Leilehua Lanzilotti Creates Sonic Interpretations at The Noguchi Museum

Portrait of Leilehua by Laura Banchi, Courtesy of The Bogliasco Foundation.

Leilehua Lanzilotti is a Kanaka Maoli composer and experimental sound artist who has collaborated with The Noguchi Museum on several commissions. The most recent collaboration celebrates the retrospective of Toshiko Takaezu, Toshiko Takaezu: Worlds Within, where she co-curated and composed a piece for it. They are both on view from March 20 to July 28.

Sound & Video Installation

For the retrospective, Lanzilotti activates sound in Takaezu’s work with a video installation, the sky in our hands, our hands in the sky, to honor Takaezu’s curiosity and admiration of when she dropped a piece of clay into one of her ceramic closed forms and loved the sound. The 45-minute video series is of Lanzilotti playing 8 different rattles. These closed forms were referred to as “the dark space that you can’t see” by Takaezu leaving room for Lanzilotti to create a sonic interpretation.

“I wanted to give people a chance to hear the sound and see the physicality of playing these objects. Since there are so few that are played (8 relative to the 200 or so objects in the exhibit), I hope this encourages people to imagine the sounds and interior landscapes of the other closed forms in the exhibition. I see this practice as an extension of the idea of giving voice to things which normally aren't listened to, and a chance to practice listening and empathy.”

Lanzilotti combines the recorded sounds of the closed forms with footage shot on the island of Hawai’i-- at the base of Kīlauea, the slopes of Mauna Loa, and the top of Mauna Kea. It creates a multisensory landscape honoring the wahi pana which translates to “places with a heartbeat.”

“I hope that someone comes away from this work seeing these extended landscapes at the top of Mauna Kea with no manmade objects on them and asks some of those questions about land stewardship, about how we honor sacred spaces, and how we choose to engage with them. As an artist with the opportunity to show this landscape in an institutional setting, I am uplifting that perspective, kū kiaʻi mauna.”

The experimental music practice of Lanzilotti has always been influenced by a visual aspect as she reflects on growing up in The Contemporary Museum in Honolulu where her mother, Louise Keali’iloma King Lanzilotti, was the first curator of education to her doctoral dissertation on the intersection of architecture and visual art on musical composition. She states her experimentation considers formal Western notation to graphic and text scores. As a co-curator of Worlds Within, she has furthered this in her practice and ability to create different frameworks for people to form new connections through visual art.

Lanzilotti has additionally composed with eyes the color of time, a finalist for the Pulitzer in 2022, and recently beyond the accident of time (2019). All of her work circulates the notion of imagination around new paths and community building where she continually invites the question “how do we get there together?”

Leilehua Lanzilotti, still from the sky in our hands, our hands in the sky, 2023. Single-channel video, 46 minutes. Directed by Leilehua Lanzilotti; music by Leilehua Lanzilotti; cinematography by Gahlord Dewald. Courtesy of the artist.