Lisa Reihana / Ngā Puhi, Ngāi Tu, Ngāti Hine, Aotearoa New Zealand b.1964 / in Pursuit of Venus [infected] (still) 2015–17 / Single-channel Ultra HD video, 64 minutes (looped) 7:1 sound, colour, ed. 2/5 / Purchased 2015 with funds from the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation Appeal and Paul and Susan Taylor / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist / Image courtesy: The artist / Photograph: Norman Heke

Lisa Reihana
in Pursuit of Venus [infected] 2015–2017

On Display: GOMA, Gallery 3.4, Gallery 3.3

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.

Before

Locate an image of Joseph Dufour & Cie, Jean-Gabriel Charvet Les Sauvages de la mer Pacifique (The Native Peoples of the Pacific Ocean) c.1804, the wallpaper this artwork is based on.
What appears realistic or exaggerated in the wallpaper? What location or period of time does it depict of Captain Cook’s voyage?

During your visit to APT9

Watch the video and identify elements that relate to the earlier wallpaper and 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? 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?

Compare

  • how Lisa Reihana, Donna Ong and Robert Zhao Renhui re-create landscapes, events and historical records to help us think about truth and imagination.
  • with Vincent Namatjira’s portraits. How do the artists make sure we recognise the characters?

After

As a class, choose an important historical event. Tape together large sheets of paper to make your own ‘wallpaper’ of the event. Work in groups to present different perspectives of the people involved — draw, collage and paint onto your section of the paper. Display your work and discuss your ideas.

Contemporary context

How does Lisa Reihana:

  • challenge ideas of the past?
  • use materials, technologies or approaches to impact the audience experience?
  • use imagery and/or display to challenge aesthetic traditions?
  • provoke discussion about 21st century issues and concerns?

Personal context

How does Lisa Reihana:

  • communicate influences on her life and experiences?
  • generate ideas from her own experiences, imagination or memories?
  • create sensory experiences to generate emotional responses from the viewer?
  • connect with the viewers’ experiences and/or expectations to construct meaning?

Cultural context

How does Lisa Reihana:

  • explore cultural traditions?
  • reflect community interests through social commentary?
  • respond to cultural influences?
  • respond to influences of art movements, styles and origins of time and place?

Formal context

How does Lisa Reihana:

  • employ specific art elements and principles to communicate meaning?
  • communicate intentions using symbols, motifs or signs?
  • enhance the interpretation of the artwork through processes, materials and media?
  • share characteristics with art movements, times, places or events?