PAWA Opening Night 2018

The cross-pollination series continues in 2018, with a number of creative and written responses to festival performances. As the first of this series, Opening Night begins us with two accounts of the performances and experiences that opened the 2018 PAWA festival. 

Samuel Denby is Wellington born, currently working in I.T., and speaks of his first impressions of PAWA and performance art at the opening night.

Ethan Morse is currently studying theatre at Victoria University while also working on theatre projects independently. He is interested in finding a convergence and marrying the worlds of performance art and theatre together, creating pieces of art for a stage.

The 7th of November, I receive a facebook message from a close friend, “if you are free next Wed I’m opening performance art week Aotearoa”. It was the first I’d ever heard of such a thing. Two days later I checked may roster, it seemed I would be able to make it. 

The 14th of November, work as usual. Play_station gallery? Not familiar, ah that side street off Dixon. As I arrive, people have already gathered, the night air is cool and still. I don’t recognise any of these faces except for one, a relative of the friend I was here to see. A brief catch up, how have you been and such before the doors opened. 

Down a set of stairs now into a new world. Approaching the threshold, the sound of electric violin wanders up to greet us. I glance into the corner to greet my friend, she’s lost in the sound, i’ll say hey a bit later then. I continue onwards, a woman facing a corner speaking to it. I almost feel as if i’m eavesdropping on a private conversation. Next to her a painter working with a canvas duality, one static, one human. Color and form manifestisting from imagination before my eyes. 

I break the enchantment and move further onwards, my curiosity has taken over now. Refreshments, “yes please i’ll try the red”. There are quite a few people here. I turn to see a woman placing objects on four square wooden boards adjacent to each other. These objects are familiar, I notice that I have become transfixed on her actions, how is this so relatable? Behind me a man wearing an elaborate, flowing headdress moves slowly, elegantly, purposefully through the crowd. 

I step into an empty space away from everyone, I need a moment to let this all soak in. I feel like such a stranger, yet so comfortable. It was decided, I would see as much as I could. Over the next few days I did just that. From the early morning activities, the breakfasts, the people I met, the thoughts they shared and the other performances I attended I realised I would never be the same. It was to become so much of what I did not know I had been looking for. 

So here’s to you, the creative, the dreamers, the makers, the performers and all the rest. You may never know how much you have influenced me for the better and for that, I thank you. 

Contributed by Samuel Denby

After the opening night of PAWA 2018 I felt pleasantly full. Satiated in every sense of the word. The 3 performances by RV Sanchez, Kosta Robert Bogoievski, and Helene Lefebvre had an undeniable impact on me and left me with an overwhelming sense of artistic pride and fervour. Being able to watch extremely talented artists do their thing was an inspiration, an honour, and recharged my love for all thing’s performance art.  

RV Sanchez – A regularly dropped, low-quality skype call of him consuming and playing with a litany of foodstuffs, all with a trash bag covering his head. The piece was the most jarring of the 3 for me, leaving me feel queasy and violated. The video edged on some sort of voyeuristic terrorist hostage plea, leaving us the audience unwitting accomplices and observers of this grotesque and unnerving piece. Disconnected. Alienated. Dirty. Watching ourselves watch RV on the big screen as we ate alongside the frozen performer. A dichotomy of sorts. Online and offline. Clean and dirty. Beautiful and foul. While the use of online means to communicate the performance was a last-minute decision, and the less than reliable wi-fi reception meant the performance was interrupted I couldn’t help but feel as though this added to the take-away. Being able to watch from a safe distance, both literally and figuratively, pulled into question the place that the internet and online communication has. There’s a real and tangible disconnect between what happens on screen, in real-time or not, and the realisation that that is indeed a real person on the other side of the camera, screen, or keyboard. How much do we let that affect our interactions in the digital space? How much are we willing to consume before we become the judge, jury and executioner.  

Helene – Connection. Obstruction. Restraint. The ties that bind us to the past and the present. You, me & us. Bestiality. Rugged. A return to original form. Original conception. Immaculate in a way. Dirty in another. The beginning and the end. An elemental connection with the convergences of time, space, and the audience. Genuine connection. Connected through touch. Through energies. Physical and metaphysical. Pained. Contained. Disdain. Plain. Rain. Tainted and painted cave walls. Sensational vibrations through the heart and mind. Art is forever and now; performance art is the truest testament to that. A primordial feeling that extends beyond language, beyond movement, beyond sound. A primal truth. A prime number divisible only by itself and one. This performance was my prime number. Where does one thing start and the other end? When does the impervious become pervious? Ephemeral interconnection & the totality of meaning consolidate in the performer, the performance & the observer. We see what we want to see. We think what we want to think. We feel the shared understanding of a present performing artist. When does one meaning end and the other begin? When does the human become the artist, the artist the performer, and when does the performance truly begin? I see the sea. I see. I see. I see meaning in feeling. I see it in words spoken to walls. I see it in words not spoken at all. I see it in bespoke aestheticism. In moments caught between worlds known and undiscovered. In living truths and dying lies. In the ways of the world. In worldly women. In womanly words woven and weaved in waking way lines, while I lay wasting away. Walking when I want water-logged and woeful wishes to come true. Dreams. Woken up. Wistfully wonderful.

Kosta – Truth. Toasts. Why do we toast/drink to things? To bring to light an unspoken but universally understood and shared belief. Everyone is listening & watching the speaker with a stream of flowing consciousness. A raging wall of water and wondering wishes. What connects this to that? Plumbing the depth of human understanding, human function. We do thing because they are. They are what they are. Movement + Meaning. 3rd person. How one sees themselves and the world. The understanding and explanation of one’s own physiology and psychology & how that then relates and interacts with the outside world. The self-standing stoic. Slowly starting a sequence of stipulating statements. Cyclical and satirical. The true self. The universal self. The remembered self, the cultural self. The self that is bound by space and time & the self that can go beyond. When and where is a better place to air out our anxieties of our place in the wider understanding of what is, was and could be than on the stage.

Cheers, I’ll drink to that.

Contributed by Ethan Morse

Recent Posts

A poetic response to Anna Berndtson’s workshop “Art needs time and we need art.”
Sasha Francis and Tom Danby on Mark Harvey: My own resistance / An Afternoon in the Sun
Jazmine Phillips/Him on Zahra: When the soft yells.
Saoirse Chapman on Caitlyn Cook: Visual response
Cris Cucerzan and Sasha Francis on Binge Culture Collective: Two responses in poetry and prose