1:2:1 is an installation of three audio-visual works examining the intersections between ‘dualism’ and ‘belonging’. The works explore the conceptual relationship between music and visual art to construct liminal spaces that intercede past, present and future, and personal and global realities. Each composition explores the sonic capacities of the flute to inform meaning and sensory experience, drawing on my classical as well as electronic music background.
In 1:2:1 I investigate my bi-racial socio-political Western and Moana Oceanian identity as a dualistic construct: that is, the division of two opposing entities in conflict rather than harmony as a result of colonial and neo-colonial structures. I pose the question: ‘Is it possible for this dualistic self to achieve a state of connection, harmony and wholeness, rather than separation, division and opposition?’ I use the Tā-Vā (Time-Space) Theory of Art—a derivative of the Tā-Vā (Time-Space) Philosophy of Reality, or tāvāism, formulated by Hūfanga Professor ‘Ōkusitino Māhina—as a conceptual framework. Tā (Tongan for time) signifies the marking of time through artistic and social actions, while vā (Tongan for space) signifies the relational space between two time-markers. I journey through time to explore how history informs my present experiences, my concept of self, and my relationships with others. I adopt the notion of vā as the ‘space between’, to explore my bi-racial space as the ‘space between’ two cultures.
Sound, still image
3 minutes, 5 seconds / 550 cm x 100 cm
Self-portrait explores the nature of belonging within contexts of place, lineage and identity. It unpacks standardised definitions of belonging that denote social constructs of the self, such as: ‘to have the right personal or social qualities to be a member of a particular group’ (Oxford Dictionary 2018). It explores how these externally defined constructs interact with the complexities of experience in a global world; considering tensions between individuality and collectivism, issues of visibility, and what lineage means in the diasporic experience.
The musical score is a melodic, harmonic and temporal experimentation based on two Tongan nose-flute melodies and three Tongan drum patterns transcribed by ethnomusicologist Richard Moyle in Tongan Music, 1987 (pp. 90 and 92; pp. 64-65 and 81). The listener observes the tensions that organically arise as an expression of conflicting tendencies. These tensions blur the lines between what is ‘in’ and ‘out’ of time; sometimes the flute and percussion scores come together in harmony and time, and at other times they are discordant.
The three photographic self-portraits present the social constructs that orbit the artist’s body and facets of the natural environment, which are interwoven. The artist is bound to their family tree, which is made of hard metal; its roots become her veins. Red and yellow lights strike parts of her skin, as symbols for Tonga and Australia’s national flowers: red heilala and golden wattle respectively. The tree sprouts a rose and a hibiscus as iconic symbols that have been historically impressed upon female sexuality. As the external constructs are internalised, the artist’s inner organs become exposed: her ribcage and heart are placed outside the body.
Mixed media, sound
90.5 cm x 59.5 cm / 3 minutes, 5 seconds
An-Other examines the colonial archive against the backdrop of a neo-colonial present, while exploring possibilities of reclaiming future narratives. It draws on 85 photographs of mostly unidentified Tongan, Samoan, Fijian, and Hawaiian women between 1880 and circa 1920s to interrogate the politics of power and the colonial ideologies that continue to surround femininity, the female body and female sexuality.
The photographs are interwoven with broken pieces of mirror and accompanied by a soundscape of frantic atonal flute melodies, dissonant harmonies, unresolved cadences, harmonics, and percussive flute techniques. When a melody emerges out of sustained, overlapping tones, the viewer is prompted to assume their own agency or to attach the musical phrase to one of the photographed women. As more melodies are introduced, this process becomes increasingly complex. Colonial subjectives of ‘beauty’, ‘charm’ and ‘the exotic’ embedded in the original images are reclaimed by audio-visual elements that vocalise the operation of veiled conflicts in power, control and ‘Othering’. In challenging us to confront these aspects of our past, the work asks us to recognise the legacy of imperialism lingering in our present.
Single-channel High Definition video
6 minutes, 47 seconds
16:9, colour, sound
Motif explores the role of motif in cultural practice, knowledge and memory: as sites of connection and separation; circularity and intersection; the individual, the collective and belonging; and the (re)excavation of past, present and future narratives. The work uses motif in the development of its music and video narratives, while also drawing on living motifs from the social, cultural and political landscapes between Moana Oceania and the West. It adopts the ocean as its primary motif—symbolic of the physical space of connection and separation between the Moana Oceanian region and the West, specifically Tonga and Australia—and builds on it using other symbols of transit, and transitional physical, psychological and emotional spaces.
Motif explores traditional elements of both Tongan and European music styles, such as tengihia (Tongan lament) and compositional techniques for developing motifs, in a contemporary electronic setting. In Tongan art forms, motif is an expression of the circular and intertwining nature of Tongan time and space, based on kupesi—abstract geometric motifs produced in tufunga lalava (the material art of lashing). In faiva hiva (the Tongan performance art of music), past motifs are weaved together with subtle changes in melody, rhythm, key and tempo, which in the process cleverly mask the element of repetition. These intersecting tendencies give rise to psychological-emotional outcomes of māfana (inner warmth), vela (fire) and tauēlangi (climaxed elation), which are expressed through improvised melodies or fakahēhē (solo vocal ornamentation) that only exist in the present moment. Motif draws on these concepts to construct the ‘space between’ two cultures as a space of incessant journeying and fluctuation without reaching a destination, climax or resolution; a transitional space of constant mediation between symmetrical and asymmetrical social, cultural and political values.
Motif is an internal expression of the borderlands; the internal struggle, shame, anxiety, confusion and fear of exclusion that can exist in the space between—the issues of disconnection and alienation that surround the silencing of these experiences, and the connection, unity and empowerment that can come from being heard. The performers navigate the physical landscape of memory: personal photographs; colonial imagery; World War I and the Pacific War; blackbirding of 350 people from 'Ata atoll, Tonga in 1863; the Dawn Raids and the Polynesian Panther movement; Western religion; tourist iconography; popular culture; and American Hollywood movies such as Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) and Hawaii (1966); while visual motifs of flowers and hair braiding signify the transference of memory from one generation to another.