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If these walls could talk

We connected with artist Lisa Reihana ahead of her talk at the AGO to learn more about her artistic practice and thinking behind her artwork, in Pursuit of Venus [infected].

Installation shot, Lisa Reihana

Lisa Reihana, in Pursuit of Venus [infected], 2015-2017 (installation view). Ultra HD video (colour, sound, 64 min.). Photo by Brad Coleman.

Multi-disciplinary artist Lisa Reihana has brought her critically acclaimed panoramic work, in Pursuit of Venus [infected], to the AGO thanks to imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival. The piece has been shown around the world and has garnered widespread critical acclaim.

On October 25 Lisa Reihana joins us for a talk with Julie Nagam, Canadian Research Chair in Indigenous Arts, Collaboration and Digital Media, to discuss Reihana’s artistic practice and thinking behind in Pursuit of Venus [infected]. In anticipation of the talk, we sat down with Reihana to find out more about her inspiration and process in creating this captivating piece.    

AGO: in Pursuit of Venus [infected] required a number of years to complete. How did you stay inspired over such a long period of time?

Reihana: This has been a wonderfully rewarding project to work on. I learned something new every time I worked on it, so it was easy to commit to. Also, there were so many other people who gave of themselves to make the project happen, through their time, knowledge and creativity, which was also a driving factor. 

AGO: Throughout the 70 vignettes in the work there is a diverse mix of activities that the characters are engaged in. How did you select what to include?

Reihana: The vignettes I chose foreground issues of gender, indigenous politics and events which I read about, but couldn't quite understand. As well, I wanted to look at traditional mourning practices, many of which have been altered since colonization. Working with actors and performers brings these accounts to life, and seeing them performed by living bodies brings new levels of understanding. 

AGO: How did your New Zealand and Māori ancestry inform your approach to creating in Pursuit of Venus [infected]?

Reihana: Being of Māori ancestry fundamentally informs the work. But I cannot overlook my mother’s ancestry – which is an odd British mix. She hails from England and Wales. Wales has its own tribal history, and was also colonized by England, where the right to practice and retain language has been fought for. Margaret Thatcher closed down the Welsh coal mines, causing an economic crisis. So the fight for traditions, language and land retention is in my blood.

AGO: What is in store for you in the future?

Reihana: I am working on a video for French fashion designer Christian Louboutin. He has an amazing exhibition opening in Paris next year. I am also producing a new video work for the Aotea Centre in my hometown of Auckland. This examines Māori creation stories, Papatuanuku the Earth Mother and her son Tane. It’s exciting imagining them, and their value for audiences today.

AGO: What can attendees expect from your talk on October 25 at the AGO?

Reihana: This is a great opportunity for me to share some insights about the conceptualization and production of in Pursuit of Venus [infected]. It's such a complex work that I'm never sure how much I will cover, but am happy to answer questions from the audience.

in Pursuit of Venus [infected] was on view on Level 2 in the J.S. McLean Centre for Indigenous & Canadian Art (Galleries 232 & 233).

Lisa Reihana in conversation with Julie Nagam took place October 25th, 2019 in Baillie Court. The talk was organized by AGO and imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival.

Admission to the AGO Collection and all special exhibitions is always free for AGO MembersAGO Annual Pass holders and visitors 25 and under. For more information, please visit the website.

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