CIRCUIT is delighted to announce that The Pleasures of Unbelonging, a major new moving image work by Christopher Ulutupu, will be on view at TAUTAI Pacific Arts Trust in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland from 20 October to 9 December 2023.
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) in March of this year.
The Pleasures of Unbelonging (2023) unfolds through a series of tableaux filmed in Hanmer Springs, capturing a 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, as well as on 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 its 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.