Publications

Fiona Pardington: The Pressure of Sunlight Falling | Edited by Kriselle Baker and Elizabeth Rankin | This book follows the exhibition of these works at the 17th Biennale of Sydney, 2010.

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Fiona Pardington: The Pressure of Sunlight Falling | Edited by Kriselle Baker and Elizabeth Rankin | This book follows the exhibition of these works at the 17th Biennale of Sydney, 2010.

80.00

Published by Otago University Press, June 2011.

340 x 255 mm, hardback, 166 pages, colour throughout with 69 full-page plates

ISBN: 9781877578090

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European explorers of the Pacific in the 18th and early 19th centuries faced the problem of how to describe the people they met and report what they had seen and found. From Cook onwards, any serious expedition included artists and scientists in its ship’s company.

An ambitious journey of the 19th century was the third voyage of the French explorer Dumont d’Urville, from 1837 to 1840. It was just before the invention of photography, when phrenology, the study of people’s skulls, was the latest thing. D’Urville chose to take on the voyage an eminent phrenologist, Pierre-Marie Dumoutier, to preserve likenesses of people by making life casts. When the expedition returned to France, the casts were displayed, and later stored in the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, to be joined eventually by other casts from Dumoutier’s collection.

Fiona Pardington first learnt of the life casts in 2007, when a chance conversation initiated a four-year project. It took her from Auckland to the Musée de l’Homme, as she researched and photographed some of more than fifty casts of Maori, Pacific and European heads. This book publishes these photographs and coincides with the opening of a major travelling exhibition.

The photographs are extraordinarily beautiful, evocative and spiritually powerful images. They recover likenesses and revive the life force of Dumoutier’s subjects, eliciting our empathy and fascination with a world we can never really know.