Editor’s Picks: What to See at the Hawai‘i Contemporary Art Summit

Hawai‘i Contemporary Art Summit
Image Courtesy of Hawai‘i Contemporary

The inaugural Hawai‘i Contemporary Art Summit brings together local and global voices for a virtual multi-day series. The Flux Hawai‘i creative team highlights their most anticipated events from this year’s line-up.

When the pandemic struck early last year, much of Hawai‘i’s events were thrown into uncertainty. For Honolulu’s art scene in particular, many were forced to reconfigure whole shows and exhibits into digital iterations. But it’s not always so easy to render the emotional impact of witnessing a live performance or of scrutinizing a piece of art onto the virtual sphere. There is a lot that can be lost in translation.

Despite this hurdle, the team behind Hawai‘i Contemporary has found a way to host an event that is both meaningful and impactful, stimulating interconnectedness even as the pandemic keeps us apart.


Register and watch the free event here: https://hawaiicontemporary.org/art-summit


From February 10th to the 13th, Hawai‘i Contemporary’s inaugural Art Summit 2021 will bring together local and global artists, thinkers, and voices. The multi-day series features keynote conversations from the likes of internationally renowned artists Ai Weiwei and Theaster Gates and scholar Homi K. Bhabha. These presentations are further punctuated by live sessions with some of the most engaging minds of today, including poet and activist Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio and the art duo Kapulani Landgraf and Mark Hamasaki, also known as Piliāmo‘o.

Designed as a cross-circulation of meaning and knowledge, the Art Summit lays the groundwork for the forthcoming Hawai‘i Triennial (HT22), which will be staged across Honolulu’s museums and public spaces under the heading of a “Pacific Century – E Ho‘omau no Moananuiākea,” revisiting art and history from a fresh perspective.

This impressive line-up of multigenerational artists, activists, curator, filmmakers, and performers showcases the potential that virtual events like the Art Summit possess. It also exhibits how crucial art and discourse is in helping us make sense of a world that is in flux.

Free and open to the public, the Art Summit’s programming tackles a wide range of topics, from Pacific interconnectedness and activism to indigenous knowledge and social practice. Below, the Flux Hawai‘i creative team highlights their most anticipated events from Art Summit 2021.


The Radical Poeticism of the Karrabing Film Collective

Wednesday, February 10

Elizabeth A. Povinelli (founding member) shares a visual essay on toxic sovereignties, reclamation, and the stakes of staying connected to ancestral places. 

Still from The Jealous One (2017)

Since forming in 2008, the Karrabing Film Collective has cultivated a unique sense to filmmaking. The group consists of approximately 30 intergenerational artists and filmmakers, most of whom are indigenous to the Northern Territory of Australia. It is from this sense of place that they take their name (karrabing in the Emmiyengal language means tide out), and where they take inspiration for their films.

Adopting an approach they have dubbed “improvisational realism” the collective’s films tackle the myriad of issues that colonization’s long shadow casts. It would be a disservice to simply summarize one of their films, for they often defy genre and expectations. —Eunica Escalante, associate editor


Scholar Homi K. Bhabha on Cultural In-Betweenness

Thursday, February 11

Hawai‘i Contemporary Art Summit
Image by Stephanie Mitchell

Among the many talks I’m looking forward to is the conversation on cultural in-betweenness with Homi K. Bhabha. In many ways, the pandemic has accelerated the cultural exchanges already proliferating in today’s world as a result of technology and globalization.

This summit, an entirely virtual event, is a perfect example. I’m interested to hear how Bhabha’s “third space” theory—that a new, hybrid sense of meaning or identity is fluidly created and recreated when disparate cultural ideologies collide—continues to take on new meaning in our digital age. —Lauren McNally, managing editor


Cultivating Space with Artist Theaster Gates

Friday, February 12

Image by John R. Boehm

It’s impossible to listen to Theaster Gates and not imagine how one might translate his philosophies and practices around preservation and urban planning to your own local community (for a primer, check out the episode featuring Gates on Apple TV’s Home). I’m certain his keynote will spark ideas in all of us on the potential of making and holding similar spaces in Honolulu and across the islands. —Matthew Dekneef, editorial director


An Urgent Discussion on Social Justice and Climate Change

Saturday, February 13th

Hawai‘i Contemporary Art Summit
Image by Elizabeth Soto

To the poets, the artists, the problem solvers, the climate change warriors, join us on day four of the Art Summit and witness a conversation between Jamaica Osorio and Mari Matsuda on people movements. In the midst of Covid-19, mass violence and climate catastrophe what can we do to grab people by the heart to stand up and make a better world?! Stay tuned. —Ara Laylo, creative director 


Unpacking the Art Summit with Akiemi Glenn and Céline Semaan-Vernon

Saturday, February 13th

Image by Chris Rohrer

I’ve been following Slow Factory Foundation since studying sustainability a couple years back, and deeply appreciate the emphasis on social justice that Céline Semaan-Vernon and Slow Factory Foundation bring to the sustainability world. I’m excited to hear what she and Akiemi Glenn end up discussing. —Anna Harmon, national editor 

The Art Summit is free and open to the public. Registration is required. View the full program.