Some years ago I stumbled upon and straight into the bliss of the tropical paradise when setting foot in a Tiki bar for the first time. The story behind this enchanting pop cultural institution unfolded a history of colonial power, cultural appropriation and hegemonies.
My work investigates the western construction of the tropical paradise and the power relations that it is built upon. I process my own attraction towards the tropical paradise and adress how eurocentric narratives have been depicting Oceanic cultures, people and environments in Western popular culture such as the Tiki bar. The project is based on research of the colonial history of European presence in Oceania and how those events intertwine with our ideas of an earthly paradise today. I make objects, scenes and performances to put these ideas into context and position myself as part the problem.
Civilization Bar, an installation building on the same arrangement as a traditional Tiki bar is an attempt to use the colonial gaze that constructed the tropical paradise and turn it back on the west and its history, percieving it as something ‘other’. In it, I use materials, objects, history, symbols and aestethics that I associate with the Western World to depict it. In my previous work I’ve run a pseudo Tiki bar called Sunset Seb’s. The objects I made for that bar, including cocktail mugs, memorabila and a bust of Donn Beach, founding father of the Tiki bar now fills the shipping crates that supports the marble bar of the Civilization Bar. Behind its seductive aestethics and thirst quenching drinks, I want it to be a place of reflection. What structures and history does phenomenons like these build upon and continue to maintain?
Photography by Albin Händig