Yuki Kihara, Invocation (2016)
single channel digital video, silent, 7 min 25 sec
edition of 7 + 2 AP
Yuki Kihara, Invocation (2016) single channel digital video, silent, 7 min 25 sec, edition of 7 + 2 AP, selected video stills
The new video work entitled Invocation (2016) by Yuki Kihara is conceptually informed by layers of personal and art-historical references linked to love, desire, and loss. The video portrays the hands of Kihara’s character Salome (1) performing ritualistic and symbolic gestures informed by the Samoan customary dance of the taualuga (2) and which reference visually the stop-motion photography of 19th-century French photographer Etienne Jules Marey.
In the Pacific generally and Samoa specifically, the ceremony of liulotofaga involves exhuming the bones of the deceased to be cleansed, oiled and cared for as a gesture of reconnecting with the ancestors. Special attention is paid to the skull, which is considered the most tapu (sacred) part of the body. This present-day invocation of ancestral spiritual presence is followed by the wrapping of the bones in siapo (bark) cloth and their reburial. Liulotofaga continues to be practiced today.
Invocation also references the broader ways in which aspects of women, sexuality, and death have been linked together across a variety of socio-cultural contexts. The biblical figure of Salome, sensual performer of the Dance of the Seven Veils, has inspired many artists over the centuries, and Paul Gaugin depicts the story in his work Arii Matamoe [The royal end] (1892) (3). In Oscar Wilde’s dramatisation of the story, Salome is rewarded with the (sacred) head of John the Baptist, which she then gently holds and caresses, so disgusting her stepfather, King Herodias, that he orders Salome’s own execution.
Kihara’s video work directly recalls surrealist works of Salvador Dali and Philippe Halsman, in particular Dali’s 1939 painting Ballerina in a Death's Head and the collaborative 1951 photograph In Voluptas Mors (‘voluptuous’ or ‘desirable’ death). In each work female bodies are arranged into the form of a skull – an overt conflation of sexual desire and the symbolism of the memento mori. In Invocation Kihara as artist/performer/character uses the sensual movements of the taualuga to somatically embody her own version of the death’s head.