Question: What do you get when dozens of artists come together in a vibrant 21st century art ecosystem in Honolulu, and each is willing to share the fruits of their inspired labor with others?
Answer: The biggest and most anticipated contemporary art show ever staged and staged in the Pacific.
Say hello to Hawai’i Triennial 2022, a citywide expo that raises the curtains starting this Friday, February 18, before rolling out for 11 weeks at venues across the city. (See the full list of sites on page 13.)
Formerly known as the Honolulu Biennale, HT22 is the event‘s first attempt to operate in a format every three years. Like its previous iterations, this year’s showcase will feature the fruits, or works of art, of many talented local and non-native artists. This time, however, the focus is on interweaving themes of history, place and identity, as well as addressing cultural issues while navigating what the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once called “the century of the Pacific”.
“This show is really about asking the question: If this really is the Pacific Century, what does it look like?” says the event’s curator, Dr. Melissa Chiu, noting that Clinton first made the reference a decade ago during a speech at the East-West Center.
HT22 is just one way to answer the question while establishing Hawai’i’s defining role as a very important “cultural hub,” she says.
“For Hawai’i, it’s an opportunity, on the one hand, to see an exhibition of international art,” explains Chiu. “On the other hand, the exhibition invites reflection on what Hawai’i can offer to the world that is unique.”
Part of HT22’s distinctiveness lies in its title, Pacific Century – E Ho’omau no Maoanuiākea. The brainchild of Drew Broderick, one of Chiu’s two associate curators, the title carries multiple meanings and speaks to the overall message behind the event.
“First, it recognizes the location of the Hawaiian archipelago, halfway between North America and Asia,” says Broderick. “The idea (of the Pacific century) prescribes a shift from transatlantic or American-European economic and cultural supremacy to the growing importance of Asia.
“Second, it recognizes the Kānaka ‘ōiwi language and cultural values through a call to action – a timely reminder to persevere and carry on, across time and space, in relationship with the many Moananui Archipelago Nations “, he adds. “It is important to note that this is the
first time ‘ōlelo Hawai’i is included in the title of the periodic exhibition. It matters because it reflects the moment we are living in…and marks another step in the right direction for the organization, one guided by Indigenous worldviews and committed to a more grounded future here in Hawai’i.
The exhibit opens on the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace and features an outdoor projection of digitally-designed animated flowers by Los Angeles-based artist Jennifer Steinkamp – a clear reminder of the legacy of Queen Lili’uokalani and her garden, Uluhaimalama. Afterwards, venues around Honolulu will begin showcasing the works of more than 40 individual and collective artists before the curtains finally close on the May 8 show.
With artist-led workshops, panel discussions, walking tours and keiki activities also planned for the event, Chiu anticipates that the show’s tens of thousands of expected art fans – ranging from laid-back to hardcore – discover everything inspiring and amazing about HT22.
“Even those who frequent the museum will find something surprising in the exhibition,” she promises.
At the forefront of this year’s collection of artists is Ai Weiwei, an iconoclast whose poignant sculptures, installation pieces and photography have inspired many over the years. The Beijing-born artist’s drive to contribute to the show — first, by designing limited-edition face masks that honor the islands’ natural environment and whose sales benefit event organizer Hawai’i Contemporary (email [email protected] to order); and second, by showcasing a new iteration of his sculpture, Treewhich reflects an urgent call to action against environmental disturbances – was understandably well received by Chiu and his associate curators, including Dr. Miwako Tezuka.
Weiwei’s work, which will be displayed on the upper terrace of the Foster Botanical Garden, marks his first-ever exhibition in the islands.
“He grafted pieces of wood together to create a series of three trees – two of them are wood and the other is iron,” says Chiu, an internationally renowned curator from Australia who is currently director from the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum. and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC “These three trees are talking to the other trees in the botanical garden, so they are talking to each other as a group.”
While Weiwei’s artistic achievements are recognized around the world, it was also his roles as an activist and documentarian that made him a necessary part of the exhibit, Chiu says. Besides being highly critical of the Chinese government’s stance on human rights issues, Weiwei has also been one of the most vocal commentators on deforestation and pollution. As a result, the dissident artist has produced his share of documentaries that reflect his political beliefs – notably, Coronation (2020), Human flow (2017) and Ai Weiwei: Never sorry (2012).
As Chiu notes, “We wanted to include his work not only because of his position in the art world, but also because he is increasingly interested in environmental issues. He was in Brazil and witnessed the degradation of the Amazon, which triggered a number of his tree-based works.
Other participating artists whose works will be featured include Jamaica Osorio from Hawaii, Gaye Chan, the late Haunani-Kay Trask, Ed Greevy and the Nā Maka O Ka’ Āina video production team. Australian Richard Bell and Filipino Leeroy New are just two of the international artists on HT22’s programme.
An acclaimed poet, Osorio is set to create a new poem for the exhibit, according to Tezuka, while Chan “will be doing works across town that will be a surprise.”
Trask, a longtime activist and sovereignty leader who died last summer, and Greevy, a photographer, published the book Kū’ē: Thirty Years of Land Struggle in Hawai’i in 2004 on “their common concerns for justice,” Broderick says. The Honolulu Museum of Art, he adds, will be the site to honor their work through “a selection of powerful moments” from their book.
“Trask and Greevy’s friendship and working relationship endures as a testament to the importance of mobilizing together to protect people and places, while acknowledging cultural differences,” he says.
Formed by storytellers and documentarians Joan Lander and Puhipau (Abraham Ahmad), Nā Maka O Ka ‘Āina” grew out of the social and environmental justice movements that spread across the Hawaiian archipelago in the 1970s and persist to this day. “, explains Broderick.
He adds that the duo’s many films – which include An independent and nuclear-free Pacific (1983), Expulsion from Waimānalo (1985), Kaho’olawe Aloha ‘Āina (1992) and Mauna Kea – Besieged Temple (2005) – will be shown at the Hawaii State Art Museum and feature never-before-seen archival footage.
“Together, Lander and Puhipau (have) documented and continued Hawaiian culture, history, language, art, music, dance, environment, and the politics of independence and self-determination in Hawai’i , Moananui and elsewhere,” notes Broderick, an independent curator and educator from Kailua who serves as director of the Koa Gallery at Kapi’olani Community College.
As for Bell, he will present “Embassy”, which Tezuka describes as “a nod to the Aboriginal movement of the 1970s and the struggle for land rights in Australia”. Meanwhile, Manila-based New is set to unveil an installation – made of plastic bottles and surfboards – specific to the Foster Botanical Garden site.
“We wanted to bring in artists who we could bring in works that are not only illustrative of certain narratives, but are also able to integrate historical and contextual stories into their materialization of artworks,” says Tezuka. , author and art historian by training. who was born in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, and currently works as Associate Director for Reversible Destiny Foundation, a progressive artist-architect-poet group in New York City.
Beyond the impressive collection of artistic talent, HT22 represents a major triumph for art lovers who have been waiting for something to celebrate since the start of the pandemic. It is also a fitting accomplishment for an equally talented team of curators who worked many days and nights to ensure this event came to fruition.
As Chiu says, “It’s no small feat that this is happening in the age of COVID. There have been many interruptions, starts and stops along the way, but we have persevered and are so excited to finally be able to present this exhibition.
HT22 and 7 sites
Scheduled to run from February 18 through May 8, the 2022 Hawai’i Triennial will showcase the works of a number of participating artists and collectives at the following seven locations around Honolulu:
Bishop Museum – Chitra Ganesh, Michael Joo with Alchemyverse (Yixuan Shao and Bicheng Liang), Karrabing Film Collective, Izumi Kato, Paci~c Sisters, Ahilapalapa Rands, Lawrence Seward, Gaku Tsutaja
Foster Botanical Garden — Ai Weiwei, Leeroy New, TOQA (Isabel Sicat and Aiala Rickard)
Hawai’i State Art Museum – ‘Ai Pōhaku Press (Maile Meyer and Barbara Pope), Richard Bell, ‘Elepaio Press (Richard and Mark Hamasaki), Nā Maka O Ka ‘Āina (Joan Lander and Puhipau), Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, Piliāmo ‘o (Mark Hamasaki and Kapulani Landgraf), Lawrence Seward, Tropic Editions
‘Iolani Palace – Richard Bell, Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osario and Jennifer Steinkamp
Honolulu Museum of Art – Theaster Gates, Ed Greevy and Haunani-Kay Trask, Masanori Handa, Ai Iwane, Yuree Kensaku, Sung Hwan Kim and David Michael DiGregorio, Liu Xiaodong, Dan Taulapapa McMullin, Shinro Ohtake, Lawrence Seward, Mika Tajima, Xu Bing, Chikako Yamashiro, 目 [mé]
Royal Hawaiian Center – Herman Pi’ikea Clark, Tsuyoshi Hisakado, Miao Ying, Beatriz Santiago Munoz, Lawrence Seward, Double A Projects (Athena Robles and Anna Stein), Sun Xun, Momoyo Torimitsu, Justine Youssef, Zheng Bo
Hawaii Theater Center – Ming Wong