Biau Kula: Space, Process, and Creativity at the Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture, with DVD (A Tour of the Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture)

Higgins, Katherine
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I have always been intrigued by art; especially the process of creation. My appreciation and understanding of visual arts has developed through interactions with artists and artworks to understand the methods and meanings present within the forms. My interests focus on spaces for art because the premier objects are often destined to a bounded existence in a museum. Through valuable experiences working in museums, galleries, and alternative spaces for arts, I have interacted with both artists and management to consider issues affecting the availability of visual culture (painting, sculpture, and mixed media works). I find that appreciation and understanding of art is developed through interaction, whether it is with the object itself, the artist, or projects, combined with the typical routine of observing artifacts in a museum. While interaction in museums is often a contradiction, it nurtures community involvement. A museum that achieves the delicate balance of an inviting space and educational experiences creates a reciprocal relationship with its community. My interest in the relationship between visual culture and the spaces that house them became clear during my experience in the Marshall Islands. While passing through the capital of Majuro enroute to the outer islands, I visited the national museum, the Alele, to discover more about the history and culture of the Marshalls. Entering the Alele I wondered if it was open to the public. The hallways were deserted and silent, a drastic change from the bustling streets outside where school children chased one another and men sat in the shade of the breadfruit tree challenging each other's stories. I found my way up to the dust laden gallery which housed tangible representations of the Marshallese whose progeny were visibly absent from the museum. I gazed upon drawings of eQ (tattoo) covered bodies before the arrival of the missionaries, photographs of European traders with the irioj, tools, weavings, and stick charts used to guide generations of navigators through the atolls. Wandering undisturbed I found dated exhibits with little accompanying information causing me to form my own impressions of Marshallese history through imagery when I longed to hear real voices interpret those objects. Hundreds of miles away from the neglected and dusty rooms of the museum, I found the connections I sought. Some time later, I recognized that the artifacts in the museum were part of daily life in my community on Kaven, Maloelap, the outer island where I lived during my year in the Marshalls. Living in this small community, I came to understand the bond between everyday life and the visual culture that I refer to as art.
Masters of Arts
Pacific Islands Studies
ix, 58 leaves
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