Muscle Memory, an art history of South Auckland

Muscle Memory – the last exhibition in Vunilagi Vou’s season of solos – opened last week with a beautiful gathering of friends, family and supporters of Genevieve Pini’s practice.

Muscle Memory features new work alongside archival pieces dating back to 2002. In an installation combining two eras of her practice, Pini presents her 2002 textile works made from cloth used to wipe the blood and ink from her father’s tatau with a 29 meter long red ribbon lei (garland) that she started making at the beginning of 2023. The installation configures the works on three mannequins – one male, one female and one clear form in between them. The opportunity to combine older and newer work reflects Pini’s ongoing enquiry into the experience and responsibilities of wearing her customary marks (tattoo) and the bonds across genealogy that never fade.

In a newer suite of works, Pini has brought a fascination in superhero capes to life. Interested in the idea of being from South Auckland as a super power, her three concept capes reference the exuberant displays of island origins and flag pride, school as a source of connection, belonging and community, and a darkness that is perhaps an inextricable part of South Auckland’s super power.

Starting in 2001, Manukau City Council (amalgamated into Auckland Council in 2010) produced a much loved design competition and runway show called Cult Couture. The homegrown annual event generated a community and culture amongst local artists where concepts like Pini’s capes were frequently presented, building a picture over the years of quintessential South Auckland / Manukau style and aesthetic. Pini herself entered numerous times, placed and won in 2007; she later styled some of her entries into an editorial for SOUTH magazine in 2012.

Muscle Memory is Pini’s first solo exhibition, and considers a practice that has quietly spanned two decades, from an era that included four years at Manukau School of Visual Arts and the experience of being tattooed with her customary marks, to the Cult Couture era, and her more recent practice of figurative self portraiture. Throughout her work, Pini’s interest in print and meditative processes endures.

Learn more about the artist and her South Auckland super powers this Friday for an Artist Talanoa – doors open at 6pm, all welcome!

Muscle Memory is Vunilagi Vou’s last programmed exhibition. Vunilagi Vou – the gallery – has seen 19 exhibitions produced and presented since June 2019. It has been fun! And challenging! And it’s time for a rest.

From 2024, Vunilagi Vou – the gallery – will operate as a studio for creative projects and occasional gatherings. The stockroom and retail space will remain open as a unique repository of small and large works, limited edition prints and a bespoke retail range, and Vunilagi Vou’s consultancy work, writing and publishing will absorb new energy and focus.

Muscle Memory is open until Saturday 10 December, outside of opening hours, appointments can be made any time by getting in touch via email, or here.

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