Yuki Kihara: Paradise Camp at the Powerhouse Museum
Gender roles, representation (and misrepresentation) and the lasting impacts of colonialism on the Pacific – these themes all get explored, dismantled and recreated in the Australian premiere of Paradise Camp, an exhibition by Powerhouse creative resident Yuki Kihara. New work has been added following its debut at the 59th Venice Biennale last year, with Japanese-Samoan artist Kihara responding to pieces in the Powerhouse Museum collection.
Kihara is Pasifika (Pacific Islander), of Asian descent and fa’afafine – a recognised third gender in Samoa referring to people who were assigned male at birth but grow up female. Kihara was the first artist embodying all three traits to represent New Zealand at the prestigious biennale.
Paradise Camp came about after Kihara recognised aspects of the fa’afafine community and Samoa more widely in post-Impressionist works by Paul Gauguin. By repurposing and upcycling some of Gauguin’s classic works, Kihara draws attention to how colonialism has impacted the fa’afafine community and misconceptions surrounding the Pacific Islands.
Among the new works for the exhibition, there’s the collage Gauguin Landscapes which combines photos of Samoan shores and rivers by 19th century Australian photographer Charles Kerry with landscape paintings by Gauguin.
The exhibition comprises 12 tableau photographs of around 100 people in Samoa, shot and filmed on Upolu Island, the site of the 2009 tsunami where members of the Alepata Fa’afafine Association were among the first responders.
Also part of Paradise Camp is First Impressions: Paul Gauguin, a five-part talk show that sees fa’afafine community members commenting on select paintings by the Impressionist. A new commission, with Sydney drag artist Harold Samu, is also underway and expected to be completed in August.
Entry to the exhibition is free.