By Elaine W. Ng
Upcycling is not just an environmental practice. Artist Yuki Kihara also applies the term to her treatment of post-impressionist painter Paul Gauguin’s exoticizing depictions of Pacific islands communities. In “Paradise Camp,” the New Zealand Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale, Kihara presents a series of photographic tableaus, based on Gauguin’s compositions, that bring into focus Samoa’s third-gender groups, including Fa‘afafine, as well as the sociopolitical conditions and environmental threats that these communities face. In this way, Kihara’s photographs “decolonize the myths and perceptions . . . that [Gauguin] perpetuated, and reveal these touristic images of paradise as a cliché.” In our cover feature, Kihara shares more with assistant editor Nicole M. Nepomuceno about her art-historical research leading up to the project, her collaboration with the Fa‘afafine community in Samoa, and her approaches to subverting heteronormative conceptions of paradise.