HBF introduced the concept of Honolulu Biennial, a signature arts event to a local and visiting audience with a preview exhibition, Chain of Fire: The Prologue Exhibition for the Honolulu Biennial, co-presented by Hawai’i International Film Festival, which occurred between October 30 - November 9, 2014, in Our Kaka’ako.

Curatorial brief

Chain of Fire is an exhibition based on the global elaboration of active volcanic belts within which Hawai'i is considered a volcanic hotspot, and a trope that links the geo-cultural origins of the artists exhibited. Central issues addressed include sustainability, natural disasters, economic disparities, and the squandering and abuse of natural resources, all highlighting the certainty that local disturbances can have global repercussions.

The performative photographic works by Shigeyuki Kihara reveal Samoa’s colonial past, underscore the aftermath of natural disasters, and interrogate notions and definitions of “paradise.” Further commenting on the voyeuristic gaze of "paradise" with direct Hawai’i references, both Adrienne Keahi Pao’s photographic series and Drew Broderick’s site-specific, mixed-media installation critique the commercial framing of Hawai'i, raising questions on the conflicted relationship between the commodification of culture and economic dependency on the visitor industry.

Issues of water and human intervention are confronted in Arahmaiani’s dramatic floor projection, and dystopian issues are similarly addressed by Sama Alshaibi’s multi-media installation remarking on access to fresh water, reflecting on the shared histories in North Africa and West Asia, and asserting how rising sea levels are affecting island nations, such as the Maldives. The video environment created by Bahar Behbahani and Almagul Menlibayeva also address shared histories, specifically the commonalities between cultural traditions of bordering  Kazakhstan and Iran, and the impact of their opaque dialogues on economic development and globalization. Addressing parallel concerns on another part of the globe, the projected video work by Mark Salvatus accents the magnitude of the global remittance economy in the Philippines linked to the plight of the foreign domestic worker.

Hasan Elahi presents a site-specific new media installation, using footage taken on Big Island’s Mauna Kea, examining the relationship between surveillance and individuals, questioning the power dynamics between the watcher and the watched. Comparably dealing with macro-micro perspectives but on a human body scale and through the senses, Pas de Chocolat’s Kyle and Cara Oba create an interactive, immersive multisensory environment that challenges one’s awareness, location, and orientation in space.

Participating artists

Arahmaiani (Indonesia)

Sama Alshaibi (Iraq/Palestine/USA)

Bahar Behbahani (Iran/USA)

Drew Broderick (Hawai’i/USA)

Pas de Chocolat (Hawai’i/USA)

Hasan Elahi (Bangladesh/USA)

Shigeyuki Kihara (Samoa/New Zealand)

Almagul Menlibayeva (Kazakhstan)

Adrienne Keahi Pao (Hawai’i/USA)

Mark Salvatus (Philippines)

Chain of Fire Booklet Cover