Press release 2007 / Original TOP16
In association with AUT University and the University of Auckland, Top 16 is the latest show from innovative Auckland-based video artist, Janet Lilo, a recent graduate of AUT’s Master of Art and Design programme. Top 16 refers to a popular application amongst users of a personal webpage called bebo, which easily identifies a user’s or a group’s most important and popular friends, family members and fans. Based on the idea of profiling one’s self or identity, Lilo manifests her inspiration from this virtual space by using it as a template for the installation-based works. Top16 is an exploration of these two spaces merged, with the gallery serving as a physical space for viewing, commentary as well as exhibiting current profiles of bebo members. Given the recent media hype regarding the violent death of 17-year old Augustine Borrell and the online surrender of the main suspect that was followed with a hasty closure to the suspect’s bebo website, Top 16 seeks to highlight the overlap between public and private space: censorship of the individual and the community, appropriation of image and text, audience appeal and popularity and the wider context of popular culture and networking.
Louise Tu’u | Curator
Myface, Fresh Gallery Otara 2009
MyFace is an exploration of visual artist Janet Lilo’s fascination with social networking sites such as Bebo, MySpace and Facebook, and in particular the way people use them as a platform for personal expression and identity in the form of self-portraiture.
Lilo looks at how users unwittingly challenge attitudes towards the photographic self-portrait. The widespread ownership of digital cameras makes self-portraiture easy, and the fact that an unflattering image can so easily be deleted and replaced with one that is more satisfactory means network-users are posting only those photos that represent exactly how they want to be seen.
The photographs that make up MyFace draw the viewer in, provoking a response of mixed fascination and embarrassment – indicative of self-portraiture photography’s new, and indeed still delicate, near-acceptance. The nature of the images causes a curious tension between public and private space, inspiring an awkward sense of voyeurism from the viewing of seemingly private photographs in a very public space.
Lilo has taken this public viewing a step further than the internet, effectively ‘stealing’ these images from the social networking sites they have been posted on and placing them in a different public space, one unhindered by the confines of that pseudo-private realm. Network-users take photos of themselves in the most private of places – in bathrooms and bedrooms where they will not be ‘seen’ – but then confound this apparent embarrassment by posting the results on the most public of forums, the internet, often with no restrictions on their privacy settings.
Taking advantage of this, Lilo takes these photos out of their original context to expose a false sense of privacy encouraged by the fact that much internet use takes place alone and at home. But once a photo is posted publicly, fellow users can do what they will with images, as Lilo has done with MyFace.
The photographs range from blatant self-portraiture with arms extended at the edge of the frame and the subject looking directly into the lens, to images expertly made to look as though they were taken by a third party. Within these styles there is the sexual, the strange, the doe-eyed cutesy, and the rather mundane, as people seek to manipulate the way in which they are seen by the world.