College Arts Association: In Pursuit of the Pacific

In Pursuit of the Pacific: Past and Present Visions of Tahiti
Presented at the Pacific Arts Association panel Intervening Archives/Methodologies/Theories of Oceania at the annual College Arts Association conference, February 2019.

PAA – North America Newsletter

“The PAA regularly organises an affiliate panel and a business meeting as their major participation in the College Arts Association’s (CAA) Annual Conference, held in various venues across the United States. This is an excellent opportunity for the PAA to share research and ideas with an international audience who might otherwise not have the opportunity to learn about the robust artistic and cultural production in the Pacific Islands. As well, this is an opportunity for members to spend time together visiting local museums, collections and artist centres. At the 2019 meeting they were treated to a curator’s tour of Atea: Nature & Divinity in Polynesia at the Met. Pacific Arts Association.

In February 2019, Carol E. Mayer was away on a research trip, and Maggie Wander had the opportunity to organize the Pacific Arts Association (PAA) panel at the 107th annual conference of the College Art Association in New York City. The panel theme was inspired by a session at the European Society for Oceanists conference that Maggie co-chaired with colleague Marion Cadora. That panel, titled “Intervening Archives of Oceania” was a diverse collection of approaches to defining the “archive” in the Oceanic context. Maggie wanted to continue this conversation at CAA by looking for cross-disciplinary and innovative approaches not only to the Oceanic archive, but also to theories and methodologies that could be used or developed to study this unique region. Brittany Myburgh spoke about Lisa Reihana’s digital work In Pursuit of Venus (Infected) to argue that Indigenous new media projects by Oceanic artists are a specific Pacific methodology that disrupt notions of linear time, mediate colonial representations, and recover perspectives that are obscured in other types of archives. Mariah Briel spoke about 17th century European maps of the Pacific as archival traces of ignorance – a fascinating instance of a theoretical framework having the capacity to open up spaces of inquiry that are specific to Oceania’s unique history of cultural contact with Europe. And finally, Henry Skerritt challenged mainstream curatorial processes by viewing exhibitions and museum collections not as “archives” on display, but instead as active sites of knowledge production through close collaboration with the community from which these objects come. Dr. Skerritt’s presentation was especially exciting because he joined the panel via Skype in order to present alongside the artists about whose work he was speaking – providing a much-needed Indigenous voice among a panel of non-Indigenous scholars.

Visiting the exhibition Atea: Nature and Divinity in Polynesia at the Metropolitan Museum. Left to right: David Odo, Maia Nuku, Maggie Wander, Brittany Myburgh, Julia Lum.

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