Exhibition: Bodies in Space

Curated by Jacob Tolo, Tino i le Vā: Bodies In Space is a group exhibition hosted by Melbourne’s Alcaston Gallery that presents contemporary perspectives of Pacific Art and the role individual artists’ bodies play in their creative output.

SaintSebastianTino i le Vā: Bodies in Space engages with the myriad of representations of Pacific Island bodies throughout history in art, literature and the media. Taking his mark from the 20th anniversary of landmark exhibition Bottled Ocean – a showcase of Pacific art from artists living in New Zealand at the time – Jacob Tolo continues to explore the “discourse surrounding Pacific identities and how they fit in the cultural landscape” that exists today.

Tolo acknowledges that numerous exhibitions since Bottle Ocean have paved the way for a better understand and greater acceptance of Pacific heritage and that this has led to new generations being able to delve deeper into questions of ‘Pacific-ness’. Tolo believes that “Tensions still exist surrounding pluralistic cultures but with exhibitions occurring more frequently in and around the Pacific basin subjects such as global warming, globalisation and gender/sexual equality sit parallel with questions of identity and cultural dislocation.

Using performance, video, photography and prints, this exhibition sees Pacific artists working in Australia today challenge post-colonial visions of Oceanic people, by creating personal interpretations where the artist becomes the subject, not the object. The artists in this exhibition use their bodies as the subject of their work to reflect upon and regain the authority from ‘outsider’ observations. Tolo explains: “The history of modern art has offered us perspectives from outsiders. Representations of Pacific Island physical bodies have been documented in art and literature, from the very first encounters with Europeans to modern-day advertising with the promise of romance and adventure. Tino i le Vā: Bodies In Space flips the perspective from object to subject. Returning Pacific ideas of body image that are either pre-missionary or detangling post-colonial visions of Oceanic people.”

The exhibition, which coincides with the Melbourne Art Fair, will offer viewers the opportunity to engage with the artists personal perspective and view of themselves. The participating Australian-Pacific artists include: Torika Bolatagici, Eric Bridgeman, Tama TK Favell, Chantal Fraser, Kirsten Lyttle, Greg Semu, Salote Tawale, Angela Tiatia and Naup Waup.

Chantal Fraser uses adornment as an aesthetic and conceptual tool for material exploration and production. The work explores the creation of cross cultural connotations and representations through silhouette and the embodiment of adornment, and more significantly cultural adornment. Fraser’s practice explores ornamentation as an aesthetic resolution to identity and individuality.

Where Fraser creates objects to adorn the body, Angela Tiatia is a multimedia artist whose body is her canvas. Her practice explores structures and exchanges of power at interpersonal, group and international levels, and how these interactions affect identity. Her video work ‘Climbing the Wall’ is a work of great strength and forceful independence of the artist from the viewer’s gaze.

Greg Semu embraces Samoa as his ancestral and spiritual home. The theme of cultural displacement in the Pacific is a river that runs strongly through Semu’s artwork. Semu uses the visual languages of photography and film to explore the significance of identity and create evocative dialogues to challenge the romanticised Colonialist documentation of ‘first contact’ with the tribal worlds. By using mediums so synonymous with presenting truth and reality to re-enact historic and art historically significant moments, Semu seduces the viewer to challenge preconceived notions of history.

Tino i le Va: Bodies in Space
12 August to 5 September
Alcaston Gallery

Image: Greg Samu, Saint Sebastian, 2014, unique photograph; mixed media on Hahnemuhle Baryta fine paper, 104.5 x 89cm
Courtesy the artists and Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne.

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