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'Oracles' and 'A Place Apart' on display at City Gallery Wellington

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Pati Solomona Tyrell and Christian Thompson work across performance, photography, and video, channelling historical spirits and consequences through masquerade.

Pati Solomona Tyrell is a founding member of Auckland's Fafswag collective whose members proudly celebrate their LGBTQ Pacific-Islander identities and is famous for its Vogue Balls.

In addition to Tyrell's photos, the show features his stunning 2016 video Fāgogo. Fāgogo counters colonisation by re-attributing oracle status to the gender-fluid shapeshifting spirits that Tyrell and his collaborators embody. Tyrell uses mirroring effects to conjure the uncanny, the supernatural. The video takes the form of a journey through the Pacific Islands, with scenes referring to Tonga, Samoa, Niue, the Cook Islands, Fiji, and Aotearoa.

Tyrell appears in Fafswag: The Interactive Documentary (2018), made for phones. Made with Taika Waititi’s production company Piki, it interweaves fantasy and reality. It takes the form of a video game, allowing the viewer to pick an Auckland location, choose dancers, and witness their vogue battle, before seeing a behind-the-scenes documentary on the winner.

Melbourne artist Christian Thompson is of Aboriginal Bidjara and European descent. He describes his work as 'auto-ethnography' and ‘spiritual repatriation’.

Thompson’s photos often show him framed and ornamented with talismanic objects reflecting his complex cultural background. Although he features in much of his work, he resists using the term self-portraiture, saying that it would imply ‘that it's about capturing some element of my own self-

representation, and that's not really the case … It's more that I'm an armature to build ideas on top of.’

In his haunting three-screen video installation, Berceuse (2017), Thompson sings in his native language, Bidjara, which is now considered extinct. Thompson says he wants people to ‘experience the innate lyricism of language’.

A Place Apart | On from 28 May

Christina Pataialii and Ruth Ige create paintings which manifest between abstraction and figuration. They demonstrate the potential of this instability.

Christina Pataialii’s paintings explore the materials, landscapes and symbols that bear significance to the cultural melting-pot, working-class Auckland of the 1980s. She chops and changes through such entities, forging her own visual language, proposing what belonging to a place could look like. They foreground her own upbringing among these communities.

Ruth Ige responds to ideas surrounding the colour black and representation. She creates rich, hypnotic portraits of imagined subjects. Blurring them between blue and watery dimensions, she evokes the empowering qualities of mystery. Implying prophetic, time-travelling abilities, she tests our understanding of what the future is, or can be.

A Place Apart draws together two New Zealand painters with roots in diaspora to question and complicate notions of place and embodiment.

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