• Christopher Ulutupu

when it feels over reflects on the performative aspects of my practice to date. It is a pause to consider the ways I involve my family and friends in art works, and to examine how these relationships then exist within a contemporary art context.

There has always been a sense of joy in creating video works with my family, which are now invaluable records of our lives - like old home movies.

Whilst the working process has been celebrated, I have become increasingly aware of the personal and somewhat private dynamics of the works and what it means to share them with a wider audience that is often palagi. Since my public billboard works were vandalised in 2018, I have an even greater responsibility to not only protect my works, but my family and our exchange.

when it feels over, considers this exchange and the various expectations placed on brown artists with two recent works; Leave room for Jesus … (2023) and The Pleasures of Unbelonging (2023).”

-Chris Ulutupu

Leave room for Jesus… (2023) responds to the Samoan term, ‘Moe Manatunatu,’ which describes rituals of communication and guidance from the dead. With the absence of performers, the work seeks to form new modes of communication, questioning the expectations to perform.

The Pleasures of Unbelonging (2023) was commissioned by Tautai, Circuit, and The Berwick Film Festival. The work is a response to theorist/writer James Baldwin text Stranger in A Village and a reference to an experience Ulutupu had whilst shooting Lelia (2018) in Mt Lyford, North Canterbury.

Focusing on a mother and her children walking through various landscapes to seek refuge and clarity, the work responds to James Baldwin’s text Stranger in a Village from his book Notes from a Native Son (1955) and Ulutupu's own experience of shooting a video work in 2018. 

In Baldwin's text, the author describes his experience of residing in a small village in the Swiss Alps and the ensuing racial tensions of entering a space that was ‘untouched’ by the presence of Black people (like himself).  During the production of Ulutupu's Lelia (2018) for the SCAPE Public Season 2018, Ulutupu encountered similar tensions. Says the artist:

 "I had organised for a shoot to happen up at Mt Lyford ski park in Christchurch with a cast predominately made up of Samoan descent. Each of the cast members travelled to location with their costumes on (to save time), but when we walked into the lodge everyone turned around and stared at us. At first, they were looking at our costumes thinking what are they doing here? As time progressed, I quickly realised all the glares and remarks seemed to be more about the fact we weren’t the ‘usual’ crowd of regulars that frequent the park. We had occupied a space that was predominantly for the Caucasian middle to high class to enjoy recreational ski activities – and as a result, we were not welcomed kindly." 

The experience was the inspiration for Ulutupu’s new film, which premiered at the Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival (UK) on 4 March 2023.    

The Pleasures of Unbelonging (2023) unfolds through a series of tableaux filmed in Hanmer Springs, capturing this sense of arrival and movement through a new place. Like many of Ulutupu's previous works, it draws heavily on a cast of family and friends. The work further imagines moments of arrival in new places and gently draws upon Baldwin’s notion of “people being trapped in history, and history trapped in them.”  

Commissioned by CIRCUIT Artist Moving Image in 2021, The Pleasures of Unbelonging was supported via the Tagata Moana Moving Image Award. Presented by CIRCUIT with the support of Creative New Zealand and TAUTAI, the Award supported an artist to produce a new film and attend the international premiere at the prestigious 2023 Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival (UK). For the local premiere of The Pleasures of Unbelonging, Ulutupu has made subtle changes to the presentation of the film, which acknowledge the transition from the Berwick cinema to the TAUTAI Gallery.

Visit the CIRCUIT website here.

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  • Auckland 1010
  • Aotearoa New Zealand