From October 26 2017 to April 25 2018, the Musée du Cinquantenaire in Brussels presents the exhibition, Oceania: voyages dans l’immensité, featuring the remarkable Oceanic collections of the Royal Museums of Art and History and the Royal Museum of Central Africa. Around one hundred pieces from Jean Paul Forest, a plastic artist living and working in Tahiti, are also on display. This event is supported by Air Tahiti Nui and Musée de Tahiti et des Îles.
Oceania is one of the last territories of the planet to be “discovered” by the Europeans. Indeed, the Portuguese discovered Australia in 1522 and the Dutch first came across New Zealand in 1642. However, it was in the 18th century that Western navigators stepped onto the soil of the South Pacific islands. The exhibition, Océania: voyages dans l’immensité, reveals the treasures of Oceanian art with over 200 objects from New Zealand, Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, Hawaii and Easter Island. The work of Jean Paul Forest brings a contemporary perspective to island life as well as a reflection over the role of humankind in the immensity of the ocean and the cosmos.
The Great Explorations of the Pacific
The exhibition goes back in time across five voyages, from the first settlements in Oceania to present day.
The first voyage, entitled La colonisation du Pacifique (The settlement of the Pacific), first explores the prehistoric settlement of Australia and Papua New Guinea, which occurred 60,000 years before our era. Then, a large space is dedicated to the great migratory movement, going back to the first millennium, which saw the discovery and settlement throughout Oceania by people arriving from Southeast Asia, French Polynesia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Easter Island, and South America.
The second voyage, L’Europe découvre le Pacifique (Europe discovers the Pacific), focuses on the great discoveries from Magellan to Alvaro de Mendaña up until the time of the first scientific expeditions of the 18th Century with the great navigators and explorers of the Pacific, such as Samuel Wallis, Louis- Antoine de Bougainville, James Cook and Jean-François de La Pérouse.
The third voyage, La Belgique à l’île de Pâques (Belgium to Easter Island), is about the expedition carried out in 1934 by Paul Rivet (Musée de l’Homme in Paris) and Henri Lavachery (Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels) on Easter Island. Their studies conducted over the inhabitants and art of Easter Island are inscribed in the history of scientific research. The fourth voyage is dedicated to the Pacific from East to West (Pacifique d’Est en Ouest) and inter-island exchanges. Here, you will find artifacts from Oceania, mainly Polynesia, from the Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire collections in Brussels.
The Work of Jean Paul Forest, a reflection over immensity
The fifth voyage through this exhibition invites us to explore the works of Jean Paul Forest, a plastic artist living in French Polynesia. Through his interpretation, we will discover the concept of immensity through a sheer multitude of pebbles. His entire body of work tends to establish a physical dialogue with stone, a basic element of the Universe and symbol of the world’s tangibility. The Appareillages series creates possible relationships and connections between fractured pebbles and wood, in this case, coconut. Repairing them with a vegetable “prosthesis” incarnates the form they may one day have. The fragmentations showcase shattered stones in which a cable allows the pieces to be placed in their original positions. This rigid monolith, which has become a modular and fluid structure, offers an infinite number of possibilities while preserving the memory of its previous state.
The Multitudes series is a physical confrontation with the infinity of numbers and identities: cut and sewn pebbles gathered according to different orders recreate the chaos of the beaches. Torsions releases a dynamic flow in the pebbles, giving shape to movements that are at once predictable and uncontrollable. Finally, a video room with photographic installations make it possible to approach Forest’s work in situ within all the dimensions of Polynesian landscapes. Thus, this exhibition space encompasses 300 m2/3229 sq. ft. dedicated to the creations and reflections of this rising artist.
The Oceania exhibition brilliantly plunges the viewer into the great Pacific Ocean on an exploration of island cultures as well as providing an initiatory journey into the tangibility of the world around us.