3D printed microscope. Ideas floated of what a room of mana scopes could look like. Each containing a women's mana which is housed in a plastic vessel constructed through Technology / Machine (Energy/frequency). What does it mean to look into a wahine's mana through a western lens/frame.

Workshop with James making a 3d print Manascope.

Duration: Catch up with James 30min, Workshop session Tech design 1.5hrs

Continued Exploration

It wasn't meant to be a moment until it was.

March 30th 2020

Morning Pages, I've seen better days, stripped bare, Postcard,2020

Morning Pages, Do people still use the word fuck? Postcard,2020


These works explore the pressure of a practice that seeks protocols, tradition and permission. What does the body mean as sculptural moments, in the form or formless? Flowing in and out of voices, I consider who is someone in and out of mana mode, essential then not essential. Is there room for such moments to exist? Art is as essential as fucking.

I baked everyday for the last 40 days. One of the reasons lockdown has been so easy for us (emoji, emoji). One thing for sure, when you try yours, go real slow. OMG lol, *said it should last 4 months! Hardly! (emoji). I thought she said two? (emoji) Oh well. I enjoy euphoria and writing and reading while in it lol. Once I'm back at mahi though it will be once a week.

Wa relates to notions of time and space, hine relates to a female essence

Morning Pages, Intuitive waters, Postcard,2020


In meditation, the pūmanawa (belly button) is also known as the intuitive waters as it houses the heart of the mother, the female energy, intuition. I started thinking about the masculine and feminine energies through a Te Ao Māori world view, where we are all interconnected and in relationship with all living and non-living things. I began to look at the in-between spaces in landscapes. The Māori Atua (gods) Ranginui (Sky father), Papatuanuku (Earth Mother), and Tangaroa (Sea).

Images taken at Pt England Reserve which follows along the Tamaki estuary. Te Wai o Tāiki (named after the ancestor Taikehu) - Te Waimokoia Tamaki River (the waters of Moko-ika-a-Hikuwaru the great serpent with eight tails).

Reflecting on my RD inquiry, I link this work to wahine as described by Leonie Pihama.

There are two critical components of the term 'Mana Wahine' these being; the concepts

'Mana' and 'Wahine.' Rangimarie Turuki Pere maintains that mana is fundamentally

beyond translation. It is multi-dimensional and relates to notions that she describes as

a psychic influence, control, prestige, power, vested and acquired authority and

influence, being influential or binding over others and that quality of the person that

others know she or he has!1

Leonie Pihama continues “Conceptually we can see wahine as being the intersection of the two

words; wa and hine. Wa relates to notions of time and space, hine relates to a female essence”:2

1 Pihama, Leonie, Tihei Mauri Ora: Honouring Our Voices. Mana Wahine as a Kaupapa Maori Theoretical Framework

(2010), 260.

2 Pihama, Leonie, 261

Developing on art in retrospect. Moments anchored in language.

Morning Pages, If it’s good enough for your dog...Postcard,2020

Development - Intentionality of process

A few stragglers remained, including the dog. More or less fully clothed, I dived into the crisp sea who embraced the rebel. Drenched, downcast eyes followed. I walked home. They were not surprised by the view.

Through analyzing the potential in everyday moments and experiences, I am developing an understanding of what could be art and what is just life. This process that may start as an impulse may be recognized later as an artwork. Through doing, formed criteria and process is developed, which will inform my practice. What drew me to the water was an overwhelming sense to cleanse mentally, physically, and spiritually, to rebalance and connect with nature's elements while aware this was in breach of government rules. The doing was an intuitive act. The criteria on reflection were deemed potential art-making through a mana wahine perspective.

"Mana Wairua deals with our mental and spiritual well-being, the two waters of balance between negative and positive epitomised in a sense of belief in something greater than humanity. The destruction of Mana Wairua was a prerequisite to successful colonisation".

Pihama L et al., "Mana Wahine Readerm A Collection of Writings 1987-1998." Te Kotahi Research Institute. The University of Waikato, Vol. 1 (2019): 128.

" Knowledge that endures is spirit driven. It is a life force connected to all other life forces. It is more an extension than it is a thing to accumulate"

What was discovered in the thoughts of others and within my own reflection was the intentionality of process, the value and purpose of meaning, and the practice of mindfulness. These ideas, accessed via deep and enduring respect for our kupuna, our lands, our oceans, our language, rituals, and families, became the foundation of a Hawaiian essence. These are spiritual principles that, if played out as epistemology, help us enter spaces of wonderment, discernment, right viewing, and mature discourse.

Meyer, "Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies", 5

Morning Pages, Bananas are made for ice cream splits.Postcard,2020

Development - Developing on art in retrospect. Moments anchored in language.

I am exploring retrospective art by taking an image that was captured in the past and adding text to it in the present without thinking but instead letting it come in the present moment. I am the past in the current form. It is resonating. Nature, I see as formless, turned into form, held down by words, restricting or restraining its meaning, putting language or meaning to a moment that has become still. Not sure how this translates into mana wahine yet, but currently using it as a beautiful thing, I think. The only connection I can remember is that it is things that bind me; however, not in a cruel way, maybe playful.

Moulding myself into the Whenua

Morning Pages, We are playing together aye māmā? Postcard,2020

Morning Pages,A shell doesn't try to be a rock Postcard,2020

Morning Pages, You smell like blueberries Postcard,2020

Morning Pages, The voice of a tired ego. Postcard,2020

Development - Abstracting reality

Notes from walking while listening to Manulani Aluli Meyer, "Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies" edited by Norman K. Denzin & Yvonna S. Lincoln & Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Chapter 11, 5. Sage Publications, inc, 2015

Land is our mother, this is not a metaphor (feeling this)

Intentions must harmonise with idea (not quite there yet as I know my intentions are not gelling with these illustrations or concepts, these are just words handpicked from my daily experiences)

Will research form relationships with self and others or damage them? (I feel they will form rather than damage)

How will you go into the world and alter it's frequency? (Love this concept, figuring out what my frequency looks like)

Make your work useful by it's meaning and truth. (currently there is truth in what I am saying because it is from personal experience but where it fits in meaning is uncertain)

Our observable world is a world of affects

It is the pulse of your character that you must name

Beauty found in own knowing.

These illustrations are abstractions from the reality. Abstractions from experience. Abstractions from form with the aim to be formless. I feel that I have to flesh all this out. the images, words, meanings, reality, feelings and everything in between. This must be just another process.

Finding context

Morning Pages, Is our good, enough? Postcard, 2020

Development: 31/05/20

Finding context has been hard because I was so set on an idea. Lockdown happened, and all opinions changed. Restricted by regular sights, minimal conversations, and whanau finding a new pace, I realize this is the context. How my views and internal thoughts drizzled down to basics, connection, connecting, fearing the concept is looking for the mana wahine in me.

Abstracting Reality

Morning Pages, Like coffee lines. Postcard, 2020

Development 28/05/20

Finding context has been hard because I was so set on an idea. Lockdown happened, and all opinions changed. Restricted by regular sights, minimal conversations, and whanau finding a new pace, I realize this is the context. How my views and internal thoughts drizzled down to basics, connection, connecting, fearing the concept is looking for the mana wahine in me.

11:30 pm, while sleeping.

Fluid or flat? That is how I feel about the readings lately. Nothing makes my heart sing, and I want to read something that does.

How do I write as I practice? My practice is a conflict wanting some resolve. The fluffy is about a relationship with the self and in knowing, extending to 'other.' Other being a mirror. Why wahine and not women? Because art allows me to connect with the spiritual element in me, which is wāhine Māori. Nothing else lets this part speak.

There is the exception which I realise may not be irrelevant right now.

Kai kōrero is a method of interacting with the self and letting the ego sit beside another. The wahine replaced with a vessel, an object. I could use the wahine as objects, portraits of their stories, but I do not think I want to put them on show like so many before. To be dissected and stared. The vessel keeps the wahine tapu (safe). The kōrero is the breath, "Ha"—a portrait of a breathing vessel, a kapu (cup) filled with boiling water or whakapapa.

We all originate from somewhere.

I am in the middle of someone I am and someone I am not. Someone who is wanting to connect with the dormant, activated in adulthood, no longer bound to a chicken hutch but replaced by creativity. I do not want to necessarily stand at the front of the Marae, be the kaikaranga (caller) I tried, and could only weep. I want to be the kaikaranga in my backyard. Internally the spiritual voice is Māori, but it comes out in English, and that is where the ebbs and flows come. It is not all thought out; there are issues here. I want to write as I think. I want to write with question marks and tears. Formality is necessary; otherwise, I could write in my voice for fun. How do I balance academic requirements with the ebbs and flows, the ups and downs, the sudden joy, and utter disappointments all colliding, fighting for space?

It is like being the hulk or Jackal and Hyde.

I say to myself, write like you are talking to your nana or best friend about your woes, people you trust, who hold wisdom. Write for an educated reader who holds relevant knowledge, who wants in on the kōrero, not because they have to but because they care. Write to someone that has earned the write to read it. Write for your four-year-old child who looks at you like no one else exists or to a lover who licks their lips because you opened yours.

Write because you can. Write to all those that did not get to eat lunch. Write because if you do not, you will die restless.