“Landfalls: Visual Politics of Place and Space in Aotearoa New Zealand”
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While art-historical accounts of imperial landscapes have typically focused attention on the myriad ways that European traveler-artists projected domination, the first British landscape artists in Aotearoa New Zealand exhibited a precarious presence in Māori-shaped environments. Early nineteenth-century artists like Augustus Earle embedded in their compositions vertical impediments to the “prospect” view: formidable hilltop fortresses, carvings signaling sacred terrain, muskets, and flagstaffs—symbols that foreshadow escalating cross-cultural tensions of the 1840s. While Māori signposts stood as pictorial devices in landscape views, they were also resistant to a total absorption into picturesque formulae.
Māori landscapes were then, as now, structured according to the spatial logics of voyaging and ancestral relations across time and space. The collision—and ultimate untranslatability—of British and Māori spatio-temporal understandings have resulted in a peculiar set of “false cognates” across visual and material forms. These dynamics are inflected in the work of present-day artists like Shane Cotton (Ngāti Rangi, Ngāti Hine, Te Uri Taniwha), whose paintings and installations point to the unresolved conflict between British and Indigenous epistemologies. This paper will highlight select meetings, in the past and present, of agents and artists who have shaped landscape politics on grounds both physical and aesthetic.
Julia Lum is an Assistant Professor of Art History at Scripps College. She received her Ph.D. from Yale University and her M.A. from Carleton University. Lum is currently a 2023 Getty/ACLS Postdoctoral Fellow in the History of Art. Lum’s fellowship project, Landfalls: Art Between Britain and Polynesia, reexamines and re-centers art history in the Pacific region from the 18th century onward, with a particular focus on the role landscape painting played in British colonization in the aftermath of James Cook’s voyages from 1768¬–79. Landfalls “tracks a shifting set of artistic and material collisions between European and Indigenous spatial frameworks, cultures of environmental management, and distinct attitudes toward land and ocean resources,” Lum’s abstract explains. “Through a series of historic case studies, interwoven with analyses of contemporary Indigenous interventions in the visual archive, this project repositions ‘landscape’ at the intersection of culturally-shaped environments and the aesthetic claims of an imperial imaginary.”
Contact: Lyneise Williams, email@example.com
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