Lisa Reihana. Biennale Arte 2017. Photo: Michael Hall.
New Zealand’s pavilion opens in Venice with ‘Lisa Reihana: Emissaries’
May 10, 2017
Kiwi learners to explore New Zealand artwork at the Venice Biennale through digital resource
June 16, 2017

My first week: mesmerised media and audiences

At work in the New Zealand Pavilion

Talei Si’ilata is one of the lovely Exhibition Attendants for Lisa Reihana: Emissaries. Our attendants each spend approximately six weeks in Venice between May and November 2017. Talei blogs (below) about her first week in Venice during the Vernissage.

When I arrived in Venice a few days before the official opening of the Biennale Arte 2017, I had no idea what I was really in for. The Vernissage, a chaotic three-day media fest when only journalists, curators and writers are permitted a preview of the pavilions, was an experience in and of itself. The sheer concentration of contemporary ‘art experts’ and media personnel all in the one place saw me heckling with people who were trying to steal catalogues one minute, and discussing the cultural nuances of in Pursuit of Venus [infected] the next.

Visitors in the New Zealand Pavilion watching in Pursuit of Venus [infected], 2015-17. Photo by Talei Si’ilata

What has made the experience that much more enjoyable is seeing audiences, both young and old, European and non-European, react and form a connection with the artwork itself. Stepping off the white gravel road into the 500 year old building that is the Tese Dell’isoloto, visitors are immediately drawn into the main hall by the sound, and when seeing it for the first time are almost always stopped in their tracks, mesmerized by the visual feast that is in Pursuit of Venus [infected], 2015–17.

A family of five investigating the Perspectival Tubes included in the Lisa Reihana: Emissaries Exhibition. Photo by Talei Si’ilata

Perhaps one of my favourite interactions so far, was when a Hawai’ian student studying in Portugal visited the pavilion and upon seeing the work, almost cried. Recognising and seeing representations of his own Polynesian culture and people, especially in a place he least expected to, made the Pavilion, even for the short time he was there, feel like home.