This month Grey Lynn born and raised artist Naawie Tutugoro is taking over our weekly gig guide posters and putting out some limited edition Neck of the Woods stickers. Naawie describes her practice as “autobiographical, referring my upbringing in suburbia, notions of hybridity and conditions of diaspora”. As well as her indepedent work, Naawie works as part of art collective The RES_, recently completed a huge project at Snickel Lane and is on the verge of wrapping up four years at Elam. We caught up with Naawie this week to talk about growing up and finding space in the city, favourite Karangahape Road spots and her tips for navigating art school.
You said something in an interview about your Snickel Lane piece about loving shared, public spaces. Do we need more shared spaces on Karangahape Rd?
Āe. Shared, public spaces are for the intermingling, the daydreaming and the reflection in a landscape filled so much monopoly. Somewhere like Karangahape requires such spaces to relieve the tensions and disparities caused by what I would describe as a kind of insidious gentrification. Such spaces foster community and connection.
Your photography focused Instagram account @brwn_grl_lenz tells a compelling story of inner city life. Does the city inspire your work?
The city 'commissions' me ... taking photographs is an exercise to look at the space differently. It is more the apparatus of the film camera if I'm honest, like remembering the apparatus of the film camera throughout colonisation... The 35mm photography has emerged out of my research process of reflection; looking back into the past through photographs - the nostalgic/melancholic/reminiscent vibe is the basis is my obsession... There is the amnesia caused by the digital climate too. Of course, how the city disseminates into the suburban and rural and vice versa is a compelling subject to me. Everything from the wairua of these environments, the material associations, characteristics and where they fuse into one another, and so on. Growing up in Grey Lynn then living on Waiheke Island and more recently the central city has created a lot of fluctuation and dispossession in a sense. The movement around these spaces has set up a “commuting” framework in my work - a frequent bidirectional motion in the central business district. Just call me the teleporter haha...
Not a lot of artists get the chance to manage a whole art project - including promo, budget, etc. How has the Snickel Lane project informed your work going forward?
Well firstly, involving others was important. It was kind of inevitable as certain aspects of the project were out of my skill range. I had been part of a mural project a while ago that involved the public so with the Snickel Lane project I wanted to continue a kind of informal engagement to deter from the commercial formality of it all. I saw another side to Beauracracy and realised it isn't all that bad. It can be about network positivity. In that same vein, I was able to employ my creative friends to come down, pick up a spray can or paintbrush, and hang out. Working on-site was so cool, being totally submerged in this laneway that was an office, studio, and worksite all in one. Depending on the nature of the project, large scale pieces require basic maths. Overall, this project informed a 'keep calm and have fun' approach in my work moving forward. Oh, and not to use the word 'stress' - otherwise it shows in the work.
What is your ideal night out in Auckland and what would you like to see more of in our nightlife culture?
Ok, ideal night out would be: Beef Rendang at Uncle Man's post cruising to a couple of exhibition openings and most likely drinking too much, then having a smoke in Myers park topped off with a worthwhile boogie and a kebab at 3 am.
Let's see more womxn! more sisters! more diversity! in the music scene and gig line-ups. Let's see more dancing, dance floors and places that encourage dancing - to good quality music - because I don't think I only speak for myself when I say that we don't want to go down to Britomart and Queen street to find a foggy, laser-tag-type spot riddled with fuck-boys and baby giraffes. It's not safe and sure as hell ain't a vibe.
What are your favourite K’ Rd spots?
All of it, 2-3 years ago. The Grow Room, Fuzzy Vibe and Lowtide. days... they were pivotal. The op-shops and their low price racks! Nowadays it is hard to say but of course, I'll make a shoutout to 'Everybody Eats' kaupapa, Samoa House Library, Charlie's Karaoke Bar, the dairy that hooks it up, Neck of the Woods and Verona of course.
We’re all, obviously, very inspired by music over here at Neck of the woods. What’s on your drawing/painting/art creating playlist right now?
Fanau Spa: Fanau Spa (Album)
JessB, Church Leon: Bump Bump
Connie Constance: English Rose (Album)
Doja Cat + Rico Nasty: Tia Timera
Shiraz & LSJ: Rap for Sport (Album)
Cleophus, MELODOWNZ, Jono Das: Lucifer
Marco McKinnis: Silence
Kelsey Lu: Blood (Album)
LB: Comin' and Goin'
Keith., LB, Lester: Backyard
We’ve worked with artists who’ve never studied art at a tertiary level, art school graduates and artists who’ve left art school part way through. You’re graduating in September. Do you have any advice for artists wanting to go the same route?
I am in the last week of my 4 year Fine Arts degree at Elam and I am feeling so many different emotions about finishing.
My advice would be along the lines of keeping an open mind going and asking for help is totally normal. Sleep Hygiene is key! You are responsible for your education so be kind to yourself and how you manage to compromise.
Working within an institution can be hard and - communication and transparency are integral - like email your tutor if you have a question. Essentially you are paying for this education, so demand it and make it work for you! In regard to indigenous methodologies, we see conversations as a primary source of knowledge and research and it is about legitimising our presence within an institution; citing those conversations or experiences - and creating our own formulas as responsive, a kind of Institutional critique instead of conforming to a default, standard kind of research.
Intuition is everything. Fuck Grades. Assert Yourself. Don't try to make Art.