The Current Convening #3 Tabu/Tapu
A Report by Putri Dina Andyana
To the ancient Polynesia, the word tapu means more than just something that is sacred or forbidden. Deaths are also associated to anyone who breaks a tapu. How does tapu connects with the life around it? Does it also sustain the community around it?
With its unusual size and elaborated details, two costumes situated in the middle of a dark room had struck me the most in “The Oceanic” exhibition. The colors of every materials and objects used blended in so well together that upon closer look, I was awed by the intricate arrangements of the small shells and straws against an aged-looking piece of cloth.
Inspired by an expedition to Fiji and Papua New Guinea, these works titled “Ocean Calling” (2017) by Laura Anderson Barbata revolve around the relationship of life in and around the ocean as well as the need to sustain the ecological balance of the ocean. From a documentary of her works, Barbata interpreted the ocean and the society of the islands through performative stories including music, dance, words and rituals. When the performers wore the costumes, it was intriguing to hear the shells knocking against each other and the straws swirling around depending on the performer’s movements.
As Barbata grew up facing the ocean in Mexico, she had a close relationship with it. With the addition of both the expedition and the Sustainable Development Goal 14 meeting, she was able to take elements and concepts to tell an elaborated story within a space. When she held the first performance of “Ocean Calling”, it was only presented to people within the United Nations, in other words delegates who would be signing the agreement. In my opinion, that was a very powerful impression to be left on the group of people who has the power to change the world.
“Inside the UN building, ideas are being discussed, policies are being discussed, and everything is being addressed on a very rational and intellectual level. That same information informs me, and I translated it into a language that is sensorial, experiential.” – Laura Anderson Barbata
By using the concept of tapu as a metaphor to explore the sophisticated relationship between the life and the ocean, a lot of stories can be told using multiple perceptions and mediums. I believe there are still a lot of hidden information that are yet to be explored but The Current Convening #3 has been an excellent step towards the cultural, political and ecological approach to the ocean.
During a dialogue session, it was mentioned how visitors in a space assume that they can read the things around them but often they are not able to as the only way to obtain information is by interaction. Entering and experiencing the space themselves put participants of the expedition into a whole new perspective. As pointed by Taholo Kami, a speaker during the Current Convening #3, “The journeys into the islands create entry points.”
Reference Links :
Barbata, Laura Anderson. “Ocean Calling 2017. Short Documentary.” Filmed June 2017 at the United Nations Plaza, NY. https://vimeo.com/249019986
Capossela, Francesca. “The World’s Artists Pay Tribute to the Sea for Ocean Week.” Creators, June 13, 2017. https://creators.vice.com/en_au/article/zmeyk8/ocean-week-2017-worlds-artists-pay-tribute