Janet Lilo visual artist

The Normandie Research Project part five: Don’t Fucking Die Today | Put a cross on the past 2015

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 6.58.12 PM Université du Havre (Service culturel) 07/11/15 Le Havre

dontdietitleA Pussy juice a day keep a doctor a way — that was his status update in April 2014. I read it when I was snooping on the internet. From public posting observations, he seems to be obsessed with football and fond of Manchester United, including short videos that are supposed to be funny but are actually offensive. Anyway, none of this bothers me and I still have a soft spot for him because he saved me when I was in trouble. My first encounter with Giuseppe was actually on the phone. All this time I thought his name was Josepe but I got it wrong and as a result I need to throw away some of my drawings. I waved goodbye to the black Renault and crossed the road. It was almost dark and the place looked closed. There was a note on the door with a number so I called it. Bonsoir, blah blah blah. My French was so fucking shit. He told me in the strangest accent (not French) that the door would open — which it did —and that a key with my name on it was hanging on a little hook to the left —  and it was. From there, I had to climb a very narrow winding staircase to the fourth floor. The carpet was the colour of new blood and I felt like dying,  having walked 15kms with my 20 kilo pack through some challenging terrain (with rain).

At one point, I had to pretend that I was not Janet but some sort of athlete who was simply on a training mission that involved clawing uphill through roadside trenches. If the look on my face was convincing enough, people passing in vehicles would believe that what I was doing was not crazy or dangerous. An hour prior to my phone call with Giuseppe, an incorrect Google map screenshot on my phone had led me through a dark forest. I could hear barking dogs in the distance and it got louder with every step. I felt scared because I knew all of this noise was aimed at me. Finally, I reached a closed gate and fence line and it was VERY obvious that I should go no further. Run down sheds, old cars and barking dogs — it looked like the perfect place to die in a movie. Going backwards was the worst though. I knew turning around with night fast approaching that I was in deep shit. I was so close, maybe a km through the forest, but now I had to go back and navigate the winding highway at twilight with no footpath. 


When I made it out of the forest I stood at the top of the highway but it was too dangerous with all the cars, trucks and disappearing light. I put my headphones on and listened to Wasted Pilots
next to a chicken coup. Swallowing the air when it tasted bitter and cold, I remembered a golf course just before. I thought if I could walk back to it, I might catch someone to call a taxi. Either that or hitch a ride from the road as plan b. I met the last two golfers chatting in the car park and asked for help. One of the men insisted on driving me down the highway rather than take a taxi, the other (amused by the random situation) patted me on the back. I chucked my muddy bag into the boot of a black Renault station wagon next to muddy golf clubs. The kind French man driving was with his 20 year old son —  they had just spent the day together as his boy was visiting from Caen on study break. At the bottom of the highway, his son got out of the car (one block before I did) to meet some friends for dinner. His father kissed him three times. Once for each cheek and forehead with two hands clutching the sides of his face.

GiuseppeGiuseppe


JanetLilo_textwork_A1JanetLilo_textwork_A12 JanetLilo_textwork_A13


croixGalerie Martainvile de l’Edsadhar 06/11/15 RouenJanetLilo_RouenJanetLilo_Rouenspace

When I first met you, I was sweaty and covered in mud. You spotted me a day before on the road from your car, and when I happened to pass you in a small town street the next day, you invited me for coffee. Five minutes later, I was drinking an espresso in your insurance office.

When I told you I was trying to get to Le Havre by foot, your eyes grew wide. And when I showed you some Google maps, you shook your head and muttered in French – reading glasses sitting at the tip of your nose. Apparently my maps were wrong, so you kindly printed some new ones. From there I discovered I was hours behind schedule – not good – not good at all. You said: Maybe, we go in my car, I leave you somewhere closer to finish walk before dark? but if you don’t want it’s okay. At that point I remembered a promise I made to my best friend Lala, which was not to accept rides from strangers in case they tried to kill me.

I felt bad you had to cancel your next meeting, but when you asked if I would like to stop in and see the ruins at Jumiéges, I couldn’t help but take that as a sign. I tried very hard to include Jumiéges on route when I was planning my walk, but it was too south and out of the way. In the car you pointed at many things and explained histories I would never have come across in a library or the internet. A week later, I would discover that many years ago, your grandparents lived above my gallery space in Rouen. Everything about this encounter was meant to be and before you left me in a safe place, you handed me your business card and said: If you ever get in trouble, call me and I will come find you – anywhere.

You, headless at Jumiéges 26/10/14

MichelJacketWalking with you at Étretat 03/12/14EtreatIn Rouen 29/10/15

MichelI thought it might be awkward seeing you again but it wasn’t. I struggled all year trying to resolve this project, to the point I was still making new work at the opening. I felt embarrassed in my lack of confidence when you asked about it, however, I realised it didn’t matter to me or you because our meeting wasn’t about art – it was about exercising a rare and special friendship. Although you looked well and in good spirits, I was deeply sorry to hear the year had been a tough one. On a much more positive note, it was good to know there was plenty of love and support from friends to keep you moving forward. Mettre une croix sur le passé! is what you said when you finished your Perrier. I thought it was very fitting for both our situations and asked if you would type it into my phone so that I wouldn’t forget.

Until we meet again.

j x


 

mercibeaucoup

Creative New Zealand’s Pacific Art Committee and The University of Le Havre for significant funding.

Curators, Jacqueline Charles-Rault & Caroline Vercoe for inviting me and trusting me to go rogue on one of the most personally challenging shows to date.

To Allan Haeweng, Clair Brassy & Josépha Curvier for the amazing translation work.

To Charlotte at Propost services in Rouen and Guillaume in Le Havre for their support and kindness.

To Jeremy Leatinu’u for helping me hang a six-metre long print without a level.

logo_cnz-logo-reversedlogo-univ-lehavre-NEW 

 

 


attacksinparis

January 2015

vigil_auckland_janetlilo

November 2015

Paris

Not long after leaving Paris the first time, the Hebdo shootings occurred and I attended a vigil held in Auckland. To be honest, being from this part of the world I had no real idea of the political situation or motivation behind this attack, that time or this. All I know is that innocent people were killed and tragedy calls for all of us to stop and think about life, death, peace and humanity. Sadly, millions are affected by acts such as these worldwide. Among the trending floods of genuine tributes and marketing spam of #prayforparis, you’ll also find plenty of challenging comments directed at the west about the lack of media attention paid to ongoing war and mass murders in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and so on, and so on.

I imagined how insensitive and out-of-context my work would come across to French audiences when faced with bold print statements such as “Don’t fucking die today” and “Put a cross on the past” post terror attack.

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