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Hocken exhibition “a South Island first” for artist

Students walking through the Quadrangle

Monday 15 April 2013 9:47am

Kihara exhibition 2
Shigeyuki Kihara, Aquatic Centre, Tuanaimata, Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? series, 2013, C-type print, 594 x 840mm. Photo: Evotia Tamua.

A mid-career exhibition of photographic and performance works by up and coming New Zealand artist Shigeyuki Kihara, ‘Undressing the Pacific’, opens to the public at the Hocken Library in Anzac Ave on Saturday, April 20.

Last year Kihara was honoured with the Wallace Arts Trust Paramount Award and also a New Generation Award from The Arts Foundation.

Curator of Hocken Pictorial Collections Natalie Poland says the Library is very fortunate to be able to show Kihara’s work, for the first time in the South Island.

“There is growing recognition for Kihara as an international artist, whose career to date includes a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2008) in New York, with works and performances presented at the Asia Pacific Triennial and the Auckland Triennial,” she says.

“Despite having had her art exhibited in New York, Kihara’s work has never before been shown in a public gallery in the South Island. This event addresses that anomaly.”

Born in Samoa of mixed Samoan and Japanese heritage, Shigeyuki Kihara migrated to New Zealand as a teenager in 1989. She studied Fashion Design and Technology and initially worked as a stylist before coming to prominence as a multimedia and performance artist.

In 2001 Kihara’s work - Teuanoa’I Adorn to Excess (1999), a set of 28 T-shirts that toy with corporate branding and the stereotyping of Pacific peoples, created controversy when they were exhibited at Te Papa Tongarewa.

Ms Poland says Undressing the Pacific is a mid-career exhibition of Kihara’s art practice that spans a decade of her impressive career.

“Early European visitors to Samoa misinterpreted cultural traditions including forms of dance as sexual provocation. Kihara subverts this perception and also makes dance a key part of her practice. Undressing the Pacific features three dance performances presented as digital videos hat feature Kihara cast as the sole protagonist.”

One particular costume - the Victorian mourning dress – features prominently in both Kihara’s performance and photographic work.

Ms Poland says this garment, introduced to Samoa by Victorian missionaries in the late nineteenth century, is worn by the artist in her performance Taualuga: The Last Dance (2006-2011), and in her most recent photographic series Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (2013).

Kihara travelled to Samoa in December 2012 to produce this new body of photographic work; five from this series are included in this exhibition.

With its title lifted from a large scale painting by Paul Gauguin completed in 1897 shortly before his death in Tahiti, this latest series unpacks the myth of the Pacific as paradise established by figures such as early Dunedin photographer Alfred Burton, subsequent image-makers and the tourism industry.

“While Gauguin’s painting addresses his struggle with the meaning of existence, Kihara redirects this sentiment to examine issues currently shaping Samoa including natural disasters and the global recession. Her recent works also highlight local architectural forms and monuments that commemorate Samoa’s past under German (1900-1914) and New Zealand colonial administration (1914-1962),” Ms Poland says.

A selection of late nineteenth and early twentieth century photographs and tourist images sourced from the Hocken’s Photography Collection will be displayed alongside the group of works by Kihara.

Ms Poland adds: “By interrogating late nineteenth and early twentieth century images of Samoan people and landscapes by European photographers, Kihara’s works expose inequalities and complexities within the structures of power associated with sexuality, gender, race and colonialism in the Pacific.”

‘Shigeyuki Kihara: Undressing the Pacific’ is on show at the Hocken until 8 June 2013.


For images and/or to interview the artist:

Contact Registrar of Pictorial Collections Hocken Collections
Sarah Snelling:
Tel 3 479 5648.

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