Art.Net: Gallery: New Guinea Sculpture Garden @ Stanford: About


About the Garden Project

"Visions from the Present" is a collaboration between 10 New Guinea artists and a team of American and New Guinea landscape architects.

Project Summary

Starting in May at Stanford, ten master New Guinea carvers and a team of American and New Guinea landscape architects will collaborate to develop a major outdoor sculpture garden of New Guinea art. For the participants, this effort is not an attempt to recreate a "traditional" New Guinea art/landscape environment, but rather an unprecedented opportunity to experiment with and reinterpret New Guinea aesthetic perspectives within the new context of a western public art space. This cross-cultural collaboration will open challenging new territory for the artists to explore their aesthetic visions, while simultaneously allowing the artists to shape the display context in which their works are presented and interpreted for a western audience.

Events & Outreach:
The four-month carving and design process will also create a unique opportunity for Bay Area communities to interact with the artists and begin to understand the concerns, life experiences, and aesthetic interests that motivate their works. Stanford will encourage these interactions through on-site guided tours and discussions with the artists, New Guinea bark painting classes, a weekly public lecture series, and on-site musical performances.

Through this process, we hope to create a type of cross-cultural artistic experience not possible in the traditional western museum exhibitions of New Guinea art, an experience that will rehumanize these arts and artists that have been consistently dehumanized by western images and stereotypes of the "primitive".

The participating artists come from the Kwoma and Iatmul societies of the Middle Sepik River region of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Art works from these societies have a long and celebrated history of museum exhibition in the west. The artists however, have rarely been able to determine the works presented nor control the display context in which they are presented.

This ground-breaking exhibition grew out of a request by two Kwoma artists who worked with Jim Mason, the project director, during his anthropological fieldwork on the Sepik River in 1990. These artists had just completed work on the Woyndabyne International Sculpture Garden in Australia and wanted to organize similar venues for direct artistic production, interaction, and self-representation in other western countries. Returning to Stanford University, Jim Mason gathered support and funding for the project and then returned to PNG to work with the artists and National Museum of PNG to assemble the final team of participants.

The artists visiting Stanford will be: Naui Saunambui, Yati Latai, Membor Apokiom, David Kaipuk, and Gutok Yantaka from the Kwoma area, and David Yamanapi, Yarame Mambegawi, Simon Marmos, Joseph Kandimbu, and Teddy Balangu from the Iatmul area.

During their four-month residency, these Kwoma and Iatmul artists plan to produce a variety of large relief carved poles, free-standing individual figures, garamut slit drums, and other large-scale site-specific works. These works will be carved using indigenous carving woods selected by the artists in Papua New Guinea and shipped to the U.S. A beautiful oak and cedar grove near the center of the Stanford campus will serve both as the location for carving and the site for the final installation

Integral with the actual carving, the artists will collaborate with Kora Korawali, a New Guinea landscape architect, and Wallace Ruff, an American landscape architect to generate the site design, landscaping, and display information for the garden. This collaboration will be an interactive design process focussed on expressing and reinterpreting New Guinea design values within a western landscape environment. The process will be an open forum for the group to address the complexities of exhibiting artistic works across cultural boundaries- a process that offers the artists a rare opportunity to shape the display context in which their works are presented and interpreted for a western audience.

When New Guinea arts have traditionally been displayed in the western world, the display context has often reduced the status of these works from art, as creative individual expression, to artifact, representing merely the mechanical reproduction of timeless and unchanging forms. This artist/designer collaboration begins with the realization that New Guinea artists have never been simply craftsmen reproducing ancient templates. Rather, New Guinea artists have always produced works with specific intentions and subjectivities in relation to specific contexts and audiences. Working at Stanford will challenge the artists to create site-specific works and site/landscape designs which engage the possibilities of New Guinea aesthetic traditions to address a new cultural audience and physical environment. The resulting installation promises to visually challenge the constraining narratives of art/artifact, authenticity/inauthenticity, and primitivism that are commonly forced onto non-western arts.

Stanford University: Anthropology Department and Museum of Art

Project Address:
  	Anthropology Department, Bldg 110
	Stanford University
	Stanford, CA 94305-2145
Contact Persons:
Jim Mason, Project Director (415) 695-8845
Tom Seligman, Director Stanford University Museum of Art (415) 725-0462
Shannon Brown, Administrator Dept. of Anthropology (415) 723-3423
Diane Mason, School Outreach Coordinator (415) 861-1899

Project Duration: 5/1/94 - 9/16/94

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