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Hocken exhibition Undressing the Pacific tours Pah Homestead

19 February 2014

Hocken exhibition Undressing the Pacific to tour to the Pah Homestead

A mid-career exhibition of photographic and performance works by prominent New Zealand artist Shigeyuki Kihara, ‘Undressing the Pacific’, opens to the public at the The Pah Homestead TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre in Auckland on Monday 3 March at 6pm. The exhibition will be on show until 13 April.

Undressing the Pacific is being toured by the Hocken Library, University of Otago following its inaugural showing at the Hocken last year. Curator of the exhibition Natalie Poland says ‘the Library is very pleased to be touring this exhibition to Auckland after a successful showing at the Hocken Gallery last year.’

In 2012 Kihara was honoured with the Wallace Arts Trust Paramount Award and also a New Generation Award from The Arts Foundation.

Having the show exhibited at the Pah Homestead, TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre also pays tribute to the generosity of Sir James Wallace, whose Wallace Art Awards recognised Kihara in 2012 when she received the Wallace Arts Trust Paramount Award. Winning this Prize enabled her to live in New York for six months in 2013. Ms Poland says ‘The enthralling video work, Galu Afi; Waves of Fire, which won the award, is one of three filmed dance performances to feature in the show.’

“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, public galleries in New Zealand have been slow to show the full extent of Kihara’s work. This is the first significant exhibition of Kihara’s work to be mounted in this country. When this exhibition was developed by the Hocken Library it was the first time that Kihara’s art had been shown at a public art gallery in the South Island.

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.

Ms Poland says Undressing the Pacific is a mid-career survey 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 that feature Kihara 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 the 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. Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (2013) is named after the title of a large scale painting by Paul Gauguin and completed in 1897 in Tahiti. Kihara’s photographic series explores 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.”

For further information regarding the Pah Homestead, TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre visit www.tsbbankwallaceartscentre.org.nz

To RSVP for the opening of Shigeyuki Kihara: Undressing the Pacific email enquiries@wallaceartstrust.org.nz

ENDS

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