REIHANA Lisa; in Pursuit of Venus [infected]
Lisa Reihana’s panoramic video installation in Pursuit of Venus [infected] 2015-17 is based on the French panoramic wallpaper Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique (The Voyages of Captain Cook) 1805, designed by Jean-Gabriel Charvet for the French entrepreneur Joseph Dufour. In creating this early European representation of the peoples of Oceania during first contact, Charvet was inspired by Captain James Cook’s 1769 voyage south to witness the transit of Venus across the sun and the subsequent search for ‘Terra Australis’. From a Polynesian, Māori or Aboriginal point of view, Charvet’s imagery relies more on an Enlightenment-era imagination than truth.
Reihana’s high-definition immersive vision creates a stage for complex cross-cultural encounters, as she turns the tables on the flat, generic green plains of the original wallpaper design which conflated Oceanic locations with European Neoclassicism. The work shows contemporary indigenous performers, community elders and cultural practitioners engaged in culturally specific acts and ceremonies - including dance, storytelling, tattooing and trade - that are both playful and subversive. Meanwhile, actors playing the British seafarers observe, misunderstand and disrupt daily proceedings.
The panoramic nature of Reihana’s multi-screen, surround-sound projection ensures the audience’s point-of-view is that of a tangata whenua (person of the land). This viewpoint ‘infects’ the representations found in these fanciful nineteenth-century wallpaper designs, in effect confining them to the distant past.