Lisa Reihana’s in Pursuit of Venus [infected] is a retort to the French scenic wallpaper, Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique  produced by Joseph Dufour in 1804.

Friends of Te Papa will remember the panels of Dufour’s original wallpaper, which were purchased in 2015, and which reflected a widespread fascination with the Pacific voyages undertaken by Captain Cook, de Bougainville, and de la Perouse.

The panoramic French wallpaper, Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique, 1804-5, represents a summation of the intense interest in the Pacific aroused by Cook’s voyages. Rebecca Rice writes that “Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique is a rare, spectacular, large-scale panoramic wallpaper, printed in colour from woodblocks with colour finishing by hand. It was printed by the entrepreneur and innovative wallpaper manufacturer, Joseph Dufour after a design by textile and wallpaper designer, Jean-Gabriel Charvet. A panoramic wallpaper consists of a series of drops that can either be hung individually or joined together to form a panoramic scene in a domestic environment. The wallpaper was popular and was sold throughout Europe and in North America where it adorned the interiors of wealthy individuals. It could be arranged in a number of ways to suit its architectural setting. The complete sequence of Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique consists of twenty drops, each of which were numbered and described in an accompanying brochure written by Dufour. Te Papa’s set consists of 18 drops, the only near-complete set in New Zealand.”

200 years later in Aotearoa, Lisa Reihana employs 21st century digital technologies to bring the scenic wallpaper to life and challenge its Eurocentric narrative.

The final realisation of in Pursuit of Venus [infected] makes visible the historical narratives notably absent from the original wallpaper. Enlivened with the sights and sounds of dance and cultural ceremonies, the vast video panorama is populated by people drawn from across Aotearoa, Australia, the Pacific, and Europe.

in Pursuit of Venus [infected] subverts the imperial gaze by defying historical and contemporary stereotypes, notions of beauty, authenticity, history, and myth.