Re-Stor(y)ing Oceania
March 23–October 13, 2024
Ocean Space, Venice

L–R: Elisapeta Hinemoa Heta (photo: Jasmax), Taloi Havini (photo: Zan Wimberley), Latai Taumopeau (photo: Rhett Wyman)
Latai Taumoepeau, “The Last Resort”, 2020. Photo: Zan Wimberley
Elisapeta Heta and Raukura Turei for the Architecture+Women•NZ exhibition ‘Between Silos’, “He Whare Tangata”, 2013. Courtesy of the artist.
Latai Taumoepeau, “Dark Continent” (performance documentation), 2018. Courtesy of the artist.
John Miller and Elisapeta Heta, “Pouwātū: Active Presence”, 2021. Photo: Samuel Hartnett.
Latai Taumoepeau, “i-Land X-isle”, 2013. Photo: Zan Wimberley
Elisapeta Heta and Raukura Turei for the Architecture+Women•NZ exhibition ‘Between Silos’, “He Whare Tangata”, 2013. Courtesy of the artist.
Ocean Space Venice

Re-stor(y)ing Oceania is a new exhibition comprising two new site-specific commissions by Indigenous artists from the Pacific, Latai Taumoepeau and Elisapeta Hinemoa Heta. The exhibition is curated by Bougainville-born artist Taloi Havini, who returns to Ocean Space after her 2021 solo exhibition. Drawing together performance, sculpture, poetry, and movement, Havini’s curatorial vision is guided by an ancestral call-and-response method. Havini uses this as a means to seek solidarity and kinship in times of uncertainty. Real threats to life call for the need to slow down the clock on extraction and counter this with reverence for life of the Oceans. Opening at Ocean Space, Venice in Spring 2024, the exhibition also coincides with the 60th International Art Biennale.

The Pacific Islands are one of the regions most impacted by the damaging effects of climate change, and their Indigenous leaders and communities have led the call for more study and greater awareness of the ensuing crises for decades. Havini is joined by a curatorium, working closely together to produce public programs centering Indigenous perspectives from across Oceania, Australia, and the Asia-Pacific and its diasporas. These gatherings will provide space for exchanges and conversations, including three days of live performances held over the Venice Biennale vernissage week (April 16–20, 2024), and will remain accessible online, creating a new archive of stories and contributions by First Nations artists, curators, writers, community leaders, poets, musicians, navigators, sailors, fisherfolk and scholars, expanding on the current understandings of our oceans. 

For the new commissions, Havini has invited artist Latai Taumoepeau, who uses faivā (performing art) grounded in Tongan philosophies of relational (space) and (time). Centered in the body, faivā cross-pollinates ancient and everyday temporal practices to make visible the impact of the climate crisis in the Pacific. In the artist's own words, ‘The more ancient I am, the more contemporary my work is’. The significance of song to poetically record histories and to share values and knowledge in Taumoepeau’s homeland of Tonga is acknowledged through the creation of a new choral work focused on her firm resistance to deep sea mining. The newly commissioned work, Deep Communion sung in minor (archipelaGO, THIS IS NOT A DRILL), will engage audiences in the process of giving Pacific islanders a voice on this issue. 

Sculptural and interactive machines installed in Ocean Space will provide audiences with opportunities to engage with Taumoepeau’s Deep Communion sung in minor (archipelaGO THIS IS NOT A DRILL) either through activating the installation – which will trigger part of the musical score – or by taking a seat in the surrounding bleachers to witness local sports teams in performance with the work. 

In response to Taumoepeau‘s new solo commission,  a live project space emerges at Ocean Space that is imagined in collaboration with Wāhine architect Elisapeta Heta, a Māori, Samoan, and Tokelauan leader and advocate for change, whose work provides Maori and Pasifika perspectives on the importance of place to design and cultural identity.

Heta is affiliated to the Ngāti Wai and Waikato Tainui iwi with Samoan and Tokelauan heritage. In her response to this exhibition, Heta will present a new multi-sensory installation, The Body of Wainuiātea, embodying ritual and ceremony guided by the Māori concept of tikanga from her ancestral lands of Aotearoa New Zealand, alongside those from across the Te Moana-nui-a-kiwa. Tikanga is derived from the Māori word 'tika', which means 'right' or 'correct', so to act in accordance with tikanga is to behave in a way that is culturally proper or appropriate. Designed for exchange and collaboration, this welcoming space seeks to use ancient ways of knowing and relating through story and waiata (song) to restore a greater awareness of atua (the gods) connections to our Ocean, re-establishing the tapu (sacred) within current environmental and scientific campaigns seeking to protect the life of the planets largest bodies of water. Collaborators include Dr Albert Refiti, Hiramarie Moewaka, and Rhonda Tibble.

Across the Pacific, there is a particular way of hosting guests through storytelling. The Body of Wainuiātea by Heta provides a safe and welcoming space for re-establishing a solidarity network of artists, curators, writers, community leaders, poets, musicians, navigators, sailors, fisherfolk, scholars, scientists, lawyers, and communities. A series of conversations, performances, and actions will be programmed in this space over the opening and during 2024, inviting contributions from multi-disciplinary practitioners. 

The exhibition is commissioned by TBA21–Academy and Artspace, Sydney, and produced in partnership with OGR Torino culture and innovation hub.
Taloi Havini (Nakas Tribe, Hakö people) was born in Arawa, Autonomous Region of Bougainville and is currently based in Brisbane, Australia. She employs a research practice informed by her matrilineal ties to her land and communities in Bougainville.  This manifests in works created using a range of media including photography, audio – video, sculpture, immersive installation, and print.

She curates and collaborates across multi-art platforms using archives, working with communities, and developing commissions locally and internationally. Knowledge – production, transmission, inheritance, mapping, and representation are central themes in Havini’s work where she examines these in relation to land, architecture, and place.
Latai Taumoepeau (b:1972 Gadigal Ngura (Sydney), Australia) makes live-art-work. Her faiva (body-centred practice) is from her homelands, the Island Kingdom of Tonga and her birthplace the Eora Nation. She mimicked, trained, and un-learned dance, in multiple institutions of learning, beginning with her village, a suburban church hall, the club, and a university. Her faiva (performing art) centers Tongan philosophies of relational vā (space and time); cross-pollinating ancient and everyday temporal practice to make visible the impact of climate crisis in the Pacific. Latai conducts urgent environmental movements and actions to assist transformation in Oceania.

Latai engages in the socio-political landscape of Australia with sensibilities in race, class & the female body politic; committed to bringing the voice of unseen communities to the frangipani-less foreground. Latai has presented and exhibited across borders, countries, and coastlines. Her works are held in private and public collections including written Publications.

Latai is the 2023 recipient of The Creative Australia Emerging and Experimental Arts Award following her win of the 2022 ‘ANTI Festival Live Art’ Prize in Finland. She was awarded a 2021 Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship, and the Australia Council of the Arts Fellowship in the Emerging and Experimental Arts category. In 2019 she was the recipient of the Prague Quadrennial - Excellence in Performance Design Award.

In the near future, Latai will return to her ancestral home and continue the ultimate faiva of deep sea voyaging and celestial navigation before she becomes ancestor.

Elisapeta Hinemoa Heta (Ngātiwai, Ngāpuhi, Waikato Tainui, Sāmoan, Tokelauan) is a multi-disciplinary artist, designer, and mother, living and working in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand.

Elisapeta’s career has spanned architecture, art, writing, film and performance, teaching and research and has resulted in a rich tapestry of collaborative works and projects that are centered in indigenous mātauranga (knowledge and ways of knowing) and tikanga (protocols and ceremony). In working through a multi-disciplinary practice, Elisapeta seeks to create experiences that make visible our stories, many of which have been hidden or eroded – with a focus on indigenous and wāhine (women) centered story-telling.

Through her art practice Elisapeta, in collaboration with photographer John Miller (Ngāpuhi), took the exhibition Pouwātū: Active Presence to the 22nd Biennale of Sydney: NIRIN 2020, and brought it home to Objectspace Gallery in Tāmaki Makaurau (March – May 2021). Pouwātū: Active Presence worked through the spatial qualities and potentiality of the wharenui (customary meeting house) to center the experience of the show in a fundamentally Māori context – spiritually and physically. Other significant exhibitions have included the work ‘He Wai: A Song?’ a soundscape by Elisapeta Heta and Lynda Simmons, which was created for the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. 

Since 2015, Elisapeta has worked at architecture firm Jasmax, and is a Principal and Kaihautū Whaihanga working on multiple cultural and civic projects. She co-founded and runs the group Waka Māia, a Māori design collective that works within the practice facilitating robust engagement processes and that seek powerful design outcomes for, and with, Iwi Māori across Aotearoa. In recent years this has seen her working on New Zealand Pavilion at Expo 2020, Ngā Puna o Waiōrea Western Springs College, and City Rail Link. Recently her contributions to architecture have seen Elisapeta become published in 100 Women Architects in Practice (2023), by Harris, Parrinder, and Ravenscroft; and feature on Episode 7 of The Drawing Board a Māori Television series hosted by Derek Kawiri on modern Māori Architecture and Architects in Aotearoa New Zealand.
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