Exhibition Review: Paradise Camp at the Aotearoa/New Zealand Pavilion of the 59th Venice Biennale
Paradise Camp, an immersive exhibition of Yuki Kihara’s artworks first presented at the 59th Venice Biennale, was curated by Natalie King with Ioana Gordon-Smith, assistant Pasifika curator. Kihara is the first Pasifika, Asian, and faʻafafine (“in a manner of a woman,” third gender) artist to represent Aotearoa/New Zealand at the international art show. Inspired by an essay by Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, the exhibition features twelve new photographic works alongside a “Vārchive” of the artist’s research materials and a remix of a five-part “talk show” created in 2018. Through a camp aesthetic, Kihara presents a faʻafafine perspective that decolonizes paradise and gender, argues for community solidarity, and fosters intentional stewardship of the environment in response to climate change, among other topics. The Venice Biennale installation invokes the Sāmoan theory of vā and is accompanied by solidarity programming, an immersive website, and an extensive exhibition catalogue that signifies the tā-vā theory of reality, an Indigenous Moana framing.