World Vision and the South Pacific 1850-2000 #1

8 December 2021, 3:00:00 am

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Session Convenors

Rex Butler, Monash University
ADS Donaldson, National Art School

Session Moderators

Rex Butler, Monash University

Session Speakers

Laurence Simmons, Auckland University
Amanda Watson, Waikato Institute of Technology
Rex Butler, Monash University
ADS Donaldson, National Art School

Bernard Smith’s European Vision and the South Pacific, 1768-1850, is a study of the way the artist-scientists on board the European colonisers’ ships saw the Pacific, and conversely the effect the encounter with the Pacific had on Europe. But Smith’s study ends in 1850 with Louis Daguerre’s invention of photography. The question this panel seeks to ask is what happens after Smith’s account concludes? How do no longer European colonisers but artists from around the world see the Pacific? And, again, how does the Pacific continue to influence the way the world sees itself? In other words, as a complement to the necessary national histories of the various Oceanic cultures, how might we imagine a new non-national history of these same cultures? Might we speak not just of Oceanic cultures in themselves but of all the world’s Oceanias? How does a study of how Oceania has been seen over a period of 150 years open up a model of cultures connected and not separated by water, as Oceanic cultures themselves have taught the rest of the world?

PAPER #1
Pacific Kileen

PRESENTER
Laurence Simmons, Auckland University

It would be easy to read Richard Killeen’s series of grids of the 1970s based on Pacific patterns according to Rosalind Krauss’s well-known argument that the grid is a sign of modernity, which declares art to be a flattened, geometricized, ordered, unreal object that refuses nature and is “a means of crowding out the dimensions of the real.” But this paper argues that Killeen’s adoption of Pacific grid patterns is anchored to questions of local reference and introduces a socio-historic frame that Krauss would ignore. As part of that frame of reference — and deliberately refusing the placelessness of the Kraussian grid — Killeen’s grids encourage us to be reminded of place and also of race. Such titles as Positive and Polynesian, Pacific Plywood, Polynesian Green, My Tribe, Tribal Colours, Tuku Tuku, Integration, Assimilation indicate grids that belong to a culture other than the modernist culture of the West. In this way Killeen offers a Polynesian iconography which is readable not only as a form of modernist ‘primitivism’, but also as a sign of place.

PAPER #2
Painting with Places: Reimagining Territories

PRESENTER
Amanda Watson, Waikato Institute of Technology

Symbolised image systems including maps and paintings have influenced the way we understand Aotearoa and its place in the Pacific. I use a methodology of working with the land to record marks where geographical places are able to participate in the making of paintings that explore understandings of place. In this way the place itself has a chance to somewhat ‘speak’, and the resulting paintings record exchanges between myself as an artist and the environments that I work with. My agency as an artist – one of the actants in the network – becomes slightly lessened and the agency of the place increases, enabling it to be a creative protagonist rather than a passive object of representation. In the context of ‘new materialist’ theory, particularly Jane Bennett’s ‘vital materialism’, where interactions between things can occur to create new understandings and Donna Haraway’s concept of ‘borderlands’ as places where the push and pull of knowledge occur, the paintings yield a dense and complex view of place and makes manifest the relationships between process, gesture, environments, and myself, and in this way reveals experience of place in unexpected and multifarious ways.

PAPER #3
The Pacific in the World, The World in the Pacific

PRESENTERS
Rex Butler, Monash University and ADS Donaldson, National Art School

In European Vision 1768-1850, Bernard Smith details the two-part process involved in the European exploration of the Pacific. First, European explorers impose a certain European vision upon the Pacific (Neo-Classicism). Then, precisely as a result of this encounter, the Pacific shapes how Europeans see themselves (Romanticism). In this paper, we take up the story after European colonisation to look at how the Pacific continues to be seen. We begin with Conrad Martens’ geological sublime Orofena, Tahiti (1835) and end with Linda Marrinon’s post-punk I sailed to Tahiti with an all-girl crew (1982). Although we concentrate on a series of Australian and New Zealand artists (Nicholas Chevalier, Weaver Hawkins, Mary Cockburn Mercer, Margaret Preston), we also mention the many European and American artists who either visited or came to live in the Pacific (Gauguin, Matisse, Jacques Boullaire, FW Murnau, Gene McComas). Of course again, we can find these Australasians, Americans and Europeans bringing their preconceptions to the Pacific, but also the Pacific beginning to influence the way not just Europe but the world sees itself. And the complex question is what is the relationship between how Australasia and Europe see the Pacific and how those in the Pacific see themselves.

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Biographies

Rex Butler, Monash University 

Rex Butler teaches in the Faculty of Art Design and Architecture at Monash University. Together with ADS Donaldson he has recently published UnAustralian Art: 10 Essays in a Transnational Art History (Power Publishing, 2021).


ADS Donaldson, National Art School 

ADS Donaldson teaches at the National Art School. Together with Rex Butler he has recently published UnAustralian Art: 10 Essays on a Transnational Art History (Power Publishing, 2021).


Laurence Simmons, Auckland University

Laurence Simmons is Professor of Film Studies in Media and Screen Studies at The University of Auckland. His most recent book-length publications are Hitchcock through Žižek (PalgraveMacmillan, 2021) and, with Rex Butler, Victory over Death: The Art of Colin McCahon (Monash University Press, 2021).


Amanda Watson, Waikato Institute of Technology

Amanda Watson lives in Whaingaroa Raglan in Aotearoa New Zealand, and is a visual artist, educator, and researcher. She was awarded a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts from Auckland University where she majored in painting, a Postgraduate Diploma in Museum Studies from Massey University, and a Masters of Arts with Distinction in Painting from Waikato Institute of Technology. Her work has been exhibited and shared through exhibitions, awards, editorials and published reviews and articles, in New Zealand and overseas and accessioned into public and private collections.