Small island ecologies, climate change, queer rights, Gauguin’s gaze, intersectionality and decolonization; these are just some of the topics explored by award-winning interdisciplinary artist Yuki Kihara for the New Zealand pavilion at the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia (Biennale Arte 2022).
Paradise Camp is Kihara’s politically urgent and creatively astute project curated by Natalie King, and will be exhibited in a central location in the Arsenale.
Kihara notes, “Eight years in the making, the exhibition explores the ongoing Sāmoa-New Zealand relations from a Fa’afafine (Sāmoa’s ʻthird gender’) perspective. Paradise Camp was first inspired by an essay by Ngahuia Te Awekotuku presented at the Paul Gauguin Symposium held at the Auckland Art Gallery in 1992, and was further developed after viewing Gauguin paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York on the occasion of my solo exhibition at the MET in 2008.”
As the first artist from New Zealand to present at the Biennale Arte who is Pasifika, Asian and Fa’afafine, Kihara has a capacious vision for the project and works across archival research, photography, video and socially engaged methods in Paradise Camp.
Shot and filmed on location in Upolu Island, Sāmoa, Paradise Camp features a local cast and crew of over 80 people. In addition, Kihara worked closely with the Fa’afafine community to produce a new body of work that eloquently and provocatively investigates a range of critical issues, including the intertwinements of colonisation, intersectionality and climate catastrophe that impacts her community.
Caren Rangi, Commissioner of New Zealand’s presentation at the Biennale Arte 2022 and Chair of the Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa says, “The selection of Yuki was a significant one, highlighting that we are overdue to be including Pacific Indigenous perspectives in global dialogues. We’re thrilled to be able to share this information now. Biennale Arte (the Venice Biennale) provides an exceptional opportunity for international exposure for New Zealand art and our artists to showcase their work on the world cultural stage.”
With a growing reputation for work that is conceptually engaging, visually compelling and topical, Kihara’s exhibition is told through the unique lens of Fa’afafine. Kihara draws on often untold, marginalized histories of her Faʻafafine community in Sāmoa and highlights New Zealand’s historical and ongoing social, political and cultural engagement with the Pacific.
Curator Natalie King says, “Paradise Camp is an ensemble exhibition conceived for the Biennale Arte 2022. Kihara narrates stories of invasion and prejudice and in so doing takes the tempo of our times by unravelling colonial histories linked with gender politics and environmental concerns.”
Due to the ongoing impacts and uncertainty of COVID-19, the Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa will not be sending attendants or other staff from New Zealand to Venice – it will instead support a small delegation to attend the media preview in Venice. The exhibition will be installed in Venice and maintained by a locally employed team and will have a digital component to allow overseas audiences, including New Zealand and the Pacific, to engage with the work.
“Ensuring that we could still deliver our planned artistic outcomes while also ensuring the health and safety of our people is a priority for us. The impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt globally and this decision was not made lightly. We have worked with Yuki and her team to adapt the exhibition to the current context. We’re acutely aware that New Zealand’s presence at Venice is crucial to engaging audiences, curators, writers and collectors with the contemporary New Zealand art scene. It celebrates and affirms our country’s artistic and cultural identity at the world’s leading contemporary art forum. Yuki’s presentation of Paradise Camp further contributes to New Zealand’s reputation of being an innovative country with a diverse range of arts practice”, adds Rangi.
The New Zealand at Venice team is proud to have curator and arts writer Ioana Gordon-Smith as Assistant Pasifika Curator of Paradise Camp. Ioana’s role is supported through Creative New Zealand’s Pacific Arts Strategy 2018-2023.
2022 New Zealand at Venice is an initiative led by Creative New Zealand Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa, with key partners Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, supporting partners Pātaka Art Museum and Tautai Pacific Arts Trust. Special acknowledgement to pavilion sponsors Milford Galleries and Pātaka Foundation, and the generous support from the New Zealand at Venice Patrons and private donors.
The 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia will open to the public from 23 April to 27 November 2022.
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Notes to editors
About New Zealand at International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia
New Zealand’s arts development agency, Creative New Zealand, funds and manages New Zealand’s presence at the International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia for the almost seven-month duration.
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is a key partner. The New Zealand at Venice patrons generously contribute towards New Zealand’s presentation at the International Art Exhibition.
The International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia is widely recognised as the pre-eminent international art exhibition in the world. One of its unique features is the opportunity to exhibit as a national pavilion. In 2017, 86 countries had a presence and 615,000 visitors attended over its six-month duration. Its longevity, scale and diversity eclipse any other visual arts experience.
New Zealand has exhibited at the Art Biennale since 2001 with exhibitions by Dane Mitchell (2019), Lisa Reihana (2017), Simon Denny (2015), Bill Culbert (2013), Michael Parekowhai (2011), Judy Millar (2009), Francis Upritchard (2009), et al. (2005), Michael Stevenson (2003), Peter Robinson (2001) and Jacqueline Fraser (2001).
About the Artist: Yuki Kihara (Sāmoa/Aotearoa New Zealand)
A native of Sāmoa, Yuki Kihara is an interdisciplinary artist of Japanese and Samoan descent whose work seeks to challenge dominant and singular historical narratives through visual arts, dance, and curatorial practice, engaging with postcolonial history and representation in the Pacific and how they intersect with race, gender, spirituality and sexual politics. Kihara lives and works in Sāmoa, where she has been based over the last 11 years.
In 2008, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York presented a solo exhibition of Kihara’s work entitled Living Photographs. The exhibition was held at the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art featuring highlights of her interdisciplinary art practice, followed by an acquisition of her works by the museum for their permanent collection. Kihara’s work can also be found in collections, among others, including Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand; Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, British Museum and Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts to name a few.
Kihara’s work has been presented at the Asia Pacific Triennial (2002 and 2015); Auckland Triennial (2009); Sakahàn Quinquennial (2013); Daegu Photo Biennale (2014); Honolulu Biennale (2017); Bangkok Art Biennale (2018) and Venice Biennale (forthcoming 2022). Subsequently, Kihara’s works, performances and projects have been presented, among others, at Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai; Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre; Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art, Fukuoka; Bozar Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, Cologne; National Museum of Poznań; Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen; Trondheim Kunstmuseum; Danish Film Institute, Copenhagen; Royal Academy of Arts, London; Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Paris; Utah Museum of Fine Arts; Orange County Museum of Art; Allen Memorial Museum of Art, Ohio; Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre, Nouméa; Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney; 4A Centre for Contemporary Asia Art, Sydney; Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne; Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane; Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki; Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū; Artspace; City Gallery Wellington; Pātaka Museum + Art and the National University of Sāmoa.
Kiharaʻs mid-career survey entitled Undressing the Pacific (2013) organised and presented at the Hocken Collections of the University of Otago, successfully toured Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and History; Wallace Arts Center and Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato between 2014 till 2015.
Kihara has delivered keynotes, guest lectures and panel discussions, among others, at Raw Material Company, Dakar; Theatre Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin; Parsons New School of Design, New York; University of Connecticut; University of Indiana South East; University of California Santa Cruz; University of Utah; Carleton University, Ottawa; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Massey University, Wellington; University of Auckland; University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa; University of the South Pacific, Suva and Association of Social Anthropology in Oceania to name a few.
As a researcher, Kihara is a fellow at the National Museums of World Cultures in the Netherlands. As a culmination of her research, Kihara will present a solo exhibition entitled Going Native commissioned by the National Museums of World Cultures pending to be presented in 2022. Kihara is also a member of the Global Asia/Pacific Art Exchange (GAX) – an international research group with a focus on Global Asias, Asian Indigenous, and Indigenous Studies.
As a curator, Kihara is currently curating the itineric, touring solo exhibition of Banaban artist and scholar Katerina Teaiwa, entitled Project Banaba (2017-) commissioned by Carriageworks Sydney. Project Banaba was recently presented at MTG Hawke’s Bay Tai Ahuriri; and will be jointly presented alongside Te Kaneati – Banaban cultural revitalization workshop at Te Uru Waitakare Contemporary Gallery opening in December 2021.
Kihara is a co-editor of a publication entitled Samoan Queer Lives, featuring 14 autobiographical chapters from Fa’afafine and LGBTIQ+ Samoans based in Sāmoa, American Sāmoa, Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, Hawai’i and Turtle Island USA. Co-edited by Dan Taulapapa McMullin and published by Little Island Press, Samoan Queer Lives was officially launched in Sāmoa in October 2018.
Selected current and forthcoming projects include: Climat Océan, a joint exhibition between Musee Maritime de La Rochelle and Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, La Rochelle, France, 9 November 2019 – 31 October 2021; A Sea of Islands, Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden, the Netherlands, 21 February 2020 – July 2022; Te Wheke: Pathways Across Oceania, Christchurch Art gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, May 2020 – June 2022; Pan-Austro-Nesian Arts Festival, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan, 17 July – 31 October 2021 and Paul Gauguin – Why are you angry?, Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany, 25 March – 10 July 2022.
Yuki Kihara is represented by Milford Galleries, Aotearoa New Zealand.
About the Curator: Professor Natalie King OAM (Australia)
Natalie King is a leading Australian curator, writer and senior researcher engaged with artists and institutions across the Asia-Pacific region. Current projects include Reversible Destiny: Australian and Japanese Contemporary Photography at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum as part of the 2022 Olympics Cultural Programme; and Series Editor of Mini Monographs with Thames & Hudson.
Through her unique curatorial approach, King has a depth of experience across creative collaborations, partnerships, research and award-winning publications. In 2017, King was Curator of Tracey Moffatt: My Horizon, Australian Pavilion, the 57th Venice Art Biennale. She has curated exhibitions for the Singapore Art Museum; the National Museum of Art, Osaka; National Gallery of Indonesia, Jakarta; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan, amongst others. King has realised projects in India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Italy, Thailand, Bangladesh, New Zealand, New Caledonia and Vietnam.
King is an Enterprise Professor of Visual Arts, Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne. In 2020, King was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for “service to the contemporary visual arts”. She is widely published in arts media including Flash Art International, Art and Australia and ABC television. She has contributed to publications by Phaidon, Thames & Hudson and Routledge.
King is President of AICA-Australia (International Association of Art Critics, Paris); a member of CIMAM (International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art) and Metro Tunnel Arts Advisory Panel; and a mentor for Mentor Walks. In 2021, she was awarded a University of Melbourne Excellence Award: The Patricia Grimshaw Award for Mentor Excellence.
About the Assistant Pasifika Curator: Ioana Gordon-Smith (New Zealand)
Ioana Gordon-Smith is an arts writer and curator living in Porirua. She has held roles at Artspace Aotearoa, Objectspace and Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery and is a co-curator of the international Indigenous triennial, Naadohbii: To Draw Water in Canada. Ioana is the co-founder and co-editor of Marinade: Aotearoa Journal of Moana Art. She is a trustee for the community arts collective Whau the People as well as Enjoy Contemporary Art Space. Ioana currently works as the Curator Māori Pacific at Pātaka Art + Museum. Consistent throughout her curatorial process is a priority on close working relationships with artists.