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La Biennale di Venezia | New Zealand Pavilion : Lisa Reihana: Emissaries
Captain James Cook and his John Shelton clock – Lisa Reihana, detail in Pursuit of Venus [infected] 2015–17 Ultra HD video, colour, sound, 64 min.

La Biennale di Venezia

New Zealand Pavilion

Lisa Reihana: Emissaries

May 13–November 26, 2017


Tese Dell’Isolotto

The Arts Council of Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa is proud to present Lisa Reihana as New Zealand’s artist for the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia.

“La Biennale di Venezia represents an incomparable opportunity for New Zealand artists to show their work on the world stage. It is the world’s largest and most prestigious international contemporary art exhibition, attended by key curators, writers, collectors and attracting enormous public interest.”

– Arts Council Chairman, Dr Dick Grant

in Pursuit of Venus [infected] has already captured a huge New Zealand audience and international attention with its sensuous reimagining of people, place and time. In Venice in 2017 Lisa Reihana will present a further evolution of her vast and beguiling vision, with new accompanying work. The exhibition will be irresistible.”

– Commissioner, Alastair Carruthers


Lisa Reihana: Emissaries
In Lisa Reihana: Emissaries, imperialism’s gaze is returned with a speculative twist that disrupts notions of beauty, authenticity, history and myth. The exhibition unravels Enlightenment ideals, cartographic and scientific endeavour, and the raw, ever-present impulses of expansionism, power and desire.

Lisa Reihana: Emissaries features the artist’s vast panoramic video in Pursuit of Venus [infected], 2015—17, alongside interrelated photo-based and sculptural works.

in Pursuit of Venus [infected] is a cinematic re-imagining of the French scenic wallpaper Les Sauvages De La Mer Pacifique, 1804—1805, also known as ‘Captain Cook’s voyages’. Two hundred years later – and almost 250 years after the original voyages that inspired them – Reihana employs twenty-first century digital technologies to recast and reconsider the wallpaper from a Pacific perspective. Enlivened with the sights and sounds of performance, cultural ceremonies and encounters, the expansive video panorama is populated by known and invented narratives of encounter amongst the British navigators and astronomers and people drawn from across Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific.

Expanding and contracting scale, Reihana presents portraits of two key figures from in Pursuit of Venus [infected] as emissaries: the Chief Mourner from the Society Islands who moves between worlds, and Joseph Banks, the ambitious naturalist/astronomer who documented the Transit of Venus on Cook’s first voyage. Meanwhile, a constellation of sculptural works literally telescope in on moments of encounter and wonder.

Lisa Reihana: Emissaries is presented at Tese dell’Isolotto, one of the oldest structures in the Arsenale di Venezia, and a space imbued with its own history of emissarial action.

in Pursuit of Venus [infected]
in Pursuit of Venus [infected], 2015–17, is the cinematic centrepiece of exhibition Lisa Reihana: Emissaries.

The vast panoramic video is a filmic reimagining of the Neoclassical French scenic wallpaper Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique, 1804—1805, also known as ‘Captain Cook’s voyages’.

In Neoclassical France, entrepreneur Joseph Dufour used the latest printing innovations to commercially produce the sophisticated twenty-panel scenic wallpaper. Mirroring a widespread fascination with the Pacific voyages undertaken by Captain Cook, de Bougainville and de la Perouse, its exotic themes referenced popular illustrations of that time.

Two centuries later, Reihana employs twenty-first century audio-visual technologies to animate the wallpaper with real and invented narratives in a cultural endeavour of reclamation and reimagining. The artist re-casts this original European fabrication of the Pacific to suggest a more complex story.

The expansive video panorama is populated by characters drawn from across Aotearoa New Zealand, the Pacific and Europe to create a compelling and mesmerising experience. Reihana intensifies the death of Cook in Hawai’i as the dramatic moment of rupture. This and other narratives play out within a looping visual and sonic world where time is cyclical. This temporal and spatial dimensionality can be linked to Tā-Vā, the Pacific theory of time and space.

Artist profile – Lisa Reihana
Lisa Reihana (b. 1964) lives and works in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand.

Reihana (Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Hine, Ngāi Tu) is at the forefront of experimentation and has helped forge time-based and media art in Aotearoa New Zealand. Her technically ambitious and poetically nuanced work disrupts gender, time, power and representational norms. Reihana’s work spans film, sound, photography, spatial design, live-action, costume and sculptural form. Her art making is driven by a powerful connection to community which informs her collaborative working method described as kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face).

Her work has featured in significant museums and major exhibition projects including Global Feminisms at Brooklyn Museum, the Yinchuan Biennial, the Havana Biennial, the Noumea Biennale, the Liverpool Biennial, the Adelaide International at Samstag Museum, the 12th Biennale of Sydney, the 2nd Auckland Triennial at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, the 2nd and 4th Asia Pacific Triennials of Contemporary Art at Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Paradise Now? Contemporary Art from the Pacific at Asia Society Museum, New York, Suspended Histories at Museum Van Loon, Amsterdam, imagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival, Toronto, The Trickster at Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, South Korea, and Toi Toi Toi at Museum Fridericianum, Kassel. Reihana’s work was recently included in the inaugural Honolulu Biennial 2017, a multi-site, contemporary visual arts festival.

Reihana has undertaken numerous international residencies and commissions, was made an Arts Laureate by the New Zealand Arts Foundation in 2014, and received the Te Tohu Toi Kē Te Waka Toi Māori Arts Innovation Award from Creative New Zealand.

She was shortlisted for the Signature Art Prize at the Singapore Art Museum in 2014 for in Pursuit of Venus; as well as for Double Take, the Anne Landa Award, Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2009 and The Walters Prize at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in 2008, both for Digital Marae. She was shortlisted for The Walters Prize 2016 for in Pursuit of Venus [infected], 2015. Reihana was named a 2017 Distinguished Alumni by the University of Auckland, in recognition of her outstanding achievement in the field of fine arts.

Reihana completed a Masters in Design from the School of Visual Art and Design, Unitec in Auckland in 2014 and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland in 1987.

Pavilion: Arsenale
Tese Dell’Isolotto (Arsenale di Venezia)

In 2017 the New Zealand pavilion will be in the Tese dell’Isolotto. An historic naval warehouse and one of the oldest buildings in the Arsenale, the pavilion is located in the historic shipyard of Venice where in the past ocean-ready sailing vessels were built at a rate of one per day and still operates as a naval basin.

This is the first time the New Zealand pavilion has been within the Arsenale, one of La Biennale di Venezia’s official exhibition areas. Many permanent national pavilions and part of the curated exhibition are located in the Arsenale.

Alastair Carruthers, CNZM Commissioner

Alastair Carruthers has a longstanding interest in the arts and substantial experience in commerce, professional services and governance. He has been the Chief Executive of two large New Zealand law firms, Chairman of the Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa (Creative New Zealand) from 2007 to 2012, and held other Creative New Zealand governance roles from 2001 to 2006. He has been a board member of the Royal New Zealand Ballet and is currently the Chairman of the Te Papa Foundation and a Council Member of Unitec. Mr Carruthers has also been a Patron of three previous New Zealand presentations at the Biennale Arte, and is currently Co-Producer of a second feature film. In the 2014 New Year Honours he was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to arts governance. He lives in New Zealand and London.

Rhana Devenport, Curator

Rhana Devenport is Director of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. She is a curator, writer, editor and cultural producer, and has curated solo projects with artists Nalini Malani, Song Dong, Yin Xiuzhen, Zhang Peili, Jin Jiangbo, Lee Mingwei, Judith Wright, Peter Robinson, Alex Monteith and Lisa Reihana. Devenport was Director of Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth, New Zealand (2006—2013). She has held senior positions with the Biennale of Sydney (2005—2006), Artspace NZ (2005) and the Sydney Festival (2004), and was Senior Project Officer for the Asia Pacific Triennial with the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia (1994—2004). She is a member of the International Advisory Council for the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, was Chair of the jury of the International Public Art Awards, Shanghai (2015), and a jury member for the Nissan Art Prize, Japan (2015).

Jude Chambers, Project Director

Jude Chambers is the Manager, International Programmes at Creative New Zealand. She oversees a team of advisers delivering a variety of international projects and initiatives including New Zealand’s participation in the Venice Art Biennale and the Edinburgh Festivals. The International Programme also includes an incoming visitor programme Te Manu Ka Tau, market development funds such as the International Art Fair Fund, cultural exchange initiatives and the Focus on Asia Strategy. She was the project manager for Bill Culbert’s Front Door Out Back in 2013, and Simon Denny’s Secret Power in 2015.

In her previous role as Senior Programme Adviser, she managed Creative New Zealand’s Visual Arts portfolio and worked on New Zealand’s 2009 and 2011 Venice Biennale projects.

Creative New Zealand
PO Box 3806
Wellington, 6011
New Zealand

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