Lisa Reihana, in Pursuit of Venus [infected], 2015-2017 (installation view). Ultra HD video (colour, sound, 64 min.). Photo by Brad Coleman.
Over the past five hundred years, the colonial imagination has placed Indigenous bodies in positions that are pleasing, romantic and noble. By exerting power and maintaining control over the gaze, this practice debilitates Indigenous peoples’ sovereignty and self-determination. In this installation, Māori artist Lisa Reihana actively resists such static misrepresentations of the past and present in a video work that explores issues of identity, gender, and colonial violence. Conceived as a response to the 1800s wallpaper Les sauvages de la mer Pacifique (pictured below), this monumental installation brings to life Māori and Pacific Indigenous people’s relationships with their cultural knowledge and spaces. Although the wallpaper was said to represent Pacific landscapes and peoples, it was completely fictional, a mash-up of flora, fashions and people from other times and places. Reihana reimagines the wallpaper as a “panoramic pantomime,” creating historical and imagined scenes with Indigenous actors accompanied by a rich soundscape that includes dialogue in many Pacific languages.
Les sauvages de la mer Pacifique (panels 11–20). Designed by Jean-Gabriel Charvet and manufactured by Joseph Dufour et Cie, around 1804. Woodblock and gouache on paper. Image: Wikimedia Commons.
Organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario and imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival
Dr. Julie Nagam is the Chair in the History of Indigenous Art in North America this is a joint appointment with the University of Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Her current SSHRC projects include: The Transactive Memory Keepers: Indigenous Public Engagement in Digital and New Media Labs and Exhibitions and The Kanata Indigenous Performance, New and Digital Media Art (www.transactivememorykeepers.org).
In 2019, a related exhibition of Lisa Reihana's work at 259 Lake Shore Blvd. E was curated by Candice Hopkins and Tairone Bastien as part of the Toronto Biennial of Art. Visit torontobiennial.org for details.