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Waking up the objects

Michel Tuffery talks to curator Sean Mallon about his upbringing, artistic beginnings, and his multi-media works.

<P>The artist Michel Tuffery was born in Wellington, New Zealand, to a Samoan mother and Rarotongan and Tahitian father. Since the late 1980s, he has exhibited in New Zealand and internationally. I have always been impressed by the range of skills Michel brings to his practice. He works across a range of media, including printmaking, painting, sculpture, set design, and performance pieces. However, he is not an artist to closet himself away in a studio. I have found him to be a generous collaborator who often involves curators, other artists, and communities in the conception of a work through to its display. </P> <P data-associrn="235630"></P> <P>Early on in his career, Michel focussed on environmental concerns in the Pacific Islands, and Te Papa was fortunate to acquire some key sculptures from this period for our collections. His recent works, notably his landmark project <EM>First Contact</EM> (2004), signal a change of focus. They address aspects of history in the Pacific region, reflecting particularly on cross-cultural encounters between Pacific Islanders and Europeans – from the meeting between the British explorer James Cook and Tupaia of Ra‘iatea in the late 1700s to the German colonial presence in Samoa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Michel reminds us that Pacific peoples and Europeans experienced ‘first contact’ not at a single moment in time, but rather in many moments, across decades and generations, and in ways specific to the circumstances of different locations. Likewise, Michel is informed by many meetings, many moments of contact. He travels extensively around the Pacific and is a regular explorer of museum collections around the world, including Te Papa’s. </P> <P>This interview was recorded in Te Papa’s Pacific Cultures collection store in late 2012. In it, I speak to Michel about his work on the multimedia projects <EM>Povi Tau Vaga</EM> (The Challenge) (2:17), <EM>First Contact</EM> (5:12), <EM>Siamani Samoa</EM> (10:33), and a series of original postage stamps commissioned by New Zealand Post (18:48). (Total runtime 23:10)</P> <P>Recorded in 2012</P> <P>Media courtesy of the artist, Michel Tuffery © 2012 </P> <P>Videographer Darren Foster, Nektar Films, Wellington, Aotearoa NZ</P> <P data-associrn="1384865"></P> <P>&nbsp;</P>
Still from Waking up the objects; interview with Michel Tuffery

Still from Waking up the objects; interview with Michel Tuffery


Michel Tuffery, Pisupo lua afe (Corned beef 2000), 1994,
Purchased 1995 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
© Reproduced courtesy of the Artist, Michel Tuffery
Full object info is available on