Space between // land beneath: Six responses

Curated by Sasha Francis

This is the second of two series of interviews held with artists in the lead up to Performance Art Week Aotearoa 2018. Alexa Wilson, Ivan Lupi, Rewa Fowles, Victoria Abbott, Mark Harvey, and Hélène Lefebvre offer their thoughts below on two sets of questions, toying with the space between and exploring the land beneath.

The questions:

Spaces in between: How does your performance seek to create, make/unmake, disrupt, interrupt, strengthen the spaces between? Are there specific between-spaces that are centred in your performance work? Do you feel a clear delineation between audience and performer, or are they murky boundaries for you? In your work, how do you navigate these between spaces? Does your work deal explicitly with relationality (as in, relational connection between people), and if so, how and in what ways?

Land beneath: How does performing in different places affect your work? What does it mean to you to perform in Te Whanangui-a-tara (Wellington)? Are there particular places that you feel most connected to when you perform? Is your performance spatially rooted, or is it able to move from place to place? Does your work seek to honour or centre the land, and if so, how and in what ways?

Responses from Alexa WilsonIvan Lupi, Rewa Fowles, Victoria AbbottMark Harvey and Hélène Lefebvre can be read below. Information about each performer with details of their performance are included!

Alexa Wilson – 999: Alchemist Trauma Centre / Power Centre
Friday 16th, 7pm, $10, Play_station Gallery
More information here.

Spaces in between:

This project was created out of an arts residency I curated in the Indian Himalayas a year ago navigating many different cultures (global artists and locally), and one of the most radical “spaces between” are cultural spaces. These are very precarious and fragile spaces to create work about as I am questioning some of foundations of thought between cultures, especially East/West, specifically India and Europe (where I live, Germany, also NZ as a Nzer).

Yes I work at moments relationally, more in previous solos than this, but it has moments which offer a lot of existential and pointed questions to audiences this time. There are chances for reflection about clashes between cultures politically, which at this time of intersectionality can be generative to address, as questions to our perceived foundations. Audience is always addressed and implied within the work I make, somehow complicit and how they engage becomes part of the work as well. In this work there are moments for literal interaction, some playful, some confrontational, some offering connection or sharing. The work is always aiming to generate emotional intimacy and political reflections.

Land beneath

I just performed this work in the Indian Himalayas at night last week on the residency I curated in Morni Hills from where the work came and was inspired, so it was very much born in and was returned to that land. It has also been developed out of Berlin throughout the year, where I live, so in conversation with the ‘West’ and performed there multiple times as well as in London. These are all very dense energies culturally/historically and highly populated places littered with the questions the work is asking about whether our conditioned foundations really support us and how cultural clashes are generative in this vast “space between”. It works with ‘darkness’ as a foundation also, metaphorically, inspired by India and Kali, “Dark Woman/Wise Woman” (in Europe), what the feminine “space between” or “nothing space”, which can be seen as potential, creation and destruction, rebirth, realness can offer at this time of confusion and chaos on the planet inter-culturally, including projections about ‘darkness’.

I will find out why I am in Wellington when I perform the work there, and what Wellington as a land and or people will activate in the work or feel activated by inside it. I’ve performed solos and relational work in many parts of the world and it’s one of the most fascinating elements, how each place has its own culture and creates the work with me, even energetically. Different people, cultures, rooms of people activate a work completely uniquely in my experience. I have had great experiences of presenting work in Wellington in recent years so I am curious.

Ivan Lupi – X
Thursday 15th, 10am-10pm, Free, Play_Station Gallery
More information here.

Spaces in between:

How many lives I have to talk about this? To keep it short firstly I would say, in my work everything comes naturally, biologically. I do not have ideas. For me it all comes from the circumstances. The past, the present and what I think could be the future ones. All these circumstances give me stimuli to make me do something. So each action is triggered by a stimuli. And it’s biological. It’s a sense. Like hunger. Or arousal. It has to be satisfied.

If you see someone drowning you just want to go and help. It is straight forward. You just do it. It’s more of an instinct. And it’s raw. I do not write things down for my works either. You wouldn’t write down that you need to take a leak. The emergency will be present until the performance is over. It is only looking back to previous pieces that someone might be able to connect some emerging threads among the whole. Not my task.

Surely I never consider the audience to be just an audience. We often perform together so our spaces of action merge beautifully. I like interaction that is not just visual and I would not feel very comfortable in performing a piece while people stand against the wall or sit just watching until the work is over. I guess this is why I tend to create long, durational, interactive inputs: you enter the space and you are invited to participate in a very brief moment of the whole work. It is totally up to you how long you want to carry on for.

Lastly there is my own in between space: my skin. That is a threshold I am also exploring in depth and I have a couple of pieces in which I invite people to explore it too. One time, a person said: ‘now I almost feel I own part of your face’.

Land beneath:

So much philosophy could come from this question. In general I would say that my work can move around with no problems. I un-rooted myself from my homeland on purpose, to be able to absorb other cultures and I guess is in my nature to create pieces that can be performed anywhere in the world.

But let me tell you a story: I met a person who stumbled across two of my performances by coincidence in two different countries. At the time they saw me first I didn’t even know I would have moved to New Zealand – that person was Māori. Now I am here, an immigrant in Aotearoa and chatting with that person who is sharing with me the way I triggered their senses on those two occasions. We are talking about tattoos and tapu. This was to me is a total mind-blowing learning. It teaches me all I need in terms of focus and passion and gifting our work to others. Sometimes we might be concerned about a scarce attendance to our performances but you see, it is the single individual that matters.

Rewa Fowles – Home?
Friday 16th, 7pm, $10, Play_station Gallery
More information here.

Space between:

My work seeks to create awareness and conversation. To promote a balance of questioning and understanding, to strengthen the world’s spaces and what’s in between them. The between-spaces in my performance is the between belonging to different cultures, which I think a lot more young people can relate to as we become more globalised. But even more specific there is the between-spaces of being a Third Culture Kid and New Zealand Born. I don’t feel a clear connection or delineation [between audience and performer] – as I feel I don’t have enough experience in order to create that connection constantly. Also still learning what that connection is. Though I do focus on giving a new perspective or to create a conversation through my works.

I navigate through my own experiences and those I have seen and heard from people around me. To be observant and question everything. Then concentrate it on paper or through movement in order to create clarity. [My work] does [deal explicitly with relationality], as it focuses on the how many people start to create relationships, no matter how surfaced or in-depth they become, with people that are different from themselves. In this case what people, I have met and grew up in New Zealand, have said to me in our first couple of conversations. Reacting to how I sound, look, and my upbringing being an Adult Third Culture Kid.

Land beneath:

Performing in new places gives me a rush of excitement and anxiety. As my body and mind does not know what the place is like or how it will react. Though I am use to adapting quickly to places and always reminding myself to keep an open mind. Thus I find my performances are usually quite adaptable as well, depending how much technology is involved. [Performing in Wellington] means a new adventure and new opportunity to learn, as I have never been to Wellington before.

No, [there are not particular places that I feel most connected to when I perform]. As being an Adult Third Culture Kid, we learn from a young age to adapt and feel comfortable in almost every environment or place we are put into. So when I perform I connect within myself, in what experiences, emotions, and whatever else my body and mind is holding. Though I sometimes wish I had a special place I could connect to that would make me feel at home.

My performance is spatially rooted to the land of New Zealand and links to my experiences I have had in this country. Though most of them were in Auckland, as it is where I have lived most of my time in New Zealand. Though my work can be performed anywhere, as I believe it can cause at least one person to relate to it or start a conversation. I would say my work does not seek to honour the land, but create a healthy conversation for the people of the land.

Victoria Abbott
Pop up performances throughout the week
More information here.

Spaces in between

The long answer is the form I’m working with will be very much in the middle of public spaces used to uphold upright orders of space claiming. While I won’t be completely upending those unspoken hierarchies, in the body I am in I will be pushing them about as they jostle back against me. Like a big stone in a stream or perhaps in other versions a rock pool. I’ll be investigating occupying these spaces… perhaps it may develop into a stretching of space? Maybe the audience will shift their bodily relationship to these spaces after. I’ll be drawing a big loop back to a particular humming gorgeous moment in 2006.

The connection between myself and audience is not known yet. I’ll be working in public and social spaces with anyone who also happen to be in them. I have a strong draw towards consensual encounters, as opposed to thrusting encounters upon people which re-enforces a (patriarchal) encounter trope that I’m performatively exhausted and irritated by — I’ll be playing a gentler game… I’m interested by the subtler rhythms available, even if the texture or rhythm is rough.

The short answer is, I’ll lie down in different spaces and think about water.

Land beneath

I’ll be setting down the first few layers of this particular piece on Wellington soil. I feel a pull in Wellington towards the water below, with all the bodies of water, streams, rivers, creeks and sea shore that got tunnelled and piped and stacked over. My herstory with Wellington folds back to a time closer to 2006, so that’ll inform things. I’ll be getting as close as I can to both the water and the moment. This piece is thirsty. I can’t wait.

Mark Harvey – Interloper
Thursday 4:00pm, Friday 4:00pm, Saturday 11:00am, Sunday 11:00am
More information here.

Space between

I’m really interested in what happens between people and what gets said and unsaid, how we are influenced and influence others, and why might we resist each other. I like to set up situations where by these things can be played with reflected on. I aim to offer questions that offer a fluid range of reflections, while not attempting to dictate to spectators. I often like to select public situations where I intend to fold my work in relation to the contexts of locations, physically, formalist-ly, culturally and politically.

While I intend to guide an audience, either via my own actions and voice or via a person working with me, I welcome the audience to respond and help to create the work with their voices, literally and metaphorically. I attempt to do this via live and mediatised formats, via endurance and duration based actions and in relation to often to me performing physical labour as a play on service-centered capitalist dynamics. Notions of relationality are a definite intent in a lot of my work as it’s something that I find really important to me personally (but definitely not what can be seen as the outmoded art canons of relational aesthetics, and social practice as they often suffer from conforming with colonising discourses).

Land beneath:

Presenting practice in Te Whanangui-a-tara is significant for me due to the colonial and inter Iwi and Pākehā histories, relations and tensions. Feeling this for me is my own whakapapa through the region, from Methodist missionaries and NZ Company settler-farmers to iwi (Ngāti Toa).

I feel most connected to locations where I can have exchanges and interactions with people from various cross-sections of the public. The potential reciprocal learning that can happen from engaging with a wide range of people who hold various ideologies really excites me.

Helen Lefebvre – Forever growing up
Opening night, Wednesday 14th, 6-8pm, Play_station Gallery
More information here.

Space between, land beneath

My process is about “making space” in order to find clarity while presenting that which appears unfamiliar. The strangeness I find during my travels awakens my need to discover, take hold of your difference and my sameness, discovering, making sense communicating while relating to you.

Thank you so much to our performers for their contributions, time and thought in answering these questions!

Curated by Sasha Francis

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