Sisterhood Lifeline explores the visibility and invisibility of black women’s bodies in cultural institutions in Australia. Drawing from her personal and professional experiences of working in a museum; a colonial institution, Lisa’s support networks with women and non-binary people of colour literally became her sisterhood lifeline – a phrased borrowed from Areej Nur, a Melbourne based writer and media producer.
In this work Lisa aims to capture the importance of safe cultural spaces in her personal life and professional working life and how relationships with indigenous folks both inside and outside of the institution became crucial to her survival of working in a museum. Ongoing nuanced experiences of microaggressions, direct and indirect racism, colonial erasure and amnesia of historical museum practices relating to collections compound to create a damaging and toxic environment for black and brown bodies culturally and spiritually.
A creative response to institutional racism, the works were photographed in Lisa’s former workplace of Museums Victoria. One set of images portrays black women of colour boldly taking up space and holding space for each other, institutionally, yet defiantly show that not all cultural knowledge and exchange is available or privy to the public. Our bodies are not expendable.
The alternate set of images speak to the ‘coping mechanisms’ of trying to blend in and not stick out in the institution. A strategy Lisa imitated when she first began to work at the museum, whilst carefully navigating collegial workplace relationships of power, representational narratives of Papua New Guinean / Melanesian peoples held by museums historically.
Commissioned for The Commute exhibition at Institute of Modern Art.
A Tinata Tuna (Tolaisphere) exhibition text, Lisa Hilli & Léuli Eshraghi
Sisterhood Lifeline 2018, latex ink on wallpaper, inkjet prints on cotton rag, office partitions, iMac, office telephone with vocal recordings, books, Post It Notes, pen, swivel chair.
The Commute, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane 2018-19
Transits & Returns, Vancouver Art Gallery 2019-20
Media & Reviews
Installation photography Markus Ravik and Carl Warner 2018