Morgan Hogg is an artist based on unceded Dharug land. In her video and installation practice, Hogg explores Indigenous perspectives within the Pacific Islands and the cultural impact of the modern-day on traditional standards. Through the perspective of her Indigenous Cook Island and Anglo-Saxon heritage, Hogg’s installations form a visual representation of the ongoing issues within the Pacific Islands and Indigenous cultures in the Southern Hemisphere. To accompany the works released through Suite 7a, Morgan discusses her practice with artist, curator and writer Talia Smith.
Talia Smith: Kia Orana Morgan! The last time I saw you was when I was miming going to sleep because we were at a party, and you were asking me where I was going. Earlier that night you had performed at Firstdraft for their ‘The only thing left is to leave’ evening, you danced as well as had your video showing in the background. I wanted to ask what it is about the tradition of cultural dance that you are drawn to? I know you have been learning since you were young, but it still plays a part in your practice to date.
Morgan Hogg: Kia Orana Talia! Yes! It was an amazing night, so humbled to be a part of the line-up for the live night. I think with traditional cultural dance, it’s the intimate connection that I have to the story that I am drawn to. Being able to use movement as a mode of storytelling. This was something I thought about a lot in the process of making Ariki Vaine, how dance is a universal language that has been passed down by our ancestors. It still plays such a large part in my practice, and I have only just touched the surface of understanding Ura (dance) within that work.
There’s this really beautiful multimedia layering in your work that I feel breaks down ideas of time & history. In particular your work that’s at Hatched at the moment has an installation of water running down a screen, a projection onto that water and then you also perform. It’s like the past/present/future are all existing at once. Can you talk a little about your installs and why they are so layered.
Thank you! I love this nature of the archive and multimedia layering. Coming from a Screen arts background, it’s so interesting to see footage from past lived experiences. I feel like sometimes when we watch films/footage, we transform into another time and space, and I love that people can feel that in my works. Yes, my work Ranginui + Papatūānuku was a very layered work. I think because my understanding of being biracial and coming from a Westernised background, it is essentially a visual representation of this overload of information flowing through my present identity. When it comes to my installation works, I want this intergenerational crossover to happen. I find that with different mediums comes different past lived experiences and it’s a universal way of interacting with the audience. Also from hearing feedback, it’s also creating this safe and inviting space for people to take a minute to really breathe and feel all these ideas of time and history for themselves.
We have spoken together about the dislocation between here (being Australia) and there (being Kuki Airani) quite a bit seeing as how we were both born and raised outside of our ancestral homelands. How do you try to navigate those two ways of being? Of feeling connected to something that is so far away.
This space of dislocation and diaspora has always been on my mind as a part of my identity, growing up in Australia. I have moved around quite a lot, born in Melbourne, moving to Karratha and Newcastle, then to Sydney. Within all those spaces, the dislocation between my Australian identity and Cook Island identity has always been a confusing conversation with myself.
I think navigating my two ways of being really started within high school. The only Pacific Island teacher at the school, Joyce, created a Pacific Island cultural group called the ‘Whanau Group’. Being able to learn more about my culture, as my mum was quite limited at the time on what she wished to share, allowed me to branch out my concept of understanding self.
Spiritually connecting myself to a space, such as Kuki Airani, is difficult as you know. It feels like a home away from home. I think when learning and connecting with people in Sydney that are also in the Pasifika diaspora, it creates this sense of comfort. As well as immersing myself into creative spaces of Polynesian history and art. Within my current research for Honours, I have been working closely with my supervisor, Salote Tawale, and Professor Jioji Ravulo to engage with the diaspora and understanding of Pasifika disconnection to home.
I didn’t realise you’re working with Professor Ravulo, can you elaborate more on his influence on your honours research? (Can you add in his background as in what department he’s in etc).
Professor Jioji Ravulo has been a significant influence on my most recent honours research. He is currently the Professor and Chair of Social Work and Policy Studies in the Sydney School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. He also works closely with the Pacifika community here on Gadigal country as a Pasifika member himself.
I’m currently doing research on the ideas of Polynesian mythology and the post-colonial perspectives of traditional teachings to the Pasifika diaspora here in Australia. When working with Professor Ravulo, his understandings of mislead information of Polynesian culture through the Western frame was evident in his writings. I wanted to find someone who not only works with people like me, wanting to learn more about my culture and traditions, but also someone who has lived in that space.
How do you see the development of your practice from undergrad to now honours?
It’s crazy to really look back to my first year of university, and to see the progression that 4 years can really make. I think I’ve definitely matured around the ideas and concepts of my own art practice and leaned into my understanding of Pasifika communities a lot more. When making my works now, I enjoy the collective nature of creating a work with family and friends.
Also, to think that roughly a year ago was my very first exhibition and the growth that has come out of that experience is such a surreal jump. I think I’m a lot more grateful for what I have around me and it shows a lot within my works.
A lot of people talk about how shows framed around identity are redundant and I somewhat agree with that sentiment. As people of colour, we can speak on many issues from the viewpoint and experience of our identity however identity is also something incredibly important to how we view the world. I wondered how you feel about the term ‘identity’ and maybe unpack that kind of construct and how it appears in your work.
I think to some degree ‘identity’ can be redundant in the frame of art shows. Every person whether POC or not has their own self-awareness and individual viewpoint on the world. What separates my understanding of identity, is the pathways that have led us to where we are now, not how we are seeing the world currently.
Within my practice, I try to engage with my ancestry, of being biracial, born in Australia, part of the Pasifika diaspora. My works really connect with the importance of my ancestors, and the identity that they have brought to me. Through traditional dance and archival footage, I look at how the past reflects the present. Whether that means in identity or in relation to the connections that I have with family and others now.
With identity, we can see multiple outlets and interpretations of the term. However, I feel that with my personal understanding of it, it is a vital aspect of representing those who support me throughout my life.
You’ve spoken about time a lot and especially the importance of your ancestors. I think there’s a beautiful way you honour them in your work, do you see it as a way of kind of communicating with them?
Thank you so much! Yes, there’s this dialogue between my ancestors and I throughout my works. When it comes to being a part of the Pasifika diaspora, a lot of us feel like we are missing a part of us. When I am able to connect with my heritage and culture through performance and archival footage, I do feel like they are watching over me.
It’s this silence between making work and researching, as well as talking to my mum and family, that has really brought me closer to my ancestry. I also think it was when my Aunty passed away in 2020, that I began really digging deeper into understanding connection to ancestry and kindred spirits.
The first work I saw of yours was at Firstdraft and it was the work where you’re speaking with family (your mother?) and footage from the high school climate change protests in Aotearoa. Can you talk a little bit more about that work, Is that something you’d like to return to or is it still woven through the work you make?
That work was called ‘Enua Mānea, it was an installation piece on the cautiousness of climate change in the Pacific and the loss of culture due to these conditions. It was my second-year university assignment, that was originally installed into one of the photo studios on campus. Created mainly within the hard restrictions of covid, which resulted in the use of a lot of archival footage. This was probably what really made me fall in love with the archive.
The interview in the work was with my Nanna and Mum, both from two very different generations growing up in the Pacific. I wanted to generate this conversation between three generations of Pasifika women on the current state of the Pacific Islands. How we all feel, and the next steps for us to take. I sat in my Nanna’s living room with a camera and tripod, and just started to talk to my mum and nanna. I feel like sometimes we can get caught up in the act of filming, so I just talked to them instead of interviewing them. This resulted in raw emotion of their personal perspectives of the changing of climate and loss of culture, and the regret that they have not passing it down to our generation.
I utilise installation as a mode of gathering familial objects and scents, to make the audience feel like they were sitting with us in my Nanna’s house listening to our conversation. Adding in found footage, to really jolt the scene to enforce this idea that climate change is real and is happening around us.
I would love to return to these concepts of climate change and cultural recollection. Although they are woven into my current works, I think I want to continue making art on the changing nature of educating the wider society on climate change, and the ideas around teaching traditions to the next generation.
This is a little cheeky self promo but you are going to be in Performance Spaces Live Dreams evening in June for the theme Distance (curated by me haha). I wondered how you felt your practice overall relates to the theme of distance? I think there is kind of a beautiful ache to your work, an emotional longing and deep respect for culture.
I love a self promo! I’m so excited to be in the lineup for your curated event for Performance Spaces Live Dreams: Distance. I think a lot of my works play with the theme of distance. Growing up, I was very confused on the nature of my cultural identity, and I think within my works there is this sense of longing for my cultural heritage. I’ve always felt like I was missing a part of my identity, until a teacher from my high school, Joyce Valele, educated us on the importance of cultural connection. She created this Pasifika group called the Whanau (family) group and taught us about the songs and dances of the Pacific. This really changed my outlook on family and belonging, and allowed me to really grieve over this emotional longing for cultural acceptance.
As someone who is biracial, I know I will always have this distance between my Cook Island heritage and my Pakeha heritage. I think as I have grown over the years, It shows within my works that I will always incorporate this language barrier between my Mum and I, and that is the distance that I want to keep play with into this work for Live Dreams.
What plans do you have for the rest of the year and 2023? Other than finishing honours ;)
Well, I just got back from Perth for the Hatched National Graduate Show, which was amazing!
I’m also going to be featured on FBi Radio’s Canvas podcast toward the end of May, talking on the work I just performed at First Draft. With the Live Dreams performance coming up right after.
I think for a while, I’d like to just experiment with mediums and find my common denominator for all my installation works. I have been thinking of one or two more works in progress, but we will see if that progresses onwards or is still for now.
This is random but I’m interested in an artwork that has really inspired or influenced you. One that you think about often.
Vernon Ah Kee’s Tall Man (2010) was one of the main reasons I make video works. That work made me understand why art can speak. It was the reason I created ‘Enua Mānea, and the reason I continue to work with the emotional aspects of culture today. Ah Kee created a space that allowed the audience to feel like they were a part of the scene in Palm Island, and that is something I want the audience to feel within my work. To make them transport into another space completely and to feel every emotion they can in that secure space.
Meitaki Morgan, I can’t wait to see final honours project.
Meitaki Mata’a Talia!