Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Between Fingers and Thumbs: In the Wake of Maureen Lander's String Games (1998)

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posted on 2024-02-26, 21:26 authored by Moya Lawson

String Games by Maureen Lander (Te Hikitu, Ngāpuhi) is an installation of glowing, larger-than-life whai (Māori string games) dominated by the central figure of a whare kēhua, or house of spirits. The work correlates the material and dextrous forms of whai with digital technologies. Twenty-five years since String Games was first exhibited, this thesis analyses the work within its immediate contexts and its futures, focusing particularly on the work’s representation of digitality. String Games was one of seven works commissioned for the opening of Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand in 1998. Situated within this shifting epicentre for bicultural relations in Aotearoa New Zealand, the work creates a dynamic allegory for a rapidly globalising world propelled by technological advancements. This analysis identifies the associations that the installation forms through three ontological modes: materiality, the haptic, and embodiment, and weaves through works by other artists from Aotearoa that have occurred in the wake of String Games, including Peter Robinson, Jae Hoon Lee, Sorawit Songsataya, Angel C. Fitzgerald and Russ Flatt. This thesis proposes that a contemporary analysis of String Games might open up ways to re-evaluate how we see, feel and navigate the ‘real world’ in the technological present, and offer new contexts from which to look back at String Games.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Art History

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

130199 Arts not elsewhere classified

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

4 Experimental research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of English, Film, Theatre, Media Studies and Art History


Ballard, Su