Carol Mayer talks with Kipa Gaindimi about his storyboard that will be part of the new collection of Sepik art at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver.
When a gallery is the setting for contemporary indigenous arts, especially those stemming from the great carving traditions of the Northwest Coast of Canada and the Sepik River of Papua New Guinea, we might feel connected with something outside of our experience. We are encountering a category of art that has moved from notions of ‘primitive’ that generally speaking would seem to belong in museums, to notions of ‘indigenous’ that are more likely to be identified with art galleries. Both might be distinguished by perceptions of tradition and authenticity, but the ‘indigenous’ art on display in this exhibition is thought to be a newer category of art that also recognizes the agency of the indigenous voice and the distinctive style of particular artists. This recognition is present in museums that collect contemporary works but is sadly missing in most of the museums that do not. In a museum setting, contemporary indigenous art creates a visual dialogue with historic pieces that provide the viewer with visual references that can establish the context from which the contemporary works stemmed. In a gallery setting, the dialogue is between the art, the artist and the viewer. In both settings the art can also exist in its own right, within its own agency. One can spend much time and effort trying to understand why art is viewed differently in museum and gallery settings. A more interesting point might be to consider how the very presence of contemporary indigenous art, wherever it is displayed, underscores the reality that cultures are still thriving and producing great artists who are creating new and distinctive works that deserve to be exposed to as many people as possible. This exhibition is part of that process.
Dr. Carol E. Mayer, PhD
Head, Curatorial Department
Curator (Oceania & Africa)
University of British Columbia Museum of AnthropologyPhoto credits:
Palembei dancer, above left: Art Holbrook
Artwork: Garth Rankin & Dan Lepsoe
PNG photos, unless otherwise noted: Dan Lepsoe