Art project examines
changing face of NZ

An art project looking at the changing face of New Zealand from an Asian/Māori/Pasifika perspective is being developed by curators Emma Ng and Ioana Gordon-Smith.

Emma Ng discusses The Asia Pacific Century

This year, Gordon-Smith took part in the Foundation's Curators Tour to Korea and China and Ng attended last year’s tour to Japan and China.

Ng, who until recently was the curator/manager of Wellington’s Enjoy Public Art Gallery, says how the project, The Asia Pacific Century, is developed is yet to be fully determined but will involve herself and Gordon-Smith collaborating with a group of artists.

“Led by artists, writers, and other contributors, this project seeks to explore past, present, and future manifestations of ‘Asia-Pacificness’.

“ [It] is an opportunity to explore the rich histories of exchange between Māori, Asian and Pacific groups in Aotearoa New Zealand - both positive and negative.”

For part one of the project, the two curators opened Enjoy Gallery up as a research space for the artists to contribute works they have already produced and to discuss the topic.

The artists who took part included Lana Lopesi, who was last years' Foundation artist in resident at Taipei Artists Village in Taiwan, and Leadership Network member Kerry Ann Lee.

Ng says the idea behind the project was motivated by attending last year's Asia Pacific triennial in Australia with Gordon-Smith.

“We think of the Asia/Pacific in a certain way from New Zealand and it was really fascinating going to Brisbane and see how Australia conceives of it in a completely different way.

“We were kind of interested in taking that phrase Asia-Pacific and turning it inwards to look at New Zealand’s demographics, which are set to change quite dramatically over the next twenty years or so."

She notes the Māori, Pasifika and Asian populations are set to make up over 50% of the population collectively in the not-to-distant future – a demographic shift that will shift the traditional power balance within society.  

“So that was quite an opportunity, I thought, to use that as a catalyst for thinking about how if that demographic shift occurs, it sort of dislodges the sense of what’s dominant in New Zealand, in terms of influence, in terms of history... and really look at those minority groups in relation to each other rather than through the lens of a Pakeha society."

She says the group wanted to change the discussion around how New Zealand engages with issues such as the way immigration is framed and the motivations of engaging with Asia, which she says typically has a political or economic focus.

“We really wanted to use art as a basis for looking at those things in a way that is very person to person, very human, very involved with everyday life.”

Ng says the next step for the project is to develop the group’s ideas through further workshops, with the intention of holding an exhibition in 2017.