“Feeling” has a Bad Rep Right Now

Interview with Jess Holly Bates

Kyah  is a nomadic performance artist who view her art as a means of passage through which activism, healing and transformation take place within her life. She is abundant in certification – a dance graduate, a Reiki practitioner, a Shakti spirit dance facilitatator, and makes work from the site of raw matter: self-exposure. She performs her work DEATH. BIRTH. DEATH. DANCE. on Friday 10 November, 8pm at Play_station Gallery. Here she speaks to us about our nation’s social numbing, the irrepressible force of the mother and the pleasure of ‘fitting in’ to what PAWA is, or what it can be.

What will get you out of bed in the morning?

I don’t know. Because I need to earn money and pretend like I want to live. Also I guess because I just want to save the world with my art, to be honest.

Do you define yourself as a performance artist? 

Performance art means a lot of different things to me and it  changes all the time but I think mostly for me it’s a kind of magic, I use it/work with it like I would if I wanted to cast a spell or do a ritual. I work with it very intentionally and I’m aware of its power, its capacity to create change, to impact both myself and everything that exists.


Where do you call home, and why is that place meaningful for you?

At the moment I would call Aotearoa New Zealand my homeland.

I have a strong heart connection to the land itself and after studying native tree and plant medicine here, I have started using the healing properties of specific native plants in my performances and so it feels important that I am creating art on this land right now.


Why was it important to you to be a part of PAWA?

Because it’s a creative platform I feel safe to express myself in. I think performance art is still very misunderstood here in NZ. It’s nice to fit in sometimes, to not be the “radical” or “strange” one. I can’t wait to hang out with other performance artists and open people up to a deeper understanding of performance art as a practice.


Who is an artist or group of artists that you especially admire right now?

I’m getting a lot of inspiration from the music scene right now, serpentwithfeet, sevdaliza to name a couple. I really admire their artistry and ability to just open out their insides for all to see. Also I’m in love, in awe and have so much respect for FAFSWAG I think they are an absolute blessing. And my close art (heart) family, Robyn Jordaan, Jazmine Rose Phillips and Sara Cowdell, they are all such powerful creatrixes, I’m constantly being inspired by who they are and what they do



Do you feel as though New Zealand respects the arts? why?

No, not really. Especially not art that is emotionally charged or that is trying to start potentially uncomfortable conversations. I feel like “feeling” has a bad rep right now. It seems like emotional art frightens people and so they laugh at it. New Zealand seems to be in a strange relationship to the arts right now and I think this is a reflection of a very numb, cut off society. Also in terms of funding it’s just really hard to feel valued as an artist. A lot of my artist friends seem to be struggling hard right now, so much giving and giving and giving of self, its like we are all feeling on behalf of everyone who is too numb or too afraid to feel the despair this world faces and there’s not much we get in return apart from like 30 bucks to do a gig if we’re lucky and heaps of bullshit criticism from the art world it’s really fucked up.


Outside of PAWA – what are you working on right now?

I’m about to go to India for a 6 week artist residency where I’ll be working on a project titled Red Mother. Im exploring the links between violence towards women and violence towards the earth and proposing that in order to reconnect with Mother Nature and therefore respect her we must also reconnect with our own inner feminine/yin/shakti nature. Especially for male identifying people I think this is really important. I’m all about the Mother right now, the archetypal figure and representation of creation and life itself, what a powerful force. It’s the force that drives everything I do.

How do you feel about your upcoming performance piece? Why is it important to you?

I’m not looking forward to it at all. I really hate performing right now. I’m mentally in a really bad way and being seen and heard terrifies me because I feel like I’m going to get ripped to shreds for being myself, or for being a powerful woman. Like its unsafe to share who you are in a society that fears authenticity and radical self expression. It’s an awful and crippling feeling.

The performance I will be sharing for PAWA is all about the life and death cycle, honouring transformation and healing as a non linear process, I think it’s really important for people to engage with this life cycle as I believe the more familiar and connected we become to it’s rhythms the more easily we can navigate our way through huge personal and collective transitions. I think being “in rhythm” is key to a deep connection with ourselves and our earth.

In Conversation with Jess Holly Bates


Kyah Dove’s performance work DEATH. BIRTH. DEATH. DANCE  will be performed on Friday 10th November at 8pm at play_station gallery. 

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