Flipping the script at the Venice Biennale
Recently returned from launching her second Venice Biennale exhibition, for Sāmoan-based artist Yuki Kihara who is representing Aotearoa New Zealand, curator Professor Natalie King OAM reflects on being part of the most diverse Biennale yet.
Yuki’s work, shot on location in Sāmoa, is dazzling and joyful with glimpses of heartache. It brings the Sāmoan sunshine to Venice. Paradise Camp features a series of 12 intense photographs starring a cast of around one hundred Fa’afafine, including Yuki, which is Sāmoa’s third gender. It’s incredibly distinctive and resonated with audiences in Venice of up to 4,000 people a day.
Her work explores some of the most urgent issues of our times, including decolonisation, intersectionality and environmental crises. And it’s all through a Fa’afafine and Polynesian lens.
Yuki’s photographs depict her community and return the gaze in an empowering way. She is a very astute researcher and recognised that Paul Gauguin’s paintings might have featured Sāmoan peoplethat could be Fa’afafine; not only Tahitian people. Yuki has taken those images back and given them Samoan names, featuring members of her own community. She calls it ‘upcycling’ the paintings, because she is improving them.