Singular Pluralities ∞ Plural Singularities
Singular Pluralities ∞ Plural Singularities is an exhibition that had three solo shows in parallel to one another.
- Yuki Kihara: Coconuts That Grew From Concrete
- Sarah Smuts-Kennedy: Frequency of the Earth
- Shannon Te Ao: te huka o te tai
Coconuts That Grew From Concrete
Artspace Aotearoa presents a new body of work from Yuki Kihara, of Japanese and Samoan heritage, focusing on her handmade and digital collage works. The exhibition brings a selection of digital collages and experimentations with industrial printing techniques, all produced by the artist while in Samoa. Borrowing photographic images from public archives and private collections, the artist juxtaposes these iconic postures with classical examples of the Western gaze, pulling from the established canon of ‘exotic’ or ‘orientalist’ imagery. Kihara’s strategy is to destabilise this canon; the colonial subject as an object of desire finds itself in an intersection between portraiture and landscape. The collages are installed within a spectrum of the Samoan landscape, what is conceived of as both the projection of an escapist paradise and also a dystopian reality.
“The title of my exhibition is adapted from the poem ‘Roses That Grew From Concrete’ by poet and rapper 2pac (otherwise known as Tupac Shakur) which describes the experience of persevering in the face of tyranny. The exhibition title also plays on the contradictory use of ‘coconuts’: on one hand as a derogatory term, often directed at Pacific migrants living in urban concrete jungles in the diaspora. From a Samoan perspective however, coconuts are seen as a prized fruit able to drift across the ocean and take root in new lands, providing sustenance to new communities. The series examines the intersecting legacies between Samoan colonial photographs and traditional Western European portraiture, and how they shape our present realities.
The series developed from my observations of the ‘tableaux’ photographs of Samoans taken in Samoa during the early 20th century by Pākeha New Zealand photographers including Thomas Andrew, Alfred John Tattersal and the Burton Brothers. The Samoan subjects were often depicted as romantic, child-like people uncorrupted by Western civilization and many of the photographs were mass produced and sold as cartes-de-visite across Europe. The poses and tableaux recreated in these colonial photographs are reminiscent of those seen in a variety of Western classical art movements including Orientalism and the paintings of the ‘Old Masters’. I was particularly drawn to the traditional portraiture of European monarchs whose elaborate displays of wealth, decadence and institutional power were enriched and sustained by imperial expansion throughout the non-Western world.
The ongoing effects of colonisation are reflected in the establishment of the Brandt Line in 1980s, an economic indicator used to demarcate the divide between rich (Global North) and poor (Global South) countries. The Global North includes the United States, Canada, Western Europe, developed parts of East Asia, Australia and New Zealand; the Global South is made up of Africa, Latin America, and developing Asia, including the Middle East and the Pacific Island States. Coconuts That Grew From Concrete hybridises seemingly disparate and incompatible Samoan colonial photographs and Western European paintings to provide a counter-narrative to the neo-colonial creation of the Brandt Line. Whereas colonial political structures may have been dismantled, former colonies remain economically dependent upon and exploited by the stronger economies of their earlier rulers.
The European title of each work highlights how each merging of photograph and painting creates in turn a new narrative form. The hybrid figures reference the Samoan notion of ‘taufa’ase’e’ loosely translated as a ‘game of deception’. The most well-known example of taufa’ase’e was that played by Samoan informants with American anthropologist Margaret Mead, who believed their elaborate hoax relating to Samoan sexuality. The figures are also suggestive of Homi K. Bhabha’s theory of the ‘third space’ where, in the discourse of dissent, third space is seen as “that space where oppressed and oppressor are able to come together, free (maybe only momentarily) of oppression itself, embodied in their particularity”.
The original copyright signs and signatures found in the paintings and the photographs are left behind in the works to disturb the relationship between time and space, reality and fantasy, consumer and the producer, the artwork and the artist.”
- Yuki Kihara
Frequency of the Earth
Frequency of the Earth from Auckland based artist Sarah Smuts-Kennedy is engaged with experiential relationships with materiality. The artist has worked with various wavelengths that have been arranged into musical scores that have formations that are inaudible to the human ear. The work carefully negotiates site and duration, using the spatial and time-based parameters of this iteration as materiality. Its components manifest in sound within form: sound as colour, geometries and the sun, all brought into realisation using the pendulum as a logic apparatus. The artist’s decision making process is informed by a methodology developed from disciplines that utilise bio-energy, and other experiential based practices. This project specifically operates on the proviso that all materials have vibrational qualities, and are floating in a sea of energy that when brought into certain proximities and arrangements sculpt space. Smuts-Kennedy’s research is focused on fields of energy as they engage with conceptual thinking within art based languages and intuition driven modes of enquiry. She seeks to unfold how things work and are interconnected in real time in the space with the viewer.
“All the works develop out of processes I create which rely on my capacities to allow a rigorous synthesis of intuitive thinking and feeling. The forms and formations that emerge would never arrive out of left brain logic alone. What I am interested in exploring is the space between rigorous scientific, esoteric and artistic logics, processes and outcomes. My research is focused on the spaces between these things and my works could be considered evidences of my attempts to negotiate these modes. It requires a different kind of listening, seeing, feeling and knowing. I am interested in the learning I need to do in order to make the work and how it requires a different kind of negotiation between my inner and outer experiences of the world. As a result I am learning more about the world I live in and this in turn helps me work out new ways to share space with things.”
-Taken from an interview with the artist, Artguide interview 2016
Shannon Te Ao
te huka o te tai
In collaboration with Taipei Contemporary Art Centre (TCAC) and with the kind support of CNZ’s Asia/NZ Co Commissioning Fund, Artspace is proud to present Shannon Te Ao’s new works focusing on his artistic methodology and collaborative thinking. Investigating the epistemological relationship between an ongoing interest in waiata and te reo Māori, using these as potential connectors between Taiwan’s complex recent history. Te Ao echoes the tradition of landscape painting within this new filmic proposition that belongs to a particular land, and the absence or presence of a community. This exhibition will also draw connections to a number of recent new works presented within the Learning, Unlearning, Relearning research area. Te Ao produced a pair of unique notebooks and a number of newly translated text based works with local artists and collaborators in Taipei during his recent residency organised by TCAC. These will be presented alongside his recent collaborative work with Daniel Reimer-Maier, which was previously exhibited at the Lorne St. off site venue for the exhibition Politics of Sharing: on Collective Wisdom.
The video installation in the exhibition depicts a split vision of physicality—as located within the environment and then enacted within the creative process. Both reflect upon a primal tendency in us to use the things around us within the task of retention; whether it relates to the histories that a place is founded on or the ability of artistic response to propose a relationship through space and time.