Aotearoa New Zealand's EyeContact on artist Visesio Siasau's new paintings
The notion of Te Korekore may have been receding into obscurity in Aotearoa, but in the wananga of Europe a very similar idea was fascinating young intellectuals. Before the war the German theologian-turned-philosopher Martin Heidegger had claimed that the ‘question of Being’ had gone unasked for two and a half thousand years in the West. Heidegger complained that, ever since the time of Plato and Socrates, philosophers had confused Being with beings. Instead of wondering why and how anything at all existed, they had either taken existence for granted or appealed to some super-entity - Plato’s Forms, or the Christian God, or a scientific equation - to explain it. Heidegger insisted that Being was something different to ordinary beings, something close to and yet separate from the world.
On the other hand, Siasau’s new paintings are an attempt to remind his viewers of ‘Uli ‘uli va, the void that was pivotal to pre-Christian Tongan understandings of the universe.
Like Maori Marsden’s Te Korekore and Heidegger’s Being, ‘Uli ‘uli va is paradoxical. It allows beings to exist, but it does not exist in the way that a being exists. If we try too hard to describe it, in paint or in words, then it recedes.