09. The Pacific, Art & Humanities

AP Art History: Theories and Interpretations of Pacific Art

AP Art History: Theories and Interpretations of Pacific Art
*Note: The enduring “Enduring understanding,” “Learning Objective,” & “Essential Knowledge” language comes from the 2019 AP Art History Curriculum and Exam Guide.

Enduring Understanding: The study of art history is shaped by different theories and interpretations of art and art making that change over time. These theories and interpretations may be generated both by visual analysis of works of art and by scholarship that may be affected by factors including, but not limited to, other disciplines, available technology, and the availability of evidence.

Learning Objective: Explain how theories and interpretations of works of art are shaped by visual analysis as well as by other disciplines, technology, or the availability of evidence.

Essential Knowledge: The study of art history is shaped by different theories and interpretations of art and art making that change over time and may be generated both by visual analysis as well as by scholarship. These theories and interpretations may be used, harnessed, manipulated, and adapted in order to make an art-historical argument about a work or a group of works of art. The arts of the Pacific are expressions of beliefs, social relations, essential truths, and compendia of information held by designated members of society.

Essential Knowledge: The acts of creation, performance, and even destruction of a mask, costume, or installation often carry the meaning of the work of art (instead of the object itself carrying the meaning). Meaning is communicated at the time of the work’s appearance, as well as in the future when the work, or the context of its appearance, is recalled. This sort of memory is evoked through the presentation of primordial forms such as cultural heroes, founding ancestors, or totemic animals in order to reaffirm shared values and important truths. In some instances the memory is created and performed, and then the objects that appeared in those processes are destroyed, leaving a new iteration of the memory.

Performance & art:

    • 215. ‘Ahu ‘ula (feather cape). Hawaiian. Late 18th century CE. Feathers and fiber.
    • 218. Buk (mask). Torres Strait. Mid- to late 19th century CE. Turtle shell, wood, fiber, feathers, and shell.
    • 222. Malagan display and mask. New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea. c. 20th century CE. Wood, pigment, fiber, and shell.
    • 223. Presentation of Fijian mats and tapa cloths to Queen Elizabeth II. Fiji, Polynesia. 1953 CE. Multimedia performance (costume; cosmetics, including scent; chant; movement; and pandanus fiber/hibiscus fiber mats), photographic documentation.

Ancestor, heroes, totemic animals in art:

Suggested Artworks:

  • 213. Nan Madol. Pohnpei, Micronesia. Saudeleur Dynasty. c. 700–1600 CE. Basalt boulders and prismatic columns.
  • 214. Moai on platform (ahu). Rapa Nui (Easter Island). c. 1100–1600 CE. Volcanic tuff figures on basalt base.
  • 222. Malagan display and mask. New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea. c. 20th century CE. Wood, pigment, fiber, and shell.

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