Self-portrait, 2018

Sound, still image

3 minutes, 5 seconds / 550 cm x 100 cm

Wearable art: Xavier Love


Artist Statement

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.