Not Currently on Display
Lisa Reihana’s in Pursuit of Venus [infected] 2015–17 is a wide panorama video that features over 65 performances and re-enactments of the cultural traditions and knowledge of Māori, Polynesian and Indigenous Australian people.
The landscape in the video reimagines scenes from a French wallpaper design from 1804–05, not long after Captain Cook’s voyages in the Pacific. The wallpaper was designed to decorate a wealthy home, and it depicts indigenous peoples of the Pacific Islands as ‘noble savages’, as people who have not had contact with ‘civilised’ societies. They are shown dancing and celebrating in a landscape of exotic plants and animals. Their clothing and bodily poses are inspired by murals from ancient Rome, a style of art which was popular in Europe at the time.
Reihana’s video work challenges nineteenth-century ideas of indigenous people from a contemporary point of view, and asks us to think about new ways of looking at the past.
Lisa Reihana’s practice incorporates performance, photography, installation and moving-image works, and is inspired by the culture and history of Māori and South Pacific Islander peoples. Her work in APT9, in Pursuit of Venus [infected] 2015–17 is a panoramic video that reimagines the scenes in a French wallpaper from 1804–05, not long after Captain Cook’s voyages in the Pacific.
Indigenous peoples of the Pacific are depicted as ‘noble savages’, dancing and celebrating in a lush landscape of exotic flora and fauna. The clothing and poses of the figures in the wallpaper are not authentic, but were inspired by the murals of ancient Rome, a style that was popular at the time.
Compare this work to Joseph Dufour & Cie, Jean-Gabriel Charvet’s Les Sauvages de la mer Pacifique (The Native Peoples of the Pacific Ocean) c.1804 (Museum of New Zealand | Te Papa Tongarewa), the wallpaper Reihana has based this video on.
1. What appears realistic or exaggerated in the wallpaper?
2. Identify elements in the wallpaper that relate to your knowledge of Captain Cook’s voyage in the Pacific. What characters can you identify? What differences can you see in the way the characters are represented between the wallpaper and the video?
3. In Reihana’s video, what is the relationship between the landscape and the figures? Is this a linear narrative with a beginning, a middle and an end? How can you tell? What is the effect of the soundtrack?
Choose an important historical event. Tape together sheets of paper to make your own ‘wallpaper’ of the event — draw, collage and paint an panoramic view of this event taking place. Consider how to present different perspectives of the people involved.