Paradise Camp Exhibition, Powerhouse Museum, November 2023
Paradise Camp was created by Yuki Kihara and curated by Natalie King. It comprises a suite of twelve tableau photographs in saturated colour, situated against a vast wallpaper of a landscape decimated by the 2009 tsunami. Eleven of the works were shot on location in Sāmoa, from rural villages to churches, plantations and heritage sites, with a local cast and crew of over eighty people.
Yuki Kihara is an interdisciplinary artist of Japanese and Sāmoan descent whose work interrogates and dismantles gender roles, (mis)representation and colonial legacies in the Pacific. She was the first Pasifika, Asian and Fa‘afafine (Sāmoa’s ‘third gender’) artist to represent Aotearoa New Zealand at la Biennale di Venezia.
Kihara’s performative photography upcycles select paintings by post-impressionist French artist Paul Gauguin created during his time in the Islands of Tahiti and the Marquesas between 1891 and 1903. Kihara problematises Gauguin’s outsized legacy by re-enacting his paintings back in the Pacific, paying careful attention to the details of his works. These re-enactments instill a Polynesian inflection to each photograph and are based on strong personal relationships with Kihara’s sitters, all of whom are part of the Fa‘afafine and Fa‘atama communities. Kihara works with these models to represent her own vision of paradise, redirecting the viewer to the concerns of contemporary Pacific Islanders and ‘returning the gaze’ in a profound gesture of empowerment.
Kihara completed an eight-week creative residency at Powerhouse Ultimo and undertook community engagement, including with First Nations artists.
Dive into our immersive at-home digital experience to access footage of Kihara speaking about her research and creation process, and Paradise Camp themes and stories. Enjoy and explore Paradise Camp in the comfort of your home.
BERTHA (2023) is a new work commissioned for the Powerhouse Ultimo iteration of Yuki Kihara’s Paradise Camp, developed by Kihara in collaboration with Harold Samu AKA Bertha – a drag artist who played an active role in gay nightlife and HIV/AIDS activism in the 1990s in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The work features racialised, vintage Pacific dolls collected from thrift stores and eBay that have been upcycled and repurposed to tell a larger-than-life drag story. Kihara worked closely with Samu to design and recreate costumes previously worn by Bertha so that each doll captures a moment in Samu’s dynamic life.
When: 31 December 2023
See also: Paradise Camp by Yuki Kihara