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 employs 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; to interrogate the intersections between race, identity and belonging. The work unpacks standardised definitions of belonging: ‘to have the right personal or social qualities to be a member of a particular group’, or ‘to be rightly assigned to a specified category’ (Oxford Dictionary 2018). It explores identity as construct that asserts ‘ways of knowing’ rather than ‘ways of being’, whereby race does not necessarily impart experiences of belonging.
In this work, I experiment with the melodic, harmonic and temporal nature of 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), in order to express my fluctuating abilities to attain the markers of identity that permit belonging to my racial group(s). I express this fluctuation as a movement between alignment and nonalignment within my reality, that is, from a tāvāist perspective ‘nature, mind and society’. Rather than accompanying flute with percussion, I wanted to create a polyphonic dialogue between two equal parts. I recorded the flute melodies in free time, and produced my arrangement of the three Tongan drum patterns: tā pailate, tā fakaona and tu’u fala using a uniform pulse. I rearranged the sounds to create homophonic and polyphonic textures, and applied time-stretch and distortion to create new sounds. I experimented with the temporal nature of the drum notations by shifting the position of notes within the bar, changing the time signature, and re-arranging their order. Finally, I combined the accented drum beats with the melodic notes of the nose-flute notations. I wanted to observe the tensions that organically arose, and to blur the lines between what is ‘in’ and ‘out’ of time. As a result, 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 constructed identities that orbit my biological body and facets of the natural environment. My body is interwoven with natural elements. I am bound to my family tree that is made of hard metal; its roots become my veins. Red and yellow lights strike parts of my 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, my inner organs become exposed: my ribcage and heart are placed outside my body.
Mixed media, sound
90.5 cm x 59.5 cm / 3 minutes, 5 seconds
An-Other explores how positions of ‘self’ and ‘Other’ interact with structures of power and agency within Western and Moana Oceanian concepts of femininity, female sexuality, and the female body. The work responds to 85 colonial photographs of mostly unidentified Tongan, Samoan, Fijian, and Hawaiian women between 1880 and circa 1920s. I was struck by the lack of power and agency these women possessed (and continue to possess) over their own narrative. In response, I was interested in my own experience as a bi-racial woman: of fluctuating between the colonial binaries of ‘self’ and ‘Other’, and subordination to the Western male gaze in both cases.
I created a collage interwoven with pieces of broken mirror, in order to disassemble the narrative by challenging our own preconceived notions of ‘self’ and ‘Other’. Additionally, rather than focusing on ideas of ‘beauty’, ‘charm’ and ‘the exotic’ that the original images intended to invoke, the music composition vocalises the veiled conflicts in power and agency between the subject and the viewer. It also responds to the silent but sharp socio-cultural and political intersections operating within the images. I scored the work for five live flute parts featuring frantic atonal 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.
Single-channel High Definition video
6 minutes, 47 seconds
16:9, colour, sound
Motif explores my research on motif in Tongan music to achieve specific aesthetic and functional principles, and a proposed homology between Tongan musical and non-musical structures that is underpinned by motif and the philosophical nature of Tongan time and space. It explores how motifs become a part of cultural memory, and how different motifs interact with one another to create meaning.
The ocean is adopted as a primary audio and visual motif representing the physical space of connection and separation between the Moana Oceania region and the West—specifically Tonga and Australia. Building on this motif, the work incorporates other symbols of transit, and transitional physical, psychological and emotional spaces. The aural and visual landscapes in the work represent my experience of the ‘space between’ these two cultures; a space of incessant journeying and fluctuation without reaching a destination, climax or resolution. Other visual motifs include flowers and hair braiding, which signify the transference of memory from one generation to another.
In this transitional space, the subject is in a constant state of negotiation between symmetrical and asymmetrical social, cultural and political values. The work expresses my internal experiences of the external world, by depicting experiences of shame, anxiety, confusion and fear of exclusion that can exist in this space. It highlights issues of mental health, disconnection and alienation that surround the silencing of these experiences, as well as the connection, unity and empowerment that can come from being heard. The music is in the style of a lament with cinematic elements. It is scored for string quartet, solo flute, piano and percussion, with electronic accompaniment. Field recordings of the ocean and vehicles in transit are also used. The work 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.
Still images focusing on interactions between the Moana Oceania region and the West are cast upon the physical landscape: 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).