some works by oz/nz artists, Chateau de Saint Auvent, France, 2005
essay by curator Geraldine Le Roux, DIFF ' ART pacific
Urban Art from Pacific: humour or denunciation?
During an active conversation with the organizators of the exhibition, we have tried to find the clichés associated to the Pacific area, classic schemes of the Western stereotypes: idyllic beaches, indigenous people, coconuts, some great pictogrammes for tourist brochures. These icons which promised us a paradisiac trip did not match with the reality described by the young emerging artists from Australia and New Zealand. Their works shown tattooed and crucified Christ, exploited black women, numerous histories of self-murder, violence, drug, alcohol, poverty, question of race, exclusion, power and domination. The Vahines became cyberwomen and the Aborigines turned in revendicator warriors dressed in the international megalopoles.
With the technics of photomontage and collage, these young artists use the inversion of values to question the eurocentrism and thus give their Black version of history. Angry against so-called social injustices, they talk for all the Oppressed people and tell long, ashamed and often hidden stories, results of a painful story. Telling, criticizing, proposing, dreaming…
With humour, they denounce the stereotypes as well as racial, sexual and religious classifications and deconstruct all the categories of binary gender, judged as oppressing. Thus they represent back the judgement that Western people carry on “exotic” people: “Looking at ourselves, looking at the other”. Defined by others for a long time, today the Pacific artists take back the control of the definition of their own identity and present it in its whole diversity and complexity. “ We do not write, paint in a female way, and we do not sculpt as a Black person, as a homosexual person, because we do not create from our circonstancied “I” but, from the life and for the life, to answer back ontological considerations which push us to traverse social motions and egological way back. Everything comes from this nuance [...] .
The urban art from Pacific is neither a “pale copy of Western art” nor inauthentic. The artists have been raised in big cities but still keep remained to their communities. They deeply feel Aboriginal, Samoans or Maoris. They know perfectly both their ancestral heritage and the Occidental society they live in. As every civilisation, Pacific cultures have always changed through history - and all those changes (rejected, integrated or reinterpreted traditions) are at the beginning of the artistic movements. The urban art from Pacific emerged during the 1970s, when Indigenous people asked for independence, whose origins are in reinterpreting ancestral indigenous cultures, in Western art history and in colonial and post-colonial history… Original, engaged and humouristic, the urban art is made by artists who straight tell loudly what they think. They create a new artistic language that matches with their urban way of life, but still respects their indigenous background.
The title of the exhibition has been inspired by the French definition of the urban art, the graf’, artistic practice which moves on notions of freedom, illegal power and provocation but whose aims is to establish new links between the artistic creation, the locations, the publics and the art market. The Aboriginal, Maori and Samoan people of this exhibition have accepted to exhibit together, not because they see themselves as an artistic school, but because they share the same Vision. All of them have the same desire to denounce and break the logics of the art industry which sell according some reductor labels as “traditional art”, “authentic art”, “first art” and other categories which fetishes some artists and exclude the others. The exhibition “l’Art urbain du Pacifique” has thus been realised according this revendication in order to respect the plurality of the creation and the speech of the artists.
Géraldine Le Roux, chair of Diff’Art Pacific
1 Véronique Bergen, « La création comme dissolution de tout « en tant que »
in Cahiers Internationaux du symbolisme, Théories et pratiques de la création II
– la création au féminin, n°107-108-109, 2004