Janet Lilo visual artist

Hit Me With Your Best Shot / Physics Room, Christchurch 2013

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I was super excited when Melanie Oliver mentioned the possibility of showing work at The Physics Room. We bumped heads in November 2012 during the opening of Tame, lologo & ata: performance, poetry & photos at The Engine Room. The group show included work produced during, or in response to the new Pasifika residency hosted by Massey University, alongside clever colleagues Siliga Setoga and John Pule. Over a two-week period in early August 2012, I developed a body of drawings that lead to two large photo explosions called Michael. Michael was contracted to landscape the area outside of the temporary studio I worked from. He didn’t say much, as was his style, but I could tell he was kind and I was taken by the gestures of our minimal daily conversations.

Weeks before seeing Mel, I gave a presentation to Pacific graduates and students in Auckland on professional development and practice. I had a small list of galleries in New Zealand that I ‘aimed’ to show at in 2013/14 – or would at least had hoped to – The Physics Room being a key spot. I first met Mel in New Plymouth at the Govett-Brewster gallery five or six years ago, I always remembered her good attitude, great work ethic and energetic buzz in the gallery. Over the passing years, I quietly watched her achievements online, in and outside of New Zealand. Having gained a bit more experience myself, it was such a pleasure to work towards something on a larger scale, one to one, as fitting contemporaries.

To Mel, firstly, I am thankful for the opportunity. As a Pacific/ Maori female artist I have found it a little hard to catch breaks like this in the general mainstream. I would also like to acknowledge the amount of support and trust given on such a random and experimental project – one that continued to develop and change right to the end. It might not have had a ‘mature’ first review, but it certainly is a project that I feel very proud to have started with you and in Christchurch. You are an excellent director and house host. The Physics Room staff, volunteer community and Installer (Shane) made it.

The people of Christchurch who feature in this work are absolute gold for giving me an insight into their lives. Some shared five minutes, some an hour. When thinking about time in this context, I know I could never fully reach levels of expertise working like this – which is not what I set out to do ever, but I do believe that even the smallest conversation with a single person can really change the way you see and understand things.


Before CHCH

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PRspaceI can’t believe I asked Elle Loui August to stand on the indicated blue dot area and take photo’s for me. Shame. I couldn’t find recent pictures on the Facebook page but realised that it was because I was ‘friends’ with the wrong page. Sorry.

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 9.37.42 AMBlog by Alex Adank – click pic to visit Eastern Lux.

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schoolclosuresScreen Shot 2013-08-27 at 9.59.25 AMMy son Harry goes to Avondale Primary School in Auckland. As a mother, I couldn’t imagine having to go through something like that. It is Awful. I wanted to try and incorporate this into the work somehow. The link between living in Avondale, Auckland and Avondale, Christchurch was something that was in my head from the start.


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I did a lot of research, drawings and modelling of the gallery space leading up to my physical visit to Christchurch in June. I find if I just keep thinking and drawing, I get into a good mode for making. The above drawings were a final install plan from my Auckland location – of course, this is not how it turned out. I knew things would and could change, as it is the nature of my practice. Some artists love knowing what the end looks like, which is fine, but I enjoy a good challenge of letting work organically take shape and form, from the beginning to the end. I find that all the unknowns usually add value and interesting things that I can work with later.

The above install drawings were based on internet research into Christchurch, from amateur photographic blogs, email exchanges between gallery staff and my self, word of mouth and TV. Woza Wanderer was my initial go-to point, as a place where I could see these places from afar. During my visit, I became a wanderer – hoping to generate new work for the show.

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 Avondale ChChAvondale AKL

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penguins RedZoneBus1_Bridge 1_tree CHCH

Pretty early into the proposed walk, I discovered so many different possibilities emerging. The constant ‘stopping’ due to conversations and observations made me realise quickly that a new direction was morphing in its own natural pattern. The inner-city landscape was a constant hum of concrete and machinery moving at work – an ongoing reminder of loss and rebuild. I sat on a scheduled 2pm red zone daily bus tour on a knuckle-bone grey Thursday. The Canterbury recovery tour guide, was an excellent brain and source for historical information, relating to the city, quakes and its future. I wondered how I could possibly make a solo exhibition out of these short-lived experiences? from the tour, it seemed like the public art scene and general response was thriving as a result of the limitations posed, post-quake. Communities were doing things that I could not possibly achieve in the short time and resources available to me – but nor should it. Good things like that take time. So the question I posed to myself is: What story can you tell from a three-day adventure? and how do you tell it from the perspective of an outsider, in a context that requires sensitivity and still maintain creative identity? In the first Km of walking, I cried on the side of the road. I found the CTV site by accident after reading a message written by the parents of a deceased young man left on the fence.

I felt like such an idiot with my two camera’s and tripod.

However romantic it may sound in it’s approach, this project was always from the start, something that was going to be hard. I’m not sure if it worked, but I did in all honesty, give it my best shot.

Ashley Liu

Ashley Liu


Two very special artists I would like to acknowledge is Sharon Chin and Daniel Nouraud. I was lucky enough to meet them on separate residencies – both very talented with art and people. Sharon used Polaroid pictures as gifts, I remember her talking about having a Polaroid party. Daniel, owner of 130+ camera’s, painted directly on to them. As a process, the Polaroid picture is something like magic – a small treasure that is instantaneously gratifying.



ChCh_gallery_opp ChCh_Gallery ChCh_longwall_install ChCh_projection ChCh_projector_longroom


H_EHillary + Elianaseanpolaroid


rooftopElle Loui, Kylie, Grace, Nina, Tara, Mel + Erinn.



HornbyworkshopworkshopgroupClick to read #500WORDS

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One comment

  1. Inspirational Art Exhibition! Thank you Janet for the opportunity to be apart of a meaningful project to me personally as i have lived in Christchurch all my life. The body of work you have created and photographs of particular spots i have spent time with friends and whanau so many stories to tell about a time and place. Your an inspiration to me.. I wish you all the best ; p

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