Yuki Kihara – New Zealand’s 2021 Venice Biennale representative - is an interdisciplinary artist of Japanese and Samoan descent. Working across a range of media including photography, performance and video, Kihara has built a comprehensive body of work and curatorial practice that examines gender roles, consumerism, (mis)representation, and the past, present and future societal issues from colonial and post-colonial perspectives.
The photographic series Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? uses setting and character to make pointed allusions to the social, religious, economic and political issues facing Western Samoa in particular, and the Pacific at large. Referencing the staged photographic postcards of the ‘South Seas,’ Kihara turns the camera on her country’s colonial past, the impact of burgeoning globalisation, ideas of indigeneity and the role of government in an independent Samoa. Kihara “unpacks the myth” of her country as an untouched Pacific paradise as seen through the eyes of colonial powers and tourist photographs. (1)
In 2008, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York presented a solo exhibition of Kihara’s work entitled Living Photographs, held at the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, featuring highlights of her interdisciplinary art practice, followed by an acquisition of her works by the museum for their permanent collection. Kihara's work can be found in national and international collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the British Museum, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Ryerson Image Centre, Canada and Giorgio Armani. Her works has been presented at the Asia Pacific Triennale (2002 and 2015), Auckland Triennale; (2009), Sakahan Quinquennial (2013), Daegu Photo Biennale (2014), Honolulu Biennale (2017) and Bangkok Art Biennale (2018). Kihara has been appointed by Creative New Zealand | Arts Council of New Zealand to represent the country of New Zealand at the upcoming 2021 Venice Biennale.
In 2015 Kihara collaborated with choreography Jochen Roller on a dance production which toured across Germany and Switzerland. Together they are working on a new major dance production entitled Crosscurrents to premier in Germany in 2020.
Kihara is currently a research fellow at the National Museums of World Cultures in the Netherlands and will be presenting a solo exhibition at Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam, in June 2020.
Forthcoming projects include exhibitions in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and La Rochelle, France.
In November her new solo exhibition, サ-モアのうた (Sāmoa no uta) A Song About Sāmoa, opens at Milford Galleries Dunedin (30 November 2019 – 28 January 2020).
1. Yuki Kihara, Artist statement, January 2013.
Yuki Kihara talks to Vanessa Jones about the making of her new work, サ-モアのうた (Sāmoa no uta) A Song About Sāmoa
Video production: Ross Wilson