Ground Level, Temporary Exhibitions
Lisa Reihana’s in Pursuit of Venus is a two-channel, live-action video that is inspired by the colonial nineteenth century panoramic wallpaper, Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique (1804–05), produced by entrepreneur Joseph Dufour in Neoclassical France. Les Sauvages draws upon journal accounts of Pacific voyages of exploration but Dufour and his team harvested information from different historical sources and relocated the bodies into a fictional Tahitian landscape, removing these Pacific Islanders from their cultural, historical and political reality and dressing them in Neoclassical attire.
Reihana employs twenty-first century digital technologies to animate the wallpaper and re-examine its conceptual framework. She creates a vast panoramic field populated by a myriad of people drawn from across the Pacific and Aotearoa/New Zealand. Whereas Les Sauvages was a Grecian concoction, in Pursuit of Venus is enlivened with the sights and sounds of dance and cultural ceremonies enacted by living, breathing peoples. Such re-imagining, re-positioning and reclaiming of history of the so called Pacific ‘other’ from the inside is a critical and essential aspect of decolonisation. The Pacific performers unbind the shackles of colonialism by bringing forth visual poetics of Indigenous culture and knowledge and thereby recalibrate colonial history from their own standpoints.
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