Lisa Reihana is "In Pursuit of Venus" @ the de Young Museum San Francisco
There’s Dora the Explorer, there are all the guys, and yeah, it gets complicated. Multidisciplinary artist Lisa Reihana is of Britsh and Maori descent, and of her 70-foot video centerpiece of in Pursuit of Venus [infected], she intended, “To indicate there’s a level of complexity. To elicit some kind of empathy and alert people to some of that history.”
Inspiration came by way of her encounter with a set of French woodblock designs for wallpaper dating back, circa 19th century. The romantic vignettes depict Captain Cook and his crew interacting with Savages of the Pacific Ocean, who, donned in neo-Classical garb from Cecil B DeMille, cavort with pups amidst transplanted greenery. In a project that took 10 years to realize, Reihana reimagined the wallpaper into a room-wide projection composed of 1,500 digital layers and three trillion pixels. A cast of actors enact historical and surmised scenes, many speaking in their Pacific dialects. With physical body language and a haunting soundtrack, notions of history flow with the color and blood of emotion. It’s not exotic, it’s the history of men and women.
These Holidays are, in fact, a good time to sit and consider the who, what and where’s, how we perceive our history, are perceptions of new folks, even as we “explore” on modern-day safaris and snorkel in the Maldives. —Gwynned Vitello
The exhibition, which opens with a view of the original wallpaper and detailed explorer’s map with notations (sighting of broken ice!) currently shows at San Francisco’s de Young Museum through January 5, 2020. Captain Cook set out to chart the planet Venus, there were some infections along the way, and the dancers keep swaying.