Janet Lilo visual artist

Beneath The Radar / MA show / 2006

Beneath The Radar Installation (2006) Masters project / AUT University


selected works (BTR) Telecom Prospect exhibition 2007
Image: Janet Lilo
selected works (BTR) Telecom Prospect exhibition 2007
Image: Janet Lilo

Park Life (Avondale)

Hip hop culture in Aotearoa is huge. Any music channel is peppered (if not largely populated) by hip hop tracks, whether pure or infused, local or international. Historically the most prominent offerings have come from the USA and many schools, sub-genres, shifts and fusions have occurred within the expanded genre over its thirty year plus history. Stateside music videos have tended to veer predominantly into two styles, the display of trappings of great wealth underscored by a reiteration of authenticity (of ‘roots’) or the grainy, raw representation of a tough existence, with weighty challenges being transcended through the lyricism of hip hop.

Janet Lilo asks her interviewees (aspiring and established musicians, friends and family) what hip hop means to them. The responses are incredibly personal, and come back again and again to hip hop being a vital means of self-expression and identification—whether you are a writer, a performer, a grafitti or stencil artist, or a fan. Lilo’s videos are littered with references to international hip hop culture, but they are firmly rooted in Aotearoa and specifically within the Avondale area of West Auckland.

The four videos within this exhibition are part of a much larger and ongoing suite of works. Lilo combines different styles of filmmaking: colour and black and white footage, raw one-to-one interviews where the voice of the interviewer (Lilo) is evident, conversations between small groups of people, emcee acappella performances to camera, mid and long shots of Riversdale Park where kids skate, hang out and practise wet lavalava whipping techniques (a rising ‘display sport’ requiring deft skill), through to polished shots of emcees and djs performing, treated in a music video-style, the mechanics of the image making exposed. Janet Lilo’s involvement with both her interviewees and with the subject matter is personal; she is part of the scene, not an outsider, enabling a privileged access. While Lilo is engaged with modes of representation within popular culture, her work also investigates installation structures within a gallery context as well as legacies of moving image-based art practice and documentary making.

Heather Galbraith

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