On Wednesday October 23, salt 8 featured artist Shigeyuki Kihara will perform her iconic solo dance, which draws on the classic Samoan taualuga to retell the cultural legacy of colonialism in Samoa from an indigenous perspective. The performance will be followed by a public reception. The following day, Kihara will have a public conversation with Whitney Tassie, UMFA curator of modern and contemporary art. Both events are free, and present an incredible chance to engage with an exciting working artist.
Shigeyuki Kihara’s video work is currently on view in our salt gallery. The pieces express tension between Samoan tradition and colonialism, and, performed in a Victorian mourning dress, also suggest profound loss and enduring grief.
What does it mean to perform a traditional Samoan dance in non-traditional costuming? What does it mean to witness such a performance? Walking into our salt gallery right now allows contemplation of these questions, but attending Kihara’s performance on October 23rd offers the chance to deepen the experience.
The Kava bowl plays a significant role in traditional Samoan ceremonies, where the taualuga would be performed. Visitors to salt 8 will walk past the UMFA’s own Kava bowl– is this a chance to acknowledge our participation in the ceremony through Kihara’s video work, or a nod to our role in housing such an object under plexiglass?
One of the most exciting things about this exhibition–and about the UMFA’s role as a safe place for difficult conversation– is the chance to ask these sorts of questions, and learn from each other’s perspective.
Just one wall separates the work of Shigeyuki Kihara in our salt gallery from the work of artist from New Guinea, Indonesia, and other islands in our Oceanic gallery. The picture above shows objects from the Asmat tribe (who live 3032.18 miles away from Samoa).
What this photo does not include is the recent intervention by Shigeyuki Kihara. Her salt exhibition spills over and into the Oceanic gallery, displaying stunning photographs by the artist.
“Intervention” refers to an interaction with a previously existing artwork, audience, or venue to make a comment on what was already there. Some of these are authorized and approved by the institution (in this case, the UMFA), and some are not. What might Kihara’s intervention here be drawing out of the UMFA’s Oceanic gallery? I urge you to see this in person, and ask these sorts of questions.
These two days with Shigeyuki Kihara will be a great chance to explore some very important questions with a working artist. We hope to see you there, and we’d love to hear your thoughts on the work in the comments below!