It Can Get Bloody Claustrophobic

Interview with Holly Bates

Virginia is a live artist and director who most recently made and performed a thing called THE PLASTIC ORGASM.  She likes to make shows in cars and studied at clown school in Paris. She is one half of the collaboration for NO/I/SELF, made with Thomas Press, a work which takes place from 8pm at Play_station gallery on Friday 10th November. Here she tells us about how a suburb can witness your failures, feeling glued by the theatre world and the charm of a performer who doesn’t want to be watched.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

I want to say something inspiring like ‘the drive I have to make the world a better place’ but honestly – at the moment it is probably:

  • The smell of Coffee

  • The lure of freshly fried Pancakes made by Thomas on a Sunday

  • The terrifying sound of my parents knocking on my front door because I have slept through all alarms and phone calls

What are you, professionally? How do you define that?

If you asked me what I was on Monday I might have said defiantly that I was a Director. On Tuesday maybe I was a “shitty maker of things for things”. On Wednesday perhaps I shyly muttered it was ‘complicated’. On Thursday I could’ve lazily said “I work in the arts”.  Probably the most relevant definition at the moment is a ‘Multidisciplinary Artist’. In the past few years my work has definitely morphed into a Performance / Live Art zone as I delve further away from the world of theatre. In the construction of ‘NO/I/SE(LF)’ Thomas and I were pretty fluid with what our “artistic roles” were. One day in the process we got bored and decided that we should swap what our ordinary roles were. So currently for this project I am the official synth player and sound operator and Thomas (usually a sound designer) is performing for the first time. He is an incredible performer because he doesn’t want to be one. You can’t learn that charm at Drama school I don’t think. What makes performance art? Hmmm a body or bodies (or representations of a body or bodies) in space in relation to time.


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

Grey Lynn. I was born and bred in our old bungalow on Baildon Rd and lived there for 21 years with my 3 siblings and parents. The suburb changed so much in that time, as did I. I stole flowers from the gardens and resold them as ‘perfume’ (stolen flowers mixed with water); I drew chalk artwork on the roads at our regular ‘street parties’; I trick‘or‘treated in my shitty Witch costume; I was mugged on my street; I knocked on doors selling girl guide biscuits; I drank wine out of water bottles on the kerbs. Everything about my upbringing is deeply rooted in Grey Lynn and so it holds a lot of meaning for me.


What made you want to be a part of PAWA?

I guess it was important for me to feel like I was branching out into a more interdisciplinary community. It is easy to feel glued or trapped to the confines of theatre and it can get bloody claustrophobic. Being involved in PAWA felt like a healthy step into the unknown.


Who are the artists you feel are doing great things right now?


Hito Steyerl

Guan Xio


What does the future hold?

I’m working on an upcoming piece with Julia Croft; Nisha Madhan & Zanetti Productions for a mysterious Wellington & Auckland season in late 2018. Julia and I are also looking at re-staging our work THE PLASTIC ORGASM early next year for Fringe. Other than that I have some film aspirations I am dreaming of. And am also working in TV as a Researcher for ‘Whānau Living’.

How you feeling about your upcoming performance piece NO/I/SELF? Why is it important to you to make?

I am really nervous about the technical / musical side of things because I am not used to being heavily involved with those elements even though I think about them all of the time. This piece is important to me because I like the idea of creating a space where a group of potential strangers can be brought together in a collective experience where they can lose themselves to the noise.


Finally, do you feel as though New Zealand respects the arts? why?


To a degree, but not enough. It’s amazing how often people negate the fact that artists aren’t paid enough by saying that “at least you get to do what you love” which I think is a very unfair and unhelpful statement. The amount of artists I know that are not paid properly for their work; who have to work 7 days a week just to pay rent and are feeling utterly exhausted and undervalued would have something to say about that statement as well.


In Conversation with Jess Holly Bates


Virginia Frankovich and Thomas Press’ performance NO/I/SELF takes place this Friday 10th November between 8pm and 10pm at Play_station gallery. 

Everyone invited to take shoes off, two naked bodies, with pieces of gauzy fabric over their faces. Washing feet. Sitting on the ground. Audience invited to sit in two opposite facing seats. Dried with tea towels. Sitting on a fitted sheet. A plastic bucket.

Once washed allowed into the space. The space itself presented as a string cave, pixelated into facets. Limiting the audiences height. The object within appears to be littered with various objects, a shrine, candles, salt, chalk, herbal essences. As time goes on the audience gets braver. Thought the level of noise once inside the space remains limited. One figure departs the duo of washing, takes off her veil and begins to do something involving a syringe like object in the back space.

When all the washing is completed, the other figure leaves the washing and also enters the space…

Here the initial moment jars as a PowerPoint begins with infomercial like music, the two quiet figures suddenly come to life in an effort to educate, inform and sell the sacred. They wear blazers over their naked bodies and gold painted nipples. With high heels. As if suddenly emblazoned with ‘the spirit’ they dance energetically to the music and explain the points of the PowerPoint.

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