Speaking to Lisa Reihana about being a Venice artist

Lisa Reihana talks representation, shifting perspectives and new ways of seeing the world in her exhibition for the 57th Venice Biennale: Emissaries. We caught up with Lisa Reihana the day after the official launch of the New Zealand Pavilion, to discuss her panoramic video work in Pursuit of Venus (or is that Venice?) [infected], and to hear more about the experience of representing New Zealand at the Venice Biennale 2017. Reihana was upfront in discussing the challenges involved in presenting a Biennale project through a national exhibition, commenting that the extent of work required (over the two years leading up to the exhibition) shouldn’t be underestimated, and is a factor for artists to consider. In 2007, Reihana was part of the New Zealand committee that visited Venice to assess the country’s participation in the Biennale, and this experience offered her an excellent insight into the nature of national pavilions, and the type of projects presented in this context. When the artist developed in Pursuit of Venus for another project, she thought it would make a great work for Venice. We talked with Reihana about the exhibition, and in particular the new elements that were added to the video work after it was shown at the Auckland Art Gallery. We spoke about the sheer technological feat of producing the film, the process of finding the venue in Venice, and about the relationship between the work, and the 19th century wallpaper which inspired it. This relationship, and the way that Reihana plays with representation of Pacific peoples, is often humourous, and at times ambiguous. It lies at the heart of the work and arguably, its reception. Our full interview with Lisa Reihana will be published in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can read Rhana Devenport's essay, curator of the NZ pavilion 2017.

All images above: Contemporary HUM

Image below: Lisa Reihana. Biennale Arte 2017.

Photo: Michael Hall. Image courtesy of New Zealand at Venice.