Five Minutes with Lisa Reihana

We had the pleasure of spending five minutes with Lisa Reihana as she prepares for the 57th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia. Biennale Arte 2017 (The Venice Biennale) is the oldest, largest and most prestigious international contemporary art exhibition in the world, involving more than 80 countries and attracting nearly half a million visitors throughout its six month period from May to September, 2017. Lisa will represent New Zealand at this year’s iteration with Lisa Reihana: Emissaries, an extension of her seminal panoramic video work, in Pursuit of Venus.

What excites you most about representing New Zealand at the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia?

It’s a great honour to be awarded representation for Aotearoa, New Zealand. I’m the tenth artist from our country to attend. I can’t wait to view Lisa Reihana: Emissaries in a European setting; I’m interested in people’s reactions. Venice is a magical place, and my sense is that presenting in Pursuit of Venus in this context will draw out other aspects of the work. There will be great work at Biennale Arte 2017, and it will be fantastic to view other artists’ projects alongside mine.

in Pursuit of Venus has already captured a huge New Zealand audience and was the Auckland Art Gallery’s most visited exhibition ever. How will your presentation at Biennale Arte 2017, Lisa Reihana – Emissaries, build upon this work?

From the beginning I was aware that in Pursuit of Venus needed to be future proofed, and even now we are unable to show the work in its full resolution. However, software and hardware developments since 2015 have enabled us to present a far superior work at Biennale Arte 2017. The soundtrack has been given a ‘Gucci makeover’ – it is now a 7.1 soundtrack mix using the cinematic facilities at Park Road Post in Wellington. In addition I’ve made several sculptural works, repurposing telescopes to draw the audience in to view the images, and to make them consciously consider looking and points of view. Today, people take selfies almost religiously, it almost feels archaic to look through an eyepiece (the scoping device on telescopes).

What sort of resonances might your work have in a European context?

I imagine many people will respond with curiosity to this project. It is immersive and elicits an emotional response. Lisa Reihana: Emissaries is located in the Tese dell’Isolotto, one of the oldest buildings in the Arsenale district of Venice, and this has great resonance for the project.

Will New Zealanders have the opportunity to view the work on home soil again?

Throughout all of 2018, in Pursuit of Venus will be on view somewhere in the world. In January 2018 there will be a survey show of my work at the Campbelltown Art Centre in Western Sydney. Campbelltown Art Centre have been an important supporter of this project. There’s also an exhibition earmarked at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum in Wellington for April 2018.

What is one of your main goals relating to your participation in Biennale Arte 2017 that you hope to achieve?

One of my goals is for the work to be viewed by as many people as possible, and being at Venice will certainly place this work on the international map. Presenting in the Arsenale will further develop New Zealand’s reputation. The audience pays an entrance fee to access the Arsenale and the Giardini, which means (hundreds and thousands of) arts professionals and art lovers will see in Pursuit of Venus. It will also bring our stories – real and invented narratives of the encounter – to the world.

Thank you for your time Lisa. We wish you all the very best!
Five Minutes with Lisa Reihana