Lisa Reihana: European explorers and the native people of the Pacific Islands

Lisa Reihana: European explorers and the native people of the Pacific Islands

In Pursuit of Venus (Infected) is a spectacular video installation artwork by New Zealand Maori artist, Lisa Reihana, which charts first contact between European explorers and the native peoples of the Pacific Islands 250 years ago.

It went on display at the Auckland Art Gallery in May 2015. Six years in the making, the work is based on a large 19th century scenic wallpaper, ‘Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique’, created by French firm Joseph Dufour et Cie in the 19th century which depicts a romanticised view of the landscapes and people of the Pacific.

Using the landscape forms of the wallpaper as a backdrop, Reihana added live action scenes recorded in front of green screens, showing interactions between Europeans and Polynesians. Reihana worked with theatre director Rachel House, actors and students from the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts to create the 32-minute film installation.

Reihana’s script re-examines the first encounters between Polynesians and Europeans with scenes that depict the intricacies of cultural identity and colonisation.

Most recently the installation has featured in the Royal Academy’s Oceania exhibition in London.

Want to learn more? Watch our mini series The Lost World of Joseph Banks, the first television documentary of the explorers life, or read our Study Guide: The Lost World of Joseph Banks or our in depth look at the Great Explorers of the Pacific.