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SAVAGE Names Dropping in the PACIFIC

Names dropping in the Pacific is a life project gathering different materials: images, poems, short essays, sounds, archives… weaving critical thoughts, fantasies, performances, theories, emotions, research…  

 

Names dropping in the Pacific is dedicated to the Maori people of the Pacific I am tied to, but also to the American, Chinese, French, Japanese, and all mixed communities who are the children of (post)colonization histories, developing their lives in these areas and having a true attachment to this vast ocean.
It is fascinating to research how names, and of course how each individual/collective life, area and context related to them, could open complex streams and unexpected threads to better understand how the Pacific, going along with its history and contemporary development, is constantly reframed by geopolitical strategies of naming due to the re-de-mapping of the sea according to colonization histories and current economical appropriations of the ocean.

 

Moreover, naming, renaming, de-naming is also an impressive private and collective cultural “thesaurus” of the Pacific generated by people themselves, individuals, families, societies and identities living or/and migrating in the Pacific.
As the ocean, the process of naming is a boundlessness area crossing:
– The (still unknown) origins of the Maoris: some Maoris have been struggling to keep their indigenous names while others were “renamed” after colonization and mixed filiations. It appears also that people have western family name but Maori first name, or vice-versa. Then, the resurgence of Maori cultures are leading young generations of renaming themselves with Maori names.
– The inter connections of the people from the Pacific with America, Asia and Europe as continents: as an example, some European families transformed their names when they migrated to the United  States and before arriving in the Pacific archipelagos. Asian communities in China and Japan who migrated by choice and opportunities of job offered by western colonizers saw their names changed or more precisely “distorted” since their names were written (means recreated) phonetically by French or US administrations. Other Asian communities like the Hakka people in French Polynesia tried to preserve their names and cultures, openly or discreetly.
– Illegitimate relations and recreation of mixed families: the Pacific, from the colonization to now, was not only made of an official history of political, administrative and legal administration and governance. So many individuals had illegal love relations (French with indegnous, Chinese with indigenous, indigenous from one locality (New Zealand) with another  indigenous locality (Tahiti). So in the Pacific you can meet people who have a name that is not their real name, but a name coming from another family who adopted the child to hide the illegitimate relation.
– Some of the people in the Pacific have simply… no name

 

Names dropping…
What is in a name? How sounds a name? De-naming? Re-naming? Integrating a name? Alienated by a name? Claiming a name? Original naming?  No naming?
All these questions relate to multiple and complex representations of the Pacific, inside or on the margins of official history. That is the challenge of such research project.
Of course names dropping in the Pacific is not only about the construction of a (sub) history nor an obsession for finding some true origins.
It is an on-going practice of archiving, experiencing, performing, practicing and engaging the Pacific, combining different layers of sounds, texts and images (re)creation, of course connecting with other cultural backgrounds from Asia to Europe, from the Americas to this sea of islands that is the Pacific. 
This project is not (only) a theoretical academic project but it is more an in-between artistic, historical, anthropological, poetical, sonic, visual, theoretical, private/public statements.
In the following texts and images selection, the reader might cross some passages related to my personal story and experience (Larys Frogier aka Ocean) as a mixed Polynesian and displaced person from my childhood to now, having different life journeys from Polynesia to Europe to Asia. Thank you to take such process, not as an “exhibition” of a self-centered story-telling, but more as one voice among multiple other voices and contributors who could/will engage the project.
 

 

Ocean & Wavz, “Lost & Found (Echo)”, 2022, photograph

 

Names dropping in the Pacific is a salty ‘clin d’oeil’ to the real bombs dropping in and looming from the ocean related to the past and contemporary colonial histories, conflicts, reunifications that happened for geopolitical and ideological strategies, exploiting people, building walls of exotic representations, occupying remote, invisible places to make happen the worse of humanity like nuclear explosions (French Polynesia, Marshall islands etc.), war  bombings (Hawai Pearl Harbour, Tahiti). But this project does not limit itself to (post)colonization history. It aims to look (back and forth) to much more complex ancient and current practices of migration from multiple communities. It also observes and questions the contemporary capitalist and communist strategies of economical invasion of territories, destruction of environment and cultures in the Pacific.

 

Following the colonization of the Pacific in the XVIth-XVIIth centuries and since the middle of the XIXth century to now, the Pacific has been the very first and most strategic “crossroad” for experimenting the system of what we call today ‘globalization’ based on profit, commodification, planning, exploitation, creating stereotypes of indigenous people (especially women) to better submit people to Western and Asian continental standards of society, economy and “development”. The invisibility of such tiny archipelagos was and is still very convenient for continental nations to occupy, hide, destroy atolls with nuclear bombings, to deport and to impact people with radioactivity and other diseases, to crush coral reefs and islands, killing life environment for the future decades and centuries.
Needless to say that Globalization is not only a Western practice but nowadays it is also an Asian infiltration with authoritarian systems promising trade, education (well you know what I mean…), financial help (well you know what I mean…), drowning these islands and independent governances with indebtment and ideological submission.

 

I am the fruit of colonialism means I do not belong to any “pure, unique and exclusive” origin. Made of very unbalanced mixtures of Tahitian, European (Danish, German, French, American) and Chinese roots, I am claiming such family history made of displacements and life experiences because it radically changed my understanding of the official history of colonization.
Of course I am and will forever be traumatized with official administrative, religious, economical colonization acts and atrocities. However, I feel also committed into more constructive ways of (re)considering the alternatives impacts of colonization. Indeed, many people and individuals living in the Pacific have reinvented invisible but powerful alternatives of localities based on unexpected combinations: for example forbidden love stories between Polynesian, French, Chinese, American etc. have made possible the emergence of new generations who are very much engaged in more unexpected, opened acts of life, cultural cooperation, artistic creation, bringing with them their own challenges, ideas and creativity. And this is just as precious as the limitative dichotomies about the “colonizer” versus the “colonized”.

 

The origins of the Maoris and Polynesians are very much unknown with many theories still opened to questions. So this add another deep layer in feeling constantly rooted and de-rooted in the same time. For the best… because we are always standing far away from and out of any enclosure of nationalism, localism, regionalism, territorialism, separation between “us” and “them”: I believe into this on going process of change, displacement, re-adaptation. Never integration… Since we are already des-integrated, while keeping safe cultural heritage and preservation of environment and quality of life.

 

In other words, the ocean is our horizon not our land as a property, a nation or a continent. We are not only coming from small islands or archipelagos in the sea but fundamentally from the ocean. Instead of using the Western invented name of the “Pacific”, the anthropologist and poet Epeli Hau o’Faa prefers wording OCEANIA as multiple peoples, movements of the sea, on-going and changing interconnections between (is)lands and seas, non-human elements of the ocean, dense layers of histories and cultural practices. Such position is also quite different from Edouard Glissant’s concept of the archipelagic that is still tied to (is)lands, territories and anthropo centered areas, as well as dependent on or extending from the history of colonization.
Continental men (…) on entering the Pacific after crossing huge expanses of ocean, introduced the view of “islands in a far sea.” (…) I have just the term “ocean peoples” because our ancestors, who had lived in the Pacific for over two thousand years, viewed their world as “a sea of islands” rather than “islands in the sea.(…)
An identity that is grounded in something as vast as the sea should exercise our minds and rekindle in us the spirit that sent our ancestors to explore the oceanic unknown and make it their home, our home. I would like to make it clear at the outset that I am not in any way suggesting cultural homogeneity for our region. Such thing is neither possible nor desirable. Besides, our diversity is necessary for the struggle against the homonegising forces of the global juggernaut.

Epeli Hau’Ofa, We Are the Ocean, 2008, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu, p.32, 42.

 

Photograph taken in 1883 from Caroline atoll, Kiribati, during the total eclipse of the sun.

 

SAVAGE was the name of the boat on which my Danish ancestor named Samuel Brothersen (1825-1915) embarked from the United Kingdom to the United States of America. Once in San Francisco, he changed his name to an American name as Brothers, and he developed with a business partner and friend Joseph Browne a trading company, navigating from North to South, East to West through the Pacific Ocean. He got married with Mary Browne (1845-1934), renaming the schooner MARIA.

 

Samuel and Mary Brothers made several voyages from Tahiti to San Francisco trading import/export of copra from coconut plantations, orange, lime, vanilla, fish, guano fertilizer, pearl shell. During one of their trip, their very young son died of dysentery. Mary was distraught since she had already lost her daughter two years before, committing her body to the sea. So they decided to make a stop on Caroline Atoll part of the Kiribati archipelago, and there they buried the Willy son’s body. A small islet of the Caroline Atoll bore now the name of “Brothers islet”. Captain Samuel and Mary Brothers had eleven children, five of them survived.

 

Following troubles about import/export pearl shell with the young queen of Bora-Bora island – French Polynesia (where was shot the movie TABU by Murnau in 1930), they settled in Fiji in 1875. But during one their trip the boat was sabotaged and sank into deep waters nearby Tahiti. The family lost all and get semi-retirement on Raiatea island French Polynesia, working for the Société Commerciale de l’Océanie (Commercial Society of Oceania). Samuel died in 1915, aged 90 years old, Mary died in 1934; aged 89 years old, both bodies are buried in Papeete-Tahiti French Polynesia.

 
 

Video recording of TARAVA TAHITI REO PAPARA, 2017, who won the first prize for the “Himene Tarava” during the famous yearly HEIVA festival in Tahiti.

 
 

“Himene Tarava” (quirky song) is a traditional way of singing from Polynesia.
The style is started by one person singing a stanza. Other singers gradually join in and rhyme with the person. The men sing in a deep voice for punctuation, while the women sing in a light voice.

 

One of the earliest forms of Himene Tarava originated in 1844 in Tubuai island in the far Austral area of French Polynesia where my Brothers traveled and settled in the Tubuai island.

 

There are different forms of the music in each region.
– In the Windward Islands of Tahiti and Mo’orea, there are five vocal parts of the song.
– The islands of Rimatara and Rurutu use between 10 and 12 vocal parts.
– Raivavae and Rawa have thirteen lines.
Ocean & Wavz, “Lost & Found (Silence)”, 2022, photograph and poem.

 

Which sonic flames for setting fire to my desires?

 

The sliding of our bodies soaked in sweat
A furtive gesture suspended into the unfathomable
The wet tongue of a dog licking my bleeding skin
Words dripping from your lips
That will never be said or heard
The breeze whispering on my blowing hole over the grass
The friction of my hands on your words to milk my rage
Vibrations of the celestial

 

Silence
The media of the social
Endless on line talks
Exposure of knowledge and arrogance
Making me speechless
Narcissistic images
Lectures of power
Deafening anthems of the human
Screens of the obscene

 

My music is a vibration of the unsaid
Pulsating from the deep drums of my ancestors
Who had no text, no book
But contained growling inside their chests
Spreading over the burning waves of the ocean
Louder than the radioactive bombings
Resonating beyond assassinated souls

 

Silence
Is this your house of knowledge?
Putrid rotten concepts
Quoted until nausea and revulsion
Confiscated to comfort an academic position
A non curatorial statement
Followers of the haunting dominant choir
Left is left

 

My books are made of
Coral branches
Blowing multicolored bubbles of air
Thick and heavy algae
Swinging in deep dark waters
Swishing ferns
Dancing under the armpits of rolling cascades

 

Silence
Your obsession with horizontality is highly suspicious to me
Why should there be only verticality or horizontality in this world?
Between us, there is no hurt to fly high, very high
Getting lost in many upside down
Not directions
But energies
Biased, tilted, rounded, melted, stretched, scratched, deepened, cut
Your theories about social equality
Built up the violence of our administrations and bureaucracies
Another tyranny
Undermining the beauty of the politics in dream
And the power of democracy in practice

 

Can you hear
Crawling insects
Millions of fluttering bats
Flying out of millions souls
Echoing our ignominies
Touching the invisible image
Vibrating the inaudible tear?

 

Silence
Eco-system
The word of the world today
Turning any murmur, motion and accident of life
Into a flattened system to be designed, managed, controlled
Eco-dictatorship

 

Poetry
A practice of life
Not a text
A breath
Laughing
Making
Singing
Opening up
Cooking
Pulsating
A word
A letter
An interstice
As a fish
Slipping out in a millisecond
From the iron collar of man’s mind

 

Sand slides in my flesh
A velvet smoke is infiltrating my fluids
At the extreme opposite of rationality
Are rumbling the deep bass
Of the anima

Un-mapping the Pacific

Stick seafarers map named Rebbelib from Marshall islands, mapping of the ocean and islands made with wooden sticks and shells.

 

Rebbelib is a chart system specific to Marshall islands in Micronesia (more than one thousands islands and islets spread across several hundred miles) used by seafarers to navigate with their canoes between the islands. Vertical and horizontal sticks are used as supports while diagonals and curved sticks indicate swells movements and waves. Shells are locating the islands. The charts were memorized and would not be carried on voyages.

 

Te Aurere Waka, reconstructed ancient Polynesian canoe, 2015. Copyrights Te Taka Keegan.

 

Beyond the Rebbelib from the Marshall islands, some studies have been made in the past years to understand how Maori people were traveling without any map. In 1995, Dr. Te Taka Keegan from the University of Waikato, New Zealand, rebuilt with teams of people traditional canoes and travelled from Hawaii to Rarotonga (2,700 miles) using traditional Polynesian techniques of navigation. According to Dr. Te Taka there are three main attributes to Polynesian navigation:
  • To read the waves: most ocean waves (swells) are formed by the wind so always changing accordingly and,  for a professional maori navigator, they are key indicators to constantly pay attention to. Some other ocean waves are main (stable) swells such as the main westerly swell. Interferences of waves and their own patterns are also important since they indicate directions but also tell if the canoe is far from or close to an island.
  • To deduce position, speed and direction:  stars rising up from the horizon are indicators of position and direction. Speed is measured by evaluating the swells with time taken by the (right or wrong position) of the canoe to cover a distance. 
  • To keep the canoe driven during all the journey, means seafarers do not sleep or have alternate from one to another in order to keep going on the observation of the wind, the waves patterns, the swells, the stars and the position/speed of the canoe.  

 

Map or no map? There is no way to privilege neither to oppose here traditionalist, historicist or scientific cartographic approaches. The question is more about different cultural practices and historical backgrounds that contributed to the lives of people on the sea and their interconnection through voyages and migrations.      

 

Diogo Ribero, “Padrón Real”, 1529, the Vatican Library.

 

“Cartography”, from the ancient Greek etymology “paper” and “to write”, is the study of  making and using maps, combining observation, memories, science, fantasies, aesthetics, techniques, practices… The origins and the methods of mapping are not only a “Western” tradition and science but they can be traced in different areas and times like the wall paintings from the 7th millennium in Anatolia or the rock cravings in France from the 4th millennium or the engraved maps found in Babylon from 14th-12th centuries BCE, or the Polynesian ways of mapping and navigating before the western colonization, or the maps found in China from the 5th century BCE and developing from the Han and the Song Dynasties.
The map shown above was made in 1529 by the Portuguese Diogo Ribero who served the Spanish kingdom as an explorer and cartographer, while he also invented some navigation instruments like astrolabs and quadrants. His major work “Padrón Real” is known as the first representation on paper of the Pacific Ocean. But the word “Pacific” was not yet “there”… While the western edge of the ocean was explored since 1513 by the Portuguese followed by the Spanish, it was in 1520 that the explorer Ferdinand Magellan (Portuguese serving under the Spanish monarchy) used for the first time the name “Pacifico” (Peaceful) Ocean to express his feelings of a “calm” sea after going through the stormy and risky Cape Horn that connects the Atlantic to the Pacific.    
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The Ones with No name: A Desire For Anomaly, 2020-2023

The Ones With No Name, A Desire For Anomaly, originates as an artistic project including sonic, visual, textual and performative productions, unfolding on a period of 3 years.

 

As a tribute to those who always fail, by choice or exclusion, to fit a name,
The Ones With No Name starts  with the question of a performative act that cannot be reproduced or be enclosed in an identity, a political system, a language, and that is doomed to disappearance.

 

We are trying to explore and invent alternative ways for infiltrating the order of discourses,  reacting to them from within, and creating counter-representations for the re-imagination of life.

 

The practice of naming is a rich and complex one, holding in itself different layers of name dropping, un-naming, de-naming, re-naming, especially when it refers to a private or collective history, colonization, adoption,  deportation, migration, concentration etc.

 

Working on the artificiality  and the mirroring effect of the image, The Ones With No Name is very much inspired by a « camp attitude » that consist of duplicating, appropriating, over acting representations. The narrative and the form enclosed in the « legitimated », « commodified »  image, often perceived as « natural », suddenly appears as a codified and entirely constructed one because of social norms, intellectual references, artistic disciplines, gender identifications.

 

The Ones With No Name reflects also very intimate feelings during the pandemic, the (self or imposed) quarantines, new arbitrary legislation and regulation that generate a mix of profound isolation, separation, solitude, vertigo, as well as of intense focus on extremely detailed and essential physical percepts, affects and artistic creation.
Thus, the challenge of this project is to translate and to rearticulate these percepts and affects
in a critical, constructive, generous, individual and collective experience.

 

Each occurrence of The Ones With No Name is unique and so aims to be (re)invented according to the specificity of each context.

The Ones With No Name, A Desire For Anomaly takes the forms of 
a sound
a sign 
a space in between 
a silence
a word
a picture
a gap
a montage
a combination
a cut
a noise
a friction
a construction
a blank
a body
a texture
a vibration
a resonance
a soul
a dis/re-appropriation
a trauma
a hope
a whisper
a disappearance
Not…
a video
an installation
a story
a music
a document
a fiction
a cinema genre
a musical genre
a visual display
Occurence #01

 

A black wooden platform (350 x 350 x 50 cm) is covered on its top surface with dark grey tatamis in order to welcome visitors who can gather, rest, chat, as well as read/watch/listen five videos and soundtracks released on 5 horizontal screens disseminated on the platform.

 

The installation is also made of nine linen fabric panels (280 x 100 cm each) suspended from the ceiling to the ground and they are discretely floating around the cubic platform. The blue, grey and beige panels have a quality of transparency and opacity, allowing visitors to see through in and out. Gaps are also managed in between panels so that the structure is freely opened and connected to the surrounding environment.

 

Eight of the nine panels are stitched on both side of the fabric with disseminated words in 6 languages stating “The Ones With No Name”. However, the viewer can rarely catch in one glance the full statements. Gaps, disseminations and combinations of languages are part of the installation. The impossibility to control language substantially acts the “differance” of the writing and reading processes (Jacques Derrida).
The six languages are:
– English: “The Ones With No Name”
– French: “les sans nom”
– Malay: “yang tiada nama”
– Maori (Tahitian):  “o te aita e i’oa”
– Simplified Chinese: “无名者”
– Traditional Chinese:”無名者”.

 

Five videos with five original soundtracks were created in 2021 to be released in loop on the horizontal screens:
(Not) A Vision”, sound composition, poem, video, 08:40
– “Close To Me Against You”, video and real sound capture,
02/21
– “怪獣 Kaijū Forever Remain (PandeMix)”, sound composition, video, 08:12
– “-ism”, sound composition, text, video,
05:25
– “Oblivious”, sound composition, text Universal Declaration of Human Rights, video, 07:19.
The videos are each time made of specific “montage” of image, text and sound related to poetical, mental, social and political situations.
Gaps, ruptures, movements, combinations in between these materials are more important than the simple “animation” or “narration” of a story.
Rawness, (dis)appearance, artificiality of image and text, sonic beats and resonance are also important components of the videos. 
Occurence #02

 

Raw statement or Essay. Please open PDF below.
Occurence #04 (creation on process)

 

Lecture performance with following materials:
– Taiko drum (improvisation)
– Modular synthesizer (improvisation)
– Electronic dj set (prerecorded sound sequences and instruments) remixed and improvised on live
– Recorded voice-off as spoken text fragments
– Projection of fragmented words on screen and body
– White professional choreographic floor covering

– Accessories
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A.C.T. – DEMOC(K)RACY, 2011-2014

 

Art…        Cooperation…      Transmission…

Democ(k)racy

Project

 

With the support of the Culture Program of the European Union
In many European countries, there are signs of withdrawal into separatist identities –
alarming evidence of a crisis of democracy.

 

Europe is now reaching the limits of an economic model which is resulting in
brutal social fragmentation and deepening inequalities between individuals and countries.

 

The conditions required for the exercise of democracy 
are now being suffocated by obsolescent administrative, 
legislative and communication structures.

 

The critical, educational and creative dimensions of art, meanwhile, are fundamental to the development and exercise of democracy.

 

In an era of globalization, 
we believe that difference, discontinuity and contradiction should constantly be cultivated through inter-relating the commonplace and the singular: 
these underpin our representations of reality.
In view of all this, we, the partners in the A.C.T Democ(k)racy project:
. Altart Foundation, Cluj-Napoca – Romania
. École européenne supérieure d’arts de Bretagne – France
. Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow – United Kingdom
. Kultumi Centar Beograda, Belgrade – Serbia
. La Criée contemporary arts centre, Rennes – France
. Onomatopee research centre, Eindhoven – Netherlands
 
. University of arts and design, Cluj-Napoca – Romania

 

uphold the following convictions:
  • In the face of withdrawal into separatist identities, we believe that the ongoing progress of European democracies in the era of globalisation depends on our ability to cultivate a continuous, inter-penetrable, porous dynamic with respect to otherness

     

  • In the face of critical, educational and creative challenges, we believe that art has the capacity to bring historic, cultural and social elements into relationship with each other in order to generate unpredictable representations, unexpected encounters and innovative creations
  • Amid a Culture which is over-administrated and decreasingly inventive, we believe that the vitality of contemporary creativity involves constantly tending a dynamic encompassing tension, transformation and the invention of cultural and artistic projects.
Together, the partners have designed the A.C.T Democ(k)racy project to encourage theoretical research and artistic creativity as tools of critical analysis and inventiveness with regard to new ways of engaging in democracy.
The A.C.T. Democ(k)racy project calls for a permanent commitment in favor of powerful experiments which can contribute to the practice of democracy in both art and thought, particularly by devising constructive attitudes with regard to new cultural challenges, as well as encouraging diversity in aesthetics, thought and culture.
The A.C.T. Democ(k)racy project is passionately in favor of movement, interchange and openness as the prime conditions for the free circulation of ideas and works.