WOMEN OF THE ISLANDS - MORGAN HOGG
Morgan Hogg is an emerging artist of Cook Island-Australian descent. Drawing from her Kūki Airani heritage, Morgan employs installation and performance as means to visually convey her personal journey of grappling with cultural dislocation and self-identity.
Selected from six finalists, Morgan was awarded the 2023 NSW Visual Arts Fellowship (Emerging) and will use the pretigious $30,000 Fellowship to undertake a self-directed programme to develop her professional practice.
Developed and curated by Artspace, Sydney, works by all six shortlisted artists are featured in the 2023 Visual Arts Fellowship (Emerging) exhibition. The long-running exhibition has earned a reputation as a highlight in the NSW visual arts calendar, showcasing the diverse and exciting talent of a new generation of artists, and helping to launch many careers.
Kia orana Morgan, tell us about yourself
I am a Cook Island-Australian emerging artist living and working on unceded Wangal and Gadigal lands. I utilise installation and performance as visual representations of my own exploration of cultural displacement and identity. Making space within my practice to rely on oral exchange between my mum and family, I aim to continue the story of my ancestry through maintaining traditional practices within my works. In engaging with performance and installation, I try to create spaces of belonging within my institutionalised upbringing in Australia.
I’ve recently completed my double degree in a Bachelor of Visual Arts (First Class Honours) in Screen Arts and a Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Film studies) at Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney. I’ve also been lucky enough to have exhibited and performed works at Firstdraft, Performance Space, Beirut Art Centre, SCA Gallery, PICA, Carriageworks and the Art Gallery of NSW. And most recently been awarded as the recipient for the 2023 NSW Visual Arts Fellowship by Artspace, Create NSW and Carriageworks.
Where does your passion for the arts stem from?
I’ve always loved the way art can make people transport their physical self into a different space. I was in Visual arts throughout High school, continuing to my Visual Arts degree at Sydney College of the Arts. I think it's in our Pasifika bloodline, storytelling, weaving and making are all embedded into us whether we realise it or not. I also think it’s such a beautiful expression of storytelling, through conceptual and material practice we can bring to light contemporary and traditional stories into one space.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
My mum is my biggest inspiration. She is the core reason I make art, as a strong Pasifika woman she will always be someone I look up to, and I feel that people can see that within my work so clearly. She is also my “incognito” collaborator, she’s there with me every step of the way in my arts practice.
In relation to biggest artist inspirations, it has to be all my amazing Pasifika mentors in my life. Salote Tawale, Latai Taumoepeau and Brian Fuata, along with other Pasifika icons like Yuki Kihara and Rosanna Raymond. These artists have paved a line for Pacific Island artists to walk through, and I’m always in awe of them.
Also, I feel inspired always by the arts community. There are so many talented artists and I’m so lucky to just be around these amazing minds.
As a Cook Islands woman, what are some struggles you’ve encountered in putting out your work?
There’s a few struggles with having your work so public. One being that not everyone will get it or understand it. They may not know much about the Cook Islands or the Pacific, or they may think that the way I display my work isn’t the correct way. Overall, not everyone is going to like or understand art, and that’s okay. I think the vulnerability of my practice allows people to see that I’m still learning and growing as a person, through art and community. I think that visibility also sits within this as well. Being extremely visible as someone who is biracial, who wasn’t raised the ‘island way’, it’s extremely intimidating putting work out. But I think that tells a story of its own, of the generations that are living in the diaspora, trying to figure out their placement.
Congratulations on the Fellowship! Can you tell us a bit about the story of your Finals exhibition?
Overall the self-directed fellowship program is called Plastik Island(er) that builds on the importance of traditional followings and knowledge that can be displaced and lost through generational trauma. Plastik Island(er) looks at the name calling that is titled to those who are biracial or were not raised in an oceanic upbringing, and bridging the idea of what being Pacific Islander is.
The practical endeavors will assist with my ongoing research of traditional methods of artmaking. This in particular, the art of the Tivaevae and the integration of generational trauma brought on by the faith of the Christian religion. The motion of carving, by Mike Tavoni, in carving pearl shells that hold the stories of the ocean. Additionally, learning the language as part of this is a large stage of understanding the spiritual storytelling, and the loss of culture and language through generational trauma.
What do you aim to achieve with your storytelling going forward?
I hope to achieve many things from this opportunity.
I aim to work toward the loss of culture between generations and the displacement of identity in living in the diaspora. Working across the Pacific Ocean in this fellowship as an added layer to the project will generate this drive for knowledge that our ancestors handed down for so many centuries. This by working with communities in the Cook Islands and New Zealand to understand my own culture, to then pass down through my art and community work in Australia this knowledge to other Pasifika generations.
And lastly, what is your hope for the future of Cook Islands or Pacific women in the arts?
Pacific women's voices need to be heard, they are the foundation of our collective culture and the reason I make work. I hope we do continue to pass down our stories, culture and language to the future generations, to learn and explore the beauty of the Islands. It’s really a blessing to be Kūki and Pasifika.
I hope that the future of Pasifika artists are bright and welcoming, like it has been for me so far.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity)
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