Honolulu Biennial 2017
Middle of Now | Here
March 8 – May 8, 2017

Bishop Museum is proud to be a participating venue of the Honolulu Biennial 2017, an international arts exhibition staged throughout Honolulu. This multi-site contemporary visual arts festival celebrates works by local Hawaiʻi-based artists and Native Hawaiian artists alongside national and international artists, all from countries and continents linked by the Pacific Ocean.

Art by Hawaiian artists Kaʻili Chun and Charlton Kūpaʻa Hee are displayed across the Museum campus. New Zealand artist Lisa Reihana’s film is the only art piece in the Honolulu Biennial that is directly inspired by a historic museum collection piece, the chief mourner’s costume, displayed in Pacific Hall.

Presented by The Howard Hughes Corporation and Honolulu Biennial Foundation (HBF), this is Hawaiʻi’s first international biennial. Fumio Nanjo, director of the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, serves as the curatorial director. Ngahiraka Mason, formerly curator of indigenous art, Maori art at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, a position she held for 20 years, is serving as curator. Complementing this arts festival are a variety of public programs, including lectures, panel discussions, artist talks, keiki workshops, performances, and tours.

Kaʻili Chun, Hawaiʻi
Veritas II
Great Lawn

Chun’s work examines the idea of containment. Forty steel cells, are used to examine the various ways people impact each other and the world. The installation explores broader interpretations of complicity and participation in the imposition of social structures upon distinct cultures, while concurrently acknowledging the contribution of the individual to his/her own containment.

Untitled – Bishop Museum Intervention 1
Picture Gallery, Hawaiian Hall

E hana mua a paʻa ke kahua ma mua o ke a ‘o ʻana aku iā haʻi
Build yourself a firm foundation before teaching others.

A series of slender koa wood and glass cases containing Hawaiian cultural items illustrate the power dynamics associated with museum curatorial practices and anthropological discourses. As a common practice, cultural artifacts are encased within glass, literally set apart from human agency, physically demarcating the space between the living and the dead. For example, artifacts displayed in natural history museums are typically perceived as relics of cultures that have been subsumed, eclipsed by Western “progress,” and separated from modern life. The material and the craftsmanship involved in the construction of these pieces are evidence of Hawaiʻi’s living history.


Lisa Reihana, New Zealand
Tai Whetuki—House of Death Film
Pacific Hall

A wounded Māori warrior looms out of the dark primordial landscape, finds a safe haven to lie down and dies…. Accompanied by his frightening attendant, the exalted Tahitian chief mourner takes a villager’s life in a frenzied attack, re-enacting a long-vanished ritual. A Māori woman performs a karanga to open up the space between heavenly and earthly realms, while grieving for the dead is visualized in a blood-letting ceremony where women honor the pain of loss. Enigmatic and poignant, Tai Whetuki—House of Death‘s mythological imagery examines current and ancient Māori and Polynesian traditions associated with death and the process of mourning. The chief mourner figure is directly inspired by the chief mourner’s costume in Bishop Museum’s collection.

Charlton Kūpaʻa Hee, Hawaiʻi
Pōhue: Storied Gourds
Nā Ulu Kaiwiʻula Native Hawaiian Garden

Hee is creating a new, multi-site installation fashioned after traditional water gourds, which connect the worlds of art and science, incorporating foreign techniques and ideologies that reference classical Greek pottery back into Hawaiian visual aesthetics and narratives. This multi-site work will be hung from the ‘ulu tree at Bishop Museum as well as in the Foster Botanical Garden. In addition to his work as an artist and sculptor, Hee is also a conservationist working with one of Hawaii’s most endangered animals, the Hawaiian Tree Snail.

Join us for three Special Honolulu Biennial Programs at Bishop Museum

See more Honolulu Biennial 2017 events

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