Two Oceans at Once
Rhea Maheshwari, Skawennati, and Kahurangiariki Smith
Curated by Cameron Ah Loo-Matamua and Charlotte Huddleston
Exhibition Preview: Wednesday 2 October, 5:30pm
Exhibition Runs: 3 October – 17 November 2019
Exhibition Talk with Rhea Maheshwari, Kahurangiariki Smith, and Charlotte Huddleston:
Thursday 3 October, 11am
Two Oceans at Once at The Physics Room is the second iteration of the exhibition under this title. The title is a phrase from Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone by Eduardo Galeano, a book that retells the commonly known history of the world in 600 short episodes. In the story ‘Americans’, Galeano writes: “Official history has it that Vasco Núñez de Balboa was the first man to see, from a summit in Panama, two oceans at once. Were the natives blind?” The ‘two oceans’ in Galeano’s story are the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Although Vasco Núñez de Balboa was not the first person to see these two oceans at once, it is said that in 1513, from that vantage point in Panama, he was the first European to see the Pacific Ocean.1
In the context of Aotearoa, Two Oceans at Once takes on the impetus of retelling, where 2018 was the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage, and 2019 holds the 250th anniversary of the arrival of Captain James Cook—an arrival that, like Vasco Núñez de Balboa’s, involved naming. A hugely significant person on board the Endeavour was Ra’iātea born Tahitian navigator and artist Tupaia who on this voyage played a pivotal role in mediating between Māori and the crew of the Endeavour. Tupaia was not included in the initial landing party. After the landing, based on subsequent events, Cook named the bay Poverty Bay and left.
In the retelling of past events as history, dominant sociocultural constructions privilege linear and chronological retelling in a single voice. But within Galeano’s account, as with the events of Cook’s arrival, there are multiple positions from which history can be told. In ‘Americans’, Galeano questions whose voice is heard and remembered in accounts of history. As an exhibition, Two Oceans at Once holds multiple narratives. These are narratives of arrivals, departures, naming, giving voice, being heard, listening, co-habitation, time, place, memory, knowledge, language and love. Recognising that there is no singular past, present or future, the exhibition looks to reorient historical time within the real experiences of communities.
The first exhibition of Two Oceans at Once was at St Paul St Gallery, AUT from 15 February to 17 May 2019. It included work by Ayesha Green, Ruth Ige, Rozana Lee, Nicole Lim, Jane Chang Mi, Talia Smith, Vaimaila Urale, Layne Waerea, Yonel Watene.
1 See: https://teara.govt.nz/en/european-discovery-of-new-zealand/page-1 and: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasco_N%C3%BA%C3%B1ez_de_Balboa Accessed 16 January 2019.
Image: Kahurangiariki Smith, FOB, 2016 (screen shot), video game, TV, controller, milk crates, mat. Interactive installation.