Angela Tiatia / New Zealand/Samoa/Australia b.1973 / Holding On 2015 / Single-channel high definition video, 16:9, colour, sound, 12:11 minutes / Dimensions variable / Courtesy: The artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney | Singapore / © Angela Tiatia

Angela Tiatia
Holding On 2015

Not Currently on Display

Holding On is the title Angela Tiatia has given the performance video she created in 2015 on Funafuti, the main atoll of Tuvalu, an archipelago halfway between Australia and Hawai’i. The artist lies uneasily on a cement slab as the surrounding ocean laps and washes over her in rhythmic tidal surges. Holding On captures the struggle between the body of the artist and the body of the ocean as the tide rises.

The islands comprising Tuvalu are now just two metres above sea level and its inhabitants are in constant danger of being washed away. For Tiatia, the work is about the stark realities of global warming:

It’s my response to climate change and rising water levels in the Pacific. It’s a direct reflection of the people of the Pacific holding onto their lands.1


1 Angela Tiatia interviewed by Varia Karipoff. Varia Karipoff, ‘Angela Tiatia: Holding On’, Art Guide Australia, 20 September 2018, <>, accessed November 2019.

Through her practice, Angela Tiatia explores contemporary culture, focusing on ideas of representation, gender, neo-colonialism and the commodification of the body and place. Tiatia’s tightly composed video and performance works often act as portraits of both an individual’s experience and an aspect of contemporary society. They present Tiatia’s own body or those of her loved ones, performing repetitive actions of physical or symbolic endurance, enabling the artist to articulate deep personal experiences of migration, displacement, and racial and gender stereotyping.

Born in Auckland, New Zealand, Tiatia is of Samoan and Australian descent, and often refers to her Pacific heritage in her work.


1. How does this work engage with experiences of struggle and vulnerability?

2. As the video ends, Tiatia’s fate is unclear: does she manage to hold on or is she overcome by the tide? Why has the artist left this unsaid? What do you think happens next?

3. How is time represented in Holding On?


1. Working in groups, chose an environment with a connection to water that is under threat. Create a stop-motion animation that demonstrates the effects of that threat over time. Consider what materials you could use to enhance the meaning of the work.

2. Plan and film a performance that uses physical struggle as a metaphor. Use editing software to manipulate and alter time. How does altering time change the way an audience might perceive your performance?

3. Holding On represents the artist’s personal response to climate change. What does climate change mean to you? Create an artwork that expresses your response to an aspect of climate change. Consider whether you intend to draw attention to an issue, provoke action, or provide a solution.