© Lisa Reihana, in Pursuit of Venus [infected] 2015–17. Installation view, John Curtin Gallery, Perth, Australia 2018. Photograph by Brad Coleman.
At the end of the 18th, and especially at the beginning of the 19th century the wallpaper industry made important progress in France. It particularly developed panoramas, i.e. wallpapers that were scaled to fit entire rooms of the triumphant and world-conquering bourgeoisie's houses. Thus, bourgeois interiors extended to magnificent circular views of the French campaign in Egypt or the faraway isles described by the great voyagers of the 18th century – the Bougainvilles, La Pérouse, Cook, etc. The colonialist conception of the world is present in them, in gestation.
Lisa Reihana unfolds the sentimental imagery of these exotic European wallpapers in her work, In Pursuit of Venus [Infected], 2015-2017. Starting from the famous panorama drawn by Jean-Gabriel Charvet and printed by Joseph Dufour in 1804-1805, Les Sauvages de la mer Pacifique, she implants filmed saynètes into it that stage the first “encounters” between these voyagers and the people they discovered. And we know how disastrous these first contacts were, if only because of the illnesses these “emissaries” brought with them. In this deceptive décor in which the European view is expressed, the interactions are this time imagined from the indigenous point of view. A happy reversal of perspective in which it appears that no veritable encounter can be possible since the otherness is so considerable. Few post-colonial art works have reached this degree of overwhelming intensity. The artist saw in it “an act of resistance against the stereotypes established between the explorers and the inhabitants of the Pacific upon their encounters, by the demystification of older images and a living representation of indigenous cultures…”
Exhibition realised in partnership with Théâtre Garonne | Scène européenne – Toulouse.