08 October 2014

mexican magazine front coverA travelling international exhibition curated by UniSA Associate Professor Ian Conrich and UniSA PhD candidate Jennifer Wagner opens in Sydney this week and unlocks how the perceived mysteries of Easter Island have made it a source of popular intrigue.

Easter Island, Myths and Popular Culture opens at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre on October 11. The exhibition examines how different countries have fantasised about Easter Island and why this remote Polynesian land resonates so strongly in western imagination.

Assoc Prof Conrich says that from the centuries-old giant stone statues, the cult of the birdman, the origins of the island’s original inhabitants and their early, still undeciphered, hieroglyphic rongorongo tablets, Easter Island is a place that continues to captivate.

“For the past 70 years or more the island has been a rich source for popular culture with animators, filmmakers and authors attracted to the dramatic possibilities of its perceived enigmas,” Assoc Prof Conrich says.  

“Just look at who has visited the island: Superman, the Incredible Hulk, Indiana Jones, Batman, TinTin, Lara Croft, even Donald Duck and Scooby Doo. The island has been mythologised in board games and in household objects such as cushions, tissue box holders, even tape dispensers.”

The fiction and objects mentioned by Assoc Prof Conrich form part of the 500 item exhibition, which, through an associated series of lectures, animations, films, and discussions will unpack the myths.

Assoc Prof Conrich and Wagner have developed the Easter Island exhibition in such a way that it can also be used as a template from which people can understand the mythology of other places and cultures.

“The mass of mythology and pop culture drawn to the island is a lesson in how countries tend to fantasise about a place they don’t understand,” Assoc Prof Conrich says.

“We have made the exhibition understandable and accessible to everyone, including children, so the language, approach and style will engage people of all ages and we’ve developed an educational kit to help students learn about the island and also understand why its myths endure.

“Our goal is to help people to engage in the understanding of the myths of other cultures as well; using some of the ideas presented in this exhibition to consider distant cultures, including for example ancient Egypt and the First Nation people of North America.”

The exhibition, which was launched at the British Museum, and ran for six months at the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum, in the UK, and six months at the Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo, Norway, will be opened by the Chilean Embassy at Sydney’s Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, on October 11.

Contact for interview: Ian Conrich (0426 976 393) email Ian.Conrich@unisa.edu.au

Media contact: Will Venn office (08) 8302 0096 email will.venn@unisa.edu.au

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