Talking with Two Hearts: Navigating Indigenous Narratives as Research

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School of Art and Design, AUT

Floyd Rudman (2003) notes that by enlarge, contemporary theory posits biculturalism as a positive and adaptive phenomenon. However, as early as 1936, commentators like Redfield et al. proposed that “psychic conflict” can result from attempts to reconcile different social paradigms inside bicultural adaptation (p. 152). Child (1943/1970) also argued that biculturalism cannot resolve cultural frustrations and accordingly, they can be more distressing than a commitment to one culture or the other. The tensions these early theorists noted I found significant when writing and directing my recent feature film PUNCH (Ings, 2022). When creating this work I drew on both my Māori and Pākehā (European) ancestry, and my experience as a gay man who was raised in a heteronormative world. In creating the film’s characters I navigated tensions, working within and between cultural spaces as I wove experience into a fictional examination of what it is to be an outsider in a world that you call home. In this pursuit, I often found myself transgressing borders in my effort to give voice to an in-betweenness that was impure and at times disruptive. While being appreciative of cultural values and practices, I sought ways of expressing identities that are liminal. However, in designing the in-between, like many bicultural creatives I faced accusations of diminished purity. Significantly, I found myself encountering a form of cultural monitoring and pressure to reshape what I knew to be embodied truth because it failed to sit comfortably with the presuppositions of culturally anxious funding bodies, producers and distributors. Their opinions as to what authentically characterised cultural spaces (to which they did not belong), proved challenging. This was because ultimately I knew that audiences for the film would contain people from the in-between, from the liminal, the underrepresented and the marginalised … who would be seeking an expression of lived experiences that rarely appear in cinema. Using scenes from the film PUNCH, this presentation unpacks ways in which cultural networking, verification and responsibility were navigated to reinforce an attitudinal position of ‘positive cultural dissonance’ (Faumuina, 2015). By adopting this stance, I no longer saw biculturality as a diminishment or watering down of integrity, instead it was appreciated as a space of fertile tension and creative synergy. Using positive cultural dissonance as my turangawaewae (place to stand), I negotiated a research project that pursued the resilient beauty of in-betweenness in a story of bicultural, gender non-binary, small town conflict and resolution.

Biculturalism; Feature film; Gender non-binary; Heteronormative; In-betweenness
Proceedings of LINK 2022 4th Edition of the International Conference of Practice and Research in Design & Global South Vol.3 No.1 (pp. 69-72). DOI:
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