Sydney College of the Arts student Morgan Hogg captivated audiences at her first exhibition at Firstdraft in Woolloomooloo, a space for emerging artists and experimental arts practice. To secure her spot at the artist run initiative, Morgan entered a competition with a video class project on climate change and became the youngest solo artist at the show.
Using digital screens and props such as fresh leaves, flowers, woven mats, and essential oils, Morgan created an immersive experience to construct a compelling narrative about the climate crisis in the Cook Islands and the erosion of heritage and cultural identity.
Morgan’s exhibition titled ‘Enua Mānea, meaning ‘Beautiful Land’, started out as a self-directed Screen Arts class project the Bachelor of Visual Arts student prepared last year while the unit was taught mostly online. The unit covered experimental screen-based media and contemporary art practices, and provided Morgan access to professional studio facilities and equipment. Coupled with a Film Studies double major, Morgan acquired the knowledge and skills needed to create captivating visuals.
She produced a digital film using interviews, newsreels and mobile phone footage to chronicle the climate crisis in the Pacific and the irreversible impacts on its peoples and their rich cultures.
Morgan found inspiration for the project in conversations with her grandmother from the Cook Islands. Her grandmother feared that rising sea levels would not only wipe out sacred land but also lead to the destruction of peoples’ cultures and heritage.
I wanted to educate audiences not only of the ongoing climate crisis within the Pacific, but also to illuminate the loss of culture throughout generations.
A few months later, Morgan entered her Screen Arts project as a proposal for an immersive exhibition at Firstdraft and won. For the public debut of ‘Enua Mānea, Morgan revised her class project to enhance the physical element of the experience using mats, flowers, dance costumes and other props to re-create the Cook Islands’ heritage and culture. Combined with the installation of projectors, linking sound and video, and the help from technical staff, it took two days to bring her display to life.
Attending her own opening night and artist talks was a surreal experience for Morgan. The exhibition sparked a conversation among visitors about the climate crisis in the Pacific and the imminent loss of its cultures.
“The experience has had audiences quite emotional about the climate crisis within the Pacific Islands. It has successfully completed its purpose within this public space”, says Morgan.
The Polynesian sea god Tangaroa’s statement ‘If you look after me, I will look after you’ could be seen as a theme for the exhibition. “We must look after our land and the land will provide for us and continue our story”, Morgan concludes.
Morgan is about to complete her Bachelor of Visual Arts/Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Film studies) next year and hopes to undertake an Honours year and postgraduate studies eventually. Currently she is focused on working on her graduate show but she will continue to propose new works for galleries.
Photo credit: '‘Enua Mānea' at Firstdraft, Woolloomooloo, Sydney. 2021. Provided by the artist.