15 Oct 2021
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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Senior Communications Adviser | Kaiārahi Matua Whakawhitiwhiti Kōrero
Creative New Zealand | Toi Aotearoa
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