Home AKL catalogue: Text by Nina Tonga Janet Lilo is a West Auckland-based visual artist and curator of Māori, Niuean and Sāmoan descent. Her artistic and curatorial practice is deeply rooted in an exploration of popular culture within a localised framework. Collaborations have been a core part of Lilo’s practice, which utilises the vernaculars of popular culture and social media. Her vast body of work includes appropriated amateur photography and video from online platforms, stop animation, music videos, vlogs (video logs) and experimental documentary. Recently she has created internet art projects specifically for YouTube, establishing a bridge between global online communities and the local communities of Auckland. ‘Beneath the Radar’, 2012 is a three-screen video work inspired by the volcanic field of Auckland which details its traffic, public parks and the coloured rooftops of its suburbs. Borrowing from the idea of travelling undetected through space, the work functions as a ‘visual radar’, sweeping across and capturing activity and landscape. For Lilo these Auckland landscapes are a point of familarity: ‘The sentimental value of these places resonate within me a sense of “home” and belonging. The familiar landscape and era of homes in certain suburbs, where clumps of quintessential weatherboard homes lie, are very Auckland to me. I find it beautiful but I also think about the multicultural communities within these spaces and what the spaces represent to them.’ Employing a mash-up aesthetic which is characteristic of her vlog works, Lilo peoples the landscapes by superimposing slices from existing videos. Clindren play on swings and ride bikes; groups pose for portraits; and a figure in a high visibility vest rides past on a Segway. The hive of ‘underground’ activity is a poetic reminder of the histric sustencance of volcanoes and the many pā (stockaded village) sites etched into the folds and ridges of them. The prominence of children and youth are suggestive of childhood memories and the recreational and sentimental values placed on Auckland’s volcanic field as historic and contemporary sites of belonging. Borrowing the title of the work from New Zealand hip-hop icon Che Fu’s third album adds further depth to Lilo’s pop-cultural referencing. In various scenes people break dance and gesture over the landscape, drawing a visual parallel with the ways in which hip-hop music is used in Aotearoa New Zealand to assert local identities.
Janet Lilo: the poetics of home, text by Zara Sigglekow Charles Baudelaire, the French art critic and poet, wrote in 1846: ‘The life in our city is rich in poetic and marvelous subjects. We are enveloped and steeped as through in an atmosphere of the marvelous; but we do not notice it.’ Janet Lilo’s video work Beneath the Radar in the current exhibition Home AKL brings to our attention to what we, according to Baudelaire, often pass by. The city and communities Lilo inhabits are artistically refigured and communicated in semi-documentary style. Lilo focuses on her local urban Pacific community – seen, for example, in the hip-hop figures that grace the screen like graphics from a music video. Yet aspects of the work communicate a broader regional experience extending beyond her Pacific community. The volcanic cones that dot Auckland feature in and act as vantage points from which to film the expanse of suburbia and the city. Like earlier New Zealand Landscape artists, such as Rita Angus, characteristic geographical features (here of volcanic hills and suburbia) are highlighted and linked to our notions of local identity. This is enhanced by the symmetrical layout of the video: the pieces of landscape are mirrored reinforcing their visual prominence. Digitally altered fluorescent colours of sky and land, which change later to luminous blue tones with twinkling lights at dusk, add a sentimental and ‘marvelous‘ atmosphere. The steady flow of cars, another characteristic of Auckland, appear soothing, an impressive feat. hree months ago, on the same wall in the gallery sat John Fergusson’s work Dieppe, 14th July 1905: Night, as part of the Degas to Dalí exhibition. A group of fashionably attired folk stroll the streets in the city fireworks erupting in the night sky. This work was part of the avant-garde backlash (of which Baudelaire was part) of artists who found their inspiration and subjects from the city and landscape around them, rather than historical, literary or religious scenes. The painting is a record of time and fashions and reveals a particular beauty of the period. As I see it, Lilo continues the tradition of painters of modern life (the school to which Baudelaire and Fergusson can loosely be ascribed) albeit in the contemporary medium of video. Turning her eye to the city and communities around her, Lilo transforms what often seems banal, due to the everyday viewing of our city, into the marvelous, and reminds us of our unique place of home. Zara Sigglekow is a photographer with a developing interest in curatorial practice. She recently curated a contemporary photography exhibition, Presence in Absence, at Black Asterisk gallery.