Votes for Women

A Young Polynesian Considers Cultural Imperialism Before She Goes to the Disco

Alexis Hunter

A Young Polynesian Considers Cultural Imperialism Before She Goes to the Disco

Colour Xerox prints in artist's frames

109.4 x 47.1 cms (42.99 x 18.51 ins)

1981

HC 11486

Provenance

Edward Totah Gallery, London.
Private Collection

Exhibited

London, Edward Totah Gallery, Alexis Hunter: Photographic Narrative Sequences, 1981
Auckland, Tivoli, Alexis Hunter 1948-2014: A Tribute, 2014 (another version exhibited).

Literature

Lucy Lippard (ed.), Issue: Social strategies by women artists, exh. cat., London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1980 (another version illustrated, unpaged).
London, Edward Totah Gallery, "Hands On" in Alexis Hunter: Photographic narrative sequences, 1981 (illustrated, p. 33).

Signed and dated 'Alexis Hunter 1981' (lower right of third panel)

12 Colour Xerox prints mounted together in three artist's frames

each image: 7 x 9 7/8in. (17.8 x 25cm.)
each panel: 43 1/8 x 18 (109.4 x 47.1cm.)

A radical and provocative artist fighting for social change, Alexis Hunter was featured in multiple exhibitions on feminist art curated in the 1980s by the famous art critic Lucy Lippard, alongside artists such as Jenny Holzer and Mary Kelly.

A Young Polynesian Considers Cultural Imperialism Before She Goes to the Disco is a photographic narrative sequence, the most iconic of Hunter's output. Over a series of twelve closely-cropped vignettes, the artist portrays a young woman trying on jewellery. Using the bright saturated colour of commercial advertising, Hunter seeks to evoke the tropes of consumerism - yet unlike the smiling, self-satisfied models of commercial advertising, the subject is sullen and distrustful. Exploring the intersection between racial and cultural identities, this work is a historical document of the passions and tensions of activist art.

Lucy Lippard, the eminent feminist art writer, discusses the present work in her essay for the catalogue of Hunter's exhibition of these multiple works:

"Certainly Hunter herself has agonized over the problem of whether the work is legible, and to whom, and how it can be interpreted. In A Young Polynesian Considers Cultural Imperialism Before She Goes to the Disco, for instance, one would not know without an explanatory caption that a white hand was offering a Maori girl some jewelry to go out in, and the girl was throwing it back at the donor. The long title is a shortcut to the content; the form -- the harshly contrasting colour and confrontational closeups - gives a similar clue. But the facts outlined above are not accessible. Nor perhaps are they finally accessible except to a Pakeha from New Zealand. Hunter has written about returning last year to her home and realising that the honest egalitarian socialist ideals that the settlers had brought with them had created an 'ogre of 'normality.' If you don't want the suburban house with venetian blinds and the half-acre of prickly grass to mow on Saturday mornings they make you feel as if you are mad or a bit strange at least. And of course Maoris have their own way of life which horrifies the white bourgeoisie, so Maoris are only accepted when they take on the trappings of a consumer lifestyle. Polynesian women have to fight for respect for their culture but also at the same time combat old patriarchal values that reside within it, as well as those within the dominant European culture. As a Colonist who is also a woman artist and an outsider to the dominant value system, Hunter identifies with the Maori woman." Lucy Lippard, "Hands On" in Alexis Hunter. Photographic Narrative Sequences, London, 1981.

Alexis Hunter

A Young Polynesian Considers Cultural Imperialism Before She Goes to the Disco

Colour Xerox prints in artist's frames

109.4 x 47.1 cms (42.99 x 18.51 ins)

1981

HC 11486

All images © the artist or copyright holder | Website © The Hyman Collection 2019