ABOUT THE WORK
in Pursuit of Venus, the panoramic video by Lisa Reihana, is a moving image interpretation of the French scenic wallpaper Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique.
In Neoclassical France, entrepreneur Joseph Dufour used the latest printing innovations to produce Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique (1804), a sophisticated twenty panel scenic wallpaper. Mirroring a widespread fascination with the Pacific voyages undertaken by Captain Cook, de Bougainville and de la Perouse, the wallpaper’s exotic themes referenced popular illustrations of that time. Two hundred years later, Maori artist Lisa Reihana employs twenty-first century digital technologies to animate Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique. Enlivened with the sights and sounds of dance and cultural ceremonies, a vast video panorama is populated by a myriad of people drawn from across New Zealand and the Pacific.
Separated by two centuries, both the wallpaper and video are set against an utopian Tahitian landscape. While Dufour’s work models Enlightenment beliefs and ideas of harmony amongst mankind, Reihana’s reading of the past is darker and more nuanced. The artist foregrounds the complexities of cultural identity and colonisation by including scenes of encounter between Europeans and Polynesians.
in Pursuit of Venus is a major video project that has been in development for several years. It reflects the wallpapers utopian ideals, is eight minutes long and presented on two-screens. in Pursuit of Venus has been exhibited in historic homes, art galleries and museums - repurposing each presentation offers new insights and unique presentation opportunities.
The final realisation of in Pursuit of Venus [infected] makes visible some historical narratives absent from the original wallpaper, such as the brisk trade of iron and desirable goods for sexual favours, differing ideas of ownership and reciprocity resulted in misunderstandings and violent outbursts.
This latest version includes famous figures like the privileged and inquisitive botanist Joseph Banks shown terrorising villagers with a Tahitian Chief Mourner; and Tupaia - the Machiavellian Tahitian who was a gifted navigator, politician and artist, and Captain Cook’s invaluable companion. Leading these agents of change is Captain Cook - famous explorer, gifted cartographer and arguably the harbinger of colonisation. As in the wallpaper, Cook’s death is portrayed, albeit from a renewed perspective.
Challenging historical and contemporary stereotypes, in Pursuit of Venus [infected] returns the gaze of imperialism with a speculative twist that disrupts notions of beauty, authenticity, history and myth. It is thirty-two minutes long and designed for multi-channel projection to create an immersive cinematic experience.