So many cool things — Honolulu Biennial 2017

You may have noticed the captivating art installations popping up all over town. They are part of Honolulu Biennial 2017, which celebrates and focuses on art from the Pacific, Asia, and the Americas. In all, 33 artists are presenting compelling artwork to shed light on local and international issues such as the environment, society, and culture.

At The Hub, one of the hot spots of the celebration, the art installations represent issues such as nuclear testing in French Polynesia, the Fukushima nuclear explosion, and global mass migrations due to water shortages and rising oceans.

“The installations are incredible; this has been one of the most intriguing and fascinating events I have ever participated in,”
said Josh Nye, part owner of Honolulu Box Office

Patrons wander in and immediately begin to look around – the walls, the floors, the ceilings – are all covered with gorgeous imagery, including living paintings growing from fungi and coral, archived and recent video footage, and photography.

“I really liked A Study of a Samoan Savage by Yuki Kihara,” said patron, Gigi Glover. “[It] was impactful and beautiful because it highlighted the objectification of Polynesian people.”

Target Island from New Zealander Brett Graham is a poignant installation, whose title comes from the name given to Kaho`olawe, the Hawaiian Island which was used for bombing practice for the United States Armed Forces from 1925-1990.

“Many think it’s old news, because in many ways the island has been repatriated, but it will never be inhabitable again, and we are still dropping bombs…in fact, the U.S. has dropped more bombs on the Hawaiian Islands than Japan dropped on Pearl Harbor,” Glover said.

TeamLab’s Graffiti Nature is one of the coolest exhibits at The Hub. The lab is a blacked-out room with heavy curtains used for the main entrance. The first thing people will notice is a giant colorful whale that seemingly floats across the floor moving toward them. The whale seemingly swims closer and closer and then veers away while keeping an eye on the person; he seems to smile as he swims away. Next, white and blue frogs hop across the floor, a rainbow-colored crocodile slithers around the room, big neon-colored geckos pop out of the corners, and flowers begin to sprout up wherever one lingers too long.

“Patrons can grab a clipboard and color in their own animals; the exhibit attendant then scans them into a machine and the animals start to appear in the room. The vibrant animals come to life with the help of several projectors that keep the room alive for all to enjoy. There really is something for everyone,” Nye said.

“I wanted to go because it’s a wonderful opportunity to see art we don’t normally see here in Honolulu,” Glover said.

She heard about the event from friend who is a local ceramics artist. “I had no idea what to expect…I just knew there were a number of locations around town,” she said. “I want to go again and again, and I want to go to different venues as well.”

And there are eight other venues exhibiting these incredible works of art throughout Honolulu.

At Ward Village, outside of the old IBM building, artist Choi Jeong Hwa installed Breathing Flower, an enormous inflatable lotus blossom that blooms and closes. One of the popular Foster Botanical Garden exhibits is Andrew Binkley’s inflatable Stone Cloud, which is a boulder that floats in the air like a cloud.

In Waikiki, visit the Hawai`i Prince Hotel to take in another amazing hanging sculpture by artist Kaili Chun. Hulali I Ka Lā is made up of 850 copper fish forms and represents individual hinana, post-larval goby fish that once flourished in the nearby Pi`inaio Stream.

At Shangri La, Eko Nugroho’s works Above the Wall Under the Rainbow and Free Air invite reflection of everyday realities and global issues in a time of divisions and turmoil. At the heart of his playful and jubilant paintings lie profound global issues the artist invites his viewers to contemplate.

In addition to the installations around town, there is also a public program which includes art talks, docent led tours, Biennial and community-focused talks, keiki workshops and more. “There is so much to see and do around Honolulu during the Biennial celebration, and it’s a great chance for people to get out into their community and see what’s happening, how others are getting involved,” said Nye.

Honolulu Biennial 2017 runs through May 8, and there are nine venues to visit: The Hub at Ward Village, Honolulu Museum of Art, Ward Village (IBM Building), Honolulu Hale, Foster Botanical Garden, Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, The ARTS at Marks Garage, Hawai`i Prince Hotel Waikiki, and Shangri La Center for Islamic Arts and Cultures. Admission to many of the locations is free, and there are discounts available at most other venues. For more detailed pricing and additional information, please visit

Story and photo by Steffanie Sobitz