Dr. Sean Connelly (b. 1984, Hawai‘i) is a Pacific Islander American1 artist in Honolulu, O‘ahu where he/they were born and still lives and works. Sean creates work that focuses on material, place, and time. Sean works primarily in sculpture, architecture, installation, and film, incorporating experimental methodologies around cartography, land art, design theory, architectural history, urban sociology, ecology, information analysis, and other functional arts.
Through their work Sean smartly creates clarity around the physical and spiritual conditions of the built environment. Sean engages the built environment and its effects on their community to decolonize and address the traumas of settler colonialism, militarization, and modernism embedded physically in the environment in architecture and in everyday life. Through their own oral history and unique geo-perception of the environment, Sean aims to liberate the experiences that transform individual and collective responsibility into real sensation, cognition, intergenerational transfer, genealogy, deep ecology, global positioning, mystic alignment, healing, futurism, spatial justice—the list continues onward in conversation.
Sean splits their time between Honolulu and New York, North America, and works globally. Sean acknowledges the creative and scholarly community of Hawai‘i as the biggest place on Earth. Professionally, Sean operates under the imprint AFTEROCEANIC and directs a range of client-based and parainstitutional grassroots projects as a Pacific laboratory for applied theory and culture in design and built environments. Sean describes their work as a next-generation activist-driven creative social practice in architecture. Academically, Sean currently serves as an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and has designed and taught courses at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and Harvard University. Sean holds a Doctorate in Architecture from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and a Master in Design from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Sean’s work has been supported by numerous residencies around the world, exhibited by museums and institutions nationally and internationally, and has been published and cited in multiple scholarly works. These include Art Journal, BLDGBLOG, Creative Capital, E-Flux, Guggenheim, Hawai‘i Journal of History, Honolulu Museum of Art, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Merwin Conservancy, MoMA, MIT Press, New York Times, NTUCCA Singapore, Pacific Arts Journal, PIN-UP, Places Journal, Santa Fe Art Institute, Sundance Institute, Variety, and more.
As an artist, I identify as an expert witness geomancer mystic. The root of my skill and perspective involves my experience and expertise in the placement and arrangement of objects, buildings, and sites as it concerns health and legal harm. This work is informed through my processing and interpretation of my experience in the context of rethinking history and data as it corresponds to ground and all relevant dynamics like air and water. Art encompasses notions of form, cycle, gradient, and interaction. Architecture is a pathway to study the built-environment in terms of material, system, ecology, and justice. Practice is a venue for criticism to create tremendous potential to query and convey healing society, mind, and environment as they occur in time and in space.
I appreciate Earth as a direct source of data and power. Mapping is a strategic process to visualize and speculate form and its formations, in and over time while radical and challenging concepts of history and social relations are ecological venues for resurgence of native daily life from creation chants to cybernetics. Site, archive, technology, and ceremony are the basis for dialog, reinvention, and the advancement of justice. Emotional affect is achieved in the material and geometric craft of form.
My commitment to the pedagogy and practice of design is informed by my humble role as an accomplice in environmental, social, political, racial, and cultural justice and change. My commitment is developed through conversations and a soft range of experience in activism across different fields of solidarity, as is the network of my family, mentors, friends, and acquaintances whom I remember fondly. With teaching, I am interested in expanding boundaries through at least four synergistic goals:
︎ Heighten creative intelligence as a method for leadership and entrepreneurship to produce works in art and design that renegotiate and reconnect ecology, science, culture, and economics in ways that challenge and provide mediums for people to fulfill diverse needs and aspirations.
︎ Embolden art and design as events of activism and inspired change, as works that engage attention spans and organize new pathways to confront and heal the injustices of obsolete design.
︎ Recover marginalized histories that hold the insights for creative change.
︎ Shift perspectives and possibilities critically through creative research and speculation to uncover the range of issues at the forefront of environmental change, justice, and regained delight.
Acknowledging the constraints of my identity in service to myself and others, I believe in an approach to learning and collaboration that is achieved through active vulnerability, listening, learning, and allied action. My practice is about continuity in acknowledging those around me, those who came before, and those who will rise after.
1. For an opportunity to expand upon how I identify as Pacific Islander American—I am a ghost in the field; a queer, diasporic white-passing person-of-color, local settler grandchild of immigrants raised in a matriarchal, culturally Ilocano, Hawaiian, Hispanic and Caucasian family from Honolulu, Hawai‘i. My immediate family is Illocano/Native Hawaiian, but I myself am not Native Hawaiian. When necessary, I related to my identity as Indigenous through my panoceania Illocano diasporic; Pacific Islander American. In the contemporary working context of my history and identity as an artist exploring concepts of the oceanic, I do not personally consider Ilocano or Pacific Islander as Asian, although it may be appropriate for others to claim as such. I also choose not to utilize the concept of Filipino in the acute instance of my personal history as I reframe and rethink the ways in which the categorization of Filipino were forced upon my grandparents in the erasure of their culture, and fact that they were actually born into an American insular territory under occupation after centuries of Spanish rule. The diaspora of my grandparents to Hawai‘i from both sides of the Pacific relates to my resolving intergenerational traumas rooted in one of the oldest, longest periods of colonization in the history of the planet as a place occupied by Spain, and eventually the United States in 1898, and finally Japan in WWII, after which my Illocano-American grandparents left for a concept of a better life and in the process became Filipino-American in Hawai‘i.
Integrating personal genealogical research and somatics, I have evolved to consider the concept of Pacific Islander to reference both the notion of a contemporary Oceania that rightfully excludes Islands Southeast Asia (but often includes Australia), as compared to one that references the concept of Pacific Islander to include reference to ancestral Oceania, near and far, inclusive of Islands Southeast Asia, and across the Austronesian language family, across from Madagascar to the North and South America, including the arctic. I self-identify as Pacific Islander American very specifically to acknowledge my genealogy amid hundreds of years of history of diaspora resulting from the European colonialism of the Americas and the Pacific, and this imperialism continued via military occupation of the United States, and amid the conditions, constraints, and contributions of being born and raised in Hawai‘i. I also acknowledge my agency to continue to rethink and evolve the way I interface my identity within my own local communities versus those communities beyond.
*CV Available upon request.