No/i/se(lf): an inventory is the third in our CrossPollination series of creative response writings to performances during Performance Art Week Aotearoa. Henrietta Bollinger is a Wellington playwright and poet. She writes a regular column for Salient on disability issues “Token Cripple.” Here she responds to No/I/Self by Thomas Press and Virginia Frankovich as a part of PAWA.

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An inventory of things I collected at No/i/se(lf):

  1. earplugs –  the first gift.  they were needed to mute the willing roars of the earthling audience as they took up the the invitation of two aliens to let out all their deepest frustrations.
  2. silver pipe-cleaner –  quietly stowed away in my handbag, sure of what it was
    meant for, though I think it may have been intended as a pair of antennae.
  3. metallic green balloon – stowed away once more; blowing balloons being oddly,  at twenty-four, a skill i still lack. Several were blown up, burst or let loose to run of off air and drift pathetically to the ground.
  4. yellow balloon – (see above)
  5. A bell –  reserved for a particular moment of orchestral cacophony but
    clanged in my hands at a few unexpected moments, when something else made
    me jump or laugh. I eventually set it down with a dull clink on the floor content to
    watch my fellow audience members lose themselves to the permission the space
    offered.

 

 

This eclectic list offers a window into No/i/se(lf)
a  weird and irreverent wander

One

the audience was very willing to take with their hosts, who

silver-
robed and speaking in an unintelligible tongue  between a child’s dress up box and Mars.

SOME FORM OF OFF-THE-WALL FUN

a series of tonal shifts

– rock concert/disco/voice/telecast/orchestra pit.

noise built-faded-BUILT

crescendoes into screams and bursting balloons mixed on stage responsive to some of the soundscape to the audience appeared to be their strangest to stay responsive to their strangest to the audience being mixed and built again this soundscape to stay responsive to the some. Ultimately.
No/i/se(lf) was also

an invitation. As one.  struck on this fractured title my brain

perpetually stuck in a puzzle

there is no ‘I’ in team. there is no ‘I’ in self. there is no ‘I’ in no. there is no ‘I’ in yes.

no/i/self

the noise will erase the individual. the noise is a concerted effort. the noise is not an intentional echo. the noise will focus on drawing. the noise will breath. move. speak/scream

a void. is one organism. which we (joyfully) did.

 

Written by Henrietta Bollinger

Edited by Jess Holly Bates

RESPONDING TO RUA is the second in our CrossPollination series as a part of PAWA, where writers respond creatively to their experience. Claire O’Loughlin is a theatre-maker and producer based in Wellington. She founded contemporary performance collective “Binge Culture” and is an artistic octopus, with an infectious drive to increase compassion and awareness both through, for and from the arts.Her most recent creative work is a memoir of her childhood growing up on a boat, written for her MA at Victoria University’s IIML. She responds here to Tekeepa Aria’s performance work “RUA.”

 

 


 

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I went down below
Saw a man breathing, shaking,
Like rūaumoko.

Extension of breath
Take from us, give nothing back
The cycle stops here.

Body in concrete
Below the city crying
We try to help him.


 

This is what I know                                                    And here are all the questions

It is a hot sunny day, and I am late. I had been too early by being right on time, their day had been running late, I had been asked to leave so they could reset, and then I came back late. Tit for tat and I was feeling a bit smug really, a kind of ‘two can play at that late game’, but now I’ve missed the beginning and the performer is so serious, and I just feel like a dick.

The performer’s sincerity makes me feel like a dick.

Following the dick feeling which followed the smug feeling comes the FOMO feeling.

 

Shit, what have I missed?
How did it start?
How did he enter the space?
How did the audience enter?

Those first moments feel like the most important, even with durational come-and- go-as- you-please pieces. All the energy is in the beginning. Without it I’m all out of my depth. I’ve pushedmy own self out before it even began.

Okay, I think, now get over yourself. Focus. You can play the audience member as much as theycan play the performance artist. Let’s start with what you know:

One performer.

White concrete space.
Black t-shirt and black boxer shorts.
Underground.
Moving.
Breath.

 

What happens when you try to resuscitate the earth?
                                                                                     Where can breath can lead you?
       What is going to happen when you force your body to tense-up //rumble?
Can I trust this?
How the performer is going to sustain this?
                                            Is this trauma, this emotion, found or manufactured?
Why does such release of emotion always feel like a bit too much?Why can’t it just feel like any other action in life? Is it actually indulgent or is it just me?

 

I feel…embarrassed by the emotion…and embarrassed by my embarrassment. Like watching sex scenes in movies with other people present, I want to seem cool, I know that that is the right, adult, liberal thing to do / way to be. But I still avert my eyes and hope no one notices.

I am overwhelmed by the smell of skin and suncream. I think of the hot sun outside, of how I could be out in it but have chosen come here into the bowels of the city instead to watch what seems to be the embodiment of breath, energy and sorrow.

A performer I know from another show on right now in Wellington comes in to watch. “This is such a cool space,” she whispers. Why does she think that? What do we artistic types see in such a restricted, blank, confined area? Do we see our imagination freeing and flinging like rainbow  splatters across these white walls?

 

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The performer is choosing people to take some kind of energy from, one after the other. The audience is integral to this work, but I really don’t want to be chosen. Do I feel like I’ll have to perform? No, I feel like I’ll have to give something and right now I have so little to give. Better to try to take from the concrete than from me.

It seems pre-ordained though, in the end, right? Which is frustrating. You can connect with so many people but the outcome is always known…whatever they’re getting from each other isn’t enough for something, enough for anything new. The gift given, the energy and breath taken, turns only into sorrow.

This body is political. This movement is political. This brown body in black clothes in a white room is political. Gazing on it is political. Everything seems political when put inside a box.

It seems like the only way I have to make this less political is to engage and get up and be chosen and become involved. But I don’t want to. I’m shy. I’m selfish. Damn it. This is so not on-brand for me.

But then, I only like honest connections.

 

              Can a connection ever be truly honest when the outcome is already known?

This space feels like a prison. I know they probably wouldn’t have had any control over that. But we all have free will in here. I have a life force and rather than give it to the work like know I should, I keep my breath to myself, using it to spur up my body and get out into the sun.

 

 

Writer: Claire O’Loughlin.  Editor: Jess Holly Bates

 

PLEASE! EXPLAIN! is the first in our CrossPollination series of creative response writings from the performances during PAWA. Mia Gaudin a writer/lawyer living in Wellington, recently having completed her first novel as part of her Masters in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters.  As well as reading, writing and appearing in the Waitangi Tribunal, Mia spends her time eating vietnamese sandwiches and pretending to bike up hills. Here she responds to Please Explain Sacred, a durational performance by Jazmine Rose Phillips and Jess Holly Bates. 

Photo Credit: Essi Airisneimi

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I

 

Please, explain. You smelt like a spa and the music was lovely, calming. Sacred. There was citronella or something more complex in the air. The light was coming from low on the ground and I waited my turn. Please. It was cold, the water, and I didn’t expect that.

Explain.

I wanted to be wrapped up warm because the north wind was coming in a tunnel down the street and everything was concrete around us. I am curious about other women’s bodies. Sacred. When the veil fell from your face eyesnoselips cut into the space and you became real. Explain, please.

Not just a body there. Explain.

My friend washed my feet and I didn’t think too hard about how wrong that really was because I knew my friend had chosen it and I couldn’t stand back and see my friend as subservient even though that’s what my friend was playing at. Explain.

 

II

 

Congratulations, winner, you created a threshold. We went through it, all of us, and into a space with cold feet and cold floor and we crouched under the woolen red web. There were objects with no rules around them.   Please. Explain. You tore a needle from a packet and dipped it in a bottle marked ink. Took to your wrist. Explain. A blue hand. I couldn’t watch. Scared. Scarred. Please. Please. Move

position.

People kept coming and you kept washing and the rest of us waited and didn’t know what was happening; if we should leave. Explain. Sacred? The room was waning. I smoked a cigarette. A man uploaded your ass to Instagram. Rolled a rubber boob across the ground. Talked about pizza.

 

III

 

You is plural. Two bodies. The same skin, muscle, hair, breasts. The flatness of your stomachs was astounding. Jess. Jazmine. We didn’t talk about your perfection, the comfort you (that’s plural), had with yourselves. I don’t even feel I can comment because to do so, would I be disrespecting the Safer Space Policy? Would I be oppressing you to tell you that in the performance I compared my body to yours? Both of you. Do I have too much power in writing this? Am I asserting it over you? Am I being fat-phobic just by looking at your body and seeing you have less cellulite than I do?

PLEASE!

EXPLAIN!

So much seems sacred. Too much? Not

enough?

 

IV

 

Break. Power points. Jackets. Heels. Still naked. Full office sex presenting a slide show on tapu. The conversation had already started and we were entering at the end without context.

How and why do Pākehā adopt Māori tikanga and tapu?

The communication plain but still elusive; the arguments weren’t evident. This isn’t a debate, I know, but I wanted to understand what was being said. I was cringing. Maybe this was the point.

Right?   You were aware of this effect. The irony in binary.

Right?    The contrast with the sacred so stark. Intentional.

Right? Perhaps I am too willingly offended? Making it too sacred?

Right?         I’m a pākehā woman too and so easily

Wrong.

 

V

 

Salt. Chalk. Drawing our souls. We are moving and fully immersed. This is magic. Sacred. We are bodies and we are everywhere.  A poem like an incantation. The woman next to me scrapes a bone across the concrete. Another one is winding the red wool into a ball. You are washed and we are back in the spa but it’s cold. Did I mention it’s cold? Explain? But then the singing starts and it’s like three ohms 1 2 3 at the end of yoga but over and over 3 2 1 1 2 3 and it’s impossible not to join. Sacred. Sacred.  And of course, cake. A ritual with

no need to explain. 

 

 

Writer: Mia Gaudin. Editor: Jess Holly Bates

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Thomas Press & Virginia Frankovich

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?

FAF SWAG

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. 

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Vanessa Crofskey

VCrof is a Chinese/European artist based in Auckland, whose practice spans the boundaries of installation, poetry and performance. She self-identifies and is identified by others as “introspective” and “on fire” and lately she has risen to local glory winning Best Storytelling/Spoken Word and the ATC Here and Now Award (Ak Fringe 2017). Her work Fortune 500 takes place on Wednesday 8th November, in the opening night of PAWA performances at Play_Station gallery from 6pm. Here she critiques our nationalist pohutukawa aesthetic, offers eight adjectives to describe performance art and the safety of a counter-top herb population.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The pressure to be productive. Coffee with someone I care about.


Is ‘performance artist’ a title you use/like? How do you define that?

I used to define myself in the canon of performance art, but now I just identify broadly as an artist, who manipulates skills from different genres. These include performance, text and installation.

For me performance art is about action and activation (material, space, people). It can range from the theatrically hyper-realised to the banal quotidian. Performance art is durational, humble, invisible, flashy, direct, obtuse, impermanent and laborious.

 

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

Home is where I feel safe. That’s my mum, dry bedsheets and dying basil plants.
In concrete terms, home is the space where you feel understood in relation to a close-knit social group. That’s incredibly meaningful in a time of instability and precariousness – having a security blanket to feel grounded within is very, very powerful.

What made you want to be a part of PAWA?

I think performance art offers really interesting possibilities to conversations around art and theatre. PAWA, as a platform, brings recognition to a genre of creation that tends to be dismissed as unmarketable or isn’t taken seriously. It’s recognising its value and hybridity in the context of Aotearoa.
I also just believe in creating work in context, conversation and relation!! When you’re constantly working in isolation, being part of something bigger than the individual is mad refreshing. More potlucks, less sad frozen instant meals eaten alone at 10pm on a forlorn and soggy sofa.

 

Who are the artists that are vibrating for you right now?

In general, I feel very lucky to be in friendships and similar networks to people who are constantly up to cool shit. Witch Bitch. Fresh’N’ Fruity. White_mess. Activist groups like People Against Prisons Aotearoa and Auckland Action Against Poverty. The Town Centre. Ann Hamilton inspires me! You inspire me!

The feeling is mutual. You’re a delight. What are you up to outside of PAWA?

I’m finishing my degree in Sculpture, working on an install for the upcoming Performance Arcade, running events and plans for Thursday Girls, doing some features in Wellington and uh…    staying alive and nourished! (That’s the most expansive project)

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

I feel good about my performance – it’s a pretty humble offering, one in which I play the role of a giver. Because I’m operating in the background there is a lot less fear and far more interest in observing people’s reactions.

Fortune 500 comes from artistic inquiries I’ve been investigating throughout the year, critiquing authenticity under governing social structure. There’s such a tense, oppositional relationship between the words ‘Creative’ and ‘Industry’, yet we all exist within that framework. How can we form genuine relationships when we’re supposed to be peer networking?

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

That’s a loaded question lol. I think New Zealand likes to think it respects the arts. 

In reality that definition of ‘the arts’ is pretty narrow.
It’s easy for an average New Zealander to respect something that is already shown to be respectable, like a work which is already in Auckland Art Gallery. The public also tend to respond well to a semi-realistic canvas painting painted by a semi-well known painter who produce portraits of pohutukawa tree silhouetted against gold leaf sunsets featuring a small realistically embodied child running into the crashing waves.

Respect is also a tricky term, because what does that  even mean? It’s easy for the arts to become the breeding groups for diversity checklists, used to commodify, placate and ‘showcase’ ‘respect’ for different communities but under really specific lenses. There’s less public support for radically political art, lo-fi art, art that can’t hang on your living room wall, no-budget contemporary fringe art, because we don’t get the education that teaches us to value these as much.
And no, there’s also still not enough funding / support for anything outside of chosen disciplines, marginalised artists, artist run spaces, labour, security, recognition of our time and the skills we hone.
But that’s why it’s so interesting to me, to investigate these social relations – why we value what we value.

In Conversation with Jess Holly Bates

 

Vanessa Crofskey’s performance work Fortune 500 takes place at Play_station Gallery on Wednesday 8th November from 6pm. 

7
Robyn Jordaan

Robyn is an Auckland-based performance artist and film-maker born in South Africa who is driven by contemporary literature to make horror-comedy or unstructured narratives in her work. She has a trail of exhibitions in her wake, and returns to performance for PAWA after a string of film works. Her work Every Knot Has Memory will be performed at Island Bay on Sunday 12 November at 4pm. Here she speaks to us about an activist core in the art scene, how performance art prints onto your retina and getting out of bed like a bird (or not).

What will get you out of bed in the morning?

Everyday is different. Some mornings I genuinely can’t get out of bed, but other mornings its like a bird in flight. I think it’s people and exchange. It’s also knowing that I may accomplish something exciting that day – or absolutely nothing – and that’s okay.


Hah. That is okay. How do you define yourself artistically? 

I have gone through many different descriptions. One was a performative filmmaker, another a performative sculptor, but as of current I am a performance artist and filmmaker. I see the world as living through one of my own films. What makes performance art for me is the fact it is equanimous, transformative, never in situ. It morphs like the currents of our politic tides. It has so many faces and is art at is rawest form. When seeing a performance artist, YOU WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER – because they are putting their bodies and minds on the line and telling you something you always knew. Or something were to fearful to face.

 

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

I am an immigrant from South Africa and as of late I feel no attachment to a particular place but my home is where my people are, I have come to realise. My soul, my people and my mind are in Aotearoa.

Aotearoa is so young and so rich in history, yet due to its young age Māori are still fighting for their history to be respected. This place is meaningful to me as it contains  a site for change. Inside the art community people are fighting for this!

 

What made you want to be a part of PAWA?

To explore more of my performative side. I’ve been making films involving performance but it has been awhile since I engaged in the live essence of performance. It’s a festival in its baby year and the more arts in Aotearoa the better, I say. I had a vision and needed to share it with others. My heart and mind felt connected to this time for performance and this is why it is important.

 

Who are the artists that are vibrating for you right now?

Hmmmmm tricky… here’s a list:

-Faf swag (Fa’ aafa)

-Georgette Brown (Painting)

-Daniel John Corbett Sanders (LGBQT politic, Curator)

-Florian Habicht (Film; Spookers)

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

I feel as though New Zealand has a community which respects the arts but monetary institutions do not actively go about funding the arts. CNZ make it very difficult to get funding if you are not already funded. The respect side of things is a very interesting question, because I wonder what sort of respect we are talking about. There is a small performance community which is slowly being respected, but the inner “art world” has already chosen their artists from friend circles, which makes it very hard to have an open, safe and equanimous space for people of all ethnicities, culture and practice. I do feel New Zealand respects the arts, but there is still a lot more room to grow.

What other works are you cooking up at the moment?

Im currently working on my largest film project to date. It is a series of three films. (titles secret) These three films are working with the blind and deaf community. A film for everyone.

It’s all really a little bit secret so can’t spill to much.

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

I feel excited and nervous. It is important to me as I will be sharing a part of myself and my mind, commenting on a historical myth linked to the public space I will performing in and diving into a new instrument I have been learning for a couple months.

In Conversation with Jess Holly Bates

 

Robyn Jordaan’s performance work Every Knot Has Memory takes place at Island Bay on Sunday 12th November at 4pm.

5
Kyah Dove

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. 

12

Vicky Kapo (Te AtiAwa, Ngāti Raukawa) is a multifaceted artist, self-proclaimed bone-keeper and South Australian forest dweller. She leans into intimacy and connection to cultivate performance experiences that are political and mesmerising. Her work false prophets/true gods = ShaWoman will be performed on opening night of PAWA on Wednesday 8th November.  She speaks to us here about embodied goldmines, a much-needed return to archetypes and what free-fall and performance art have in common. 

What is a smell that will wake you up?

 Pheromones. Hmm – I’m a  total sucker for GOOD perfume or scent, and have been known to follow strangers for a minute or two if their scent captures my attention. I will stop that lucky person to ask ‘what is it you’re wearing?’ I’ve not made friends with people because of their smell, and I’ve accepted people immediately because of their scent. (Last friend made this way was three months ago). Dance school was particularly great for this because of all the women I trained alongside. At one point the dancers got into wearing essences, or delicate moist scented deodorants. So Great! Like dancing in a meadow. Flora/fauna/feminine musky scents have been known to derail me completely. They seem to directly speak to my soft-bodied animal self, releasing and inducing something deeply instinctive within. Even as a child, it has been the smell of nature that has woken and wakes me up the most vibrantly. The smell of the earth, of the sun, of forest, of trees, water,  and in combination, like air in the forest in the morning, is so calming, so connecting.


Tell me about the portal you feel is opening in feminine work at the moment?

Feminine is the future, it always has been.

Artists are like signal receivers or satellites, they are always on the lookout for the wave of inspiration to provide personal and public motivation. I think as artists we intuit shifts, and then make the work. It can be a little like in the way a wave of new technology or a philosophical movement suddenly becomes accessible.  At the moment it is the rise of the feminine, which is going to take us to fresh places. Specifically the power and wisdom of feminine held by women of colour and the indigenous folk. This aspect of the feminine energy carries an embodied ancestral knowledge and therefore inherent power. Our embodiment of this knowledge makes our bodies goldmines – that can’t be corporatised … yet.

There is support for women performers and language now, a new confidence in female performers and layered narratives. Both performers and audience seek openings to new realms, this is the heart, and without that there is no entry into the multiverse.

 

Do you like the words ‘performance artist’?

It fits. Genres and boundaries can be crossed and reinvented or forgotten. This practice is forgiving.

Lets see. Are there any other choices?

Choreographer/Dancer were words that didn’t really incorporate all of my aesthetics- methodologies. Before training in dance at UNITEC, I had been working as an art tutor at Vincents in Wellington. I painted, screened printed, did clay, took photographs, and built things (or dreamt about building them) all to try figure out what primary medium to stick with: what to call home.

Dance won out in the end, because of its short lifespan – dancers are professional (artistic) athletes. It was a now or never decision, I told myself at the time; I would always be able to pick up the camera again, paintbrush, but the body is different. But actually it can be bloody hard to maintain a good practise in other artistic forms – it doesn’t leave a lot of time for relationships, and you have to find a way to eat.

Where do you call home, why is it meaningful for you?

Australia, North Victoria, South Mandurang  is/has been home for the last three years and its been by far one of the best places I’ve ever lived in. I live with my landlord, in a house he built himself on a 22-hectare block. It’s shyly hidden down a dirt road behind a national park. Its an earth rammed mansion with five bedrooms,  four bathrooms, three garages, with the best kitchen ever – seriously – it has a six element cook range! The house itself is divinely designed, all the windows/ living areas are situated so as to overlook the massive dam, this allows for catching the breeze off the water during summer, and the heat up this way can get, well – brutal. Thoughtful simple smart design . 

However, the true value of this mansion is where its positioned…..by the fucking national forest! It’s been a healing godsend. It has helped keep my mind and body sane and centred whilst my soul integrated the karmic shifts created in the watery mourning process I found myself drowning in during my parents illnesses, their eventual deaths and the aftermath and fragile break down of the word family that had to occur between self and siblings. The forest, has become my sanctuary and I spend as time as I possibly can in it. I’ve learnt so much about the size and breath of my heart here during this time. It is coming to an end though so it must be time for me to rejoin the world. I’m on the lookout for a monastery, hah!

Its true that this house has become home but it is the forest that is my hearth. If I could I would never leave it, but I don’t have the right fur or teeth. (This time around). In the meanwhile, by proxy, I recognise that I have indeed become the mystic, the bone keeper, the forbidden fortune teller – a fringe, forest dweller. A somewhat much-needed archetype that the world with Trump in it needs.

 

Tell me how you got mixed up in PAWA?

Alexa Wilson. Need I say more?

Who is an artist or group of artists that are vibrating for you right now?

I’m following a woman Yoshiko Chuma a Japanese artist/ choreographer who is based in NYC, doing a lot of work internationally using a fine eye and scores. she is an absolutely fine performer in her sixties, who mixes with some extraordinary people and artists. I am hoping to work with her in the near future. She had a company in New York in the 70’s called the “School of Hard Knocks.”

A couple I met in Germany, Kovacs/O Doherty. They’ve come up with some really unusual performative sound concepts, that are just so outside of the box. One piece called signal tide came from following the signal of a lone satellite and amplifying the sound as it passed over L.A. It brought the reality of outer space into your daily life via sound.

I’m also following an Israeli installation performance artist Yoav Admoni. Someone I have loved to work alongside. He mentored me during an installation piece I’d created out of sticks and helped me to see the spatial lines that connected these random sculptures I’d formed. Because of his accent he tends to say things very directly without it brushing up against ego which has real value.  

There are local artists of course such as Val Smith,  Alexa Wilson, Tru Paraha and recently Jahra Rager who have broken the rules. I’ve been very blessed though to have worked alongside some intense next level talent, in the most casual of forms, recently I’ve been working with Kilda Northcott, Claire O Neil, Tallulah Holly Massey, Leah Carrell, and Alice Robinson aka The House of Daughters.

How do you feel about your upcoming work in PAWA?

I’m nervous as fuck. PAWA is an artistic blind date.

I have no idea who anyone is and or how their live work presents. Which makes for an extremely curious event to be involved in. The artists all sound extraordinary and talented, with a great line up of skills and concepts. But truly I have no idea what performance art in Aotearoa looks like, so  I really don’t know where and how to position my/the solo work.  Also until this year, I hadn’t really thought about creating a body of solo work. But hell, solo work is cheaper and less cumbersome and easy to manoeuvre. Its hard to maintain a collective without money, an or foremostly shared vision, cos without the shared vision – there can be no work, I’ve just learnt this, I’ve always been just interested in working with peoples energy and producing from there. But its quite rare to meet other performers who are willing to work from this starting point.

Why is it important to you?

I don’t know. I’ve tried to not make performing important, and perhaps if I’d stayed in the visual art world I wouldn’t have had to answer this. At times around my parents illnesses – it definitely wasn’t. But eventually, I lost sense of why I was alive. It’s not like what I produce is blockbusting entertainment, nor would I really want that. I didn’t come from a supportive artistic family so there’s no lineage or heritage involved – Mum was a cleaner, a factory worker, so was Dad. It wasn’t a thing anyone around the state housing area did either, you would’ve probably got bashed up for showing off, but because back then I was the fighter no one came near me. But strangely at an early age, I would find myself participating in school talent shows with absolutely nothing prepared – I would just suddenly find myself in front of the class doing the most absurdist stuff- back then when my classmates laughed I knew I was on to something.

Now when I get out in to a space with often still nothing prepared its the silence I listen for..  there is an alertness in space in-between the atoms. So many stories/narratives .. threads/leads that kind of take me over .. that I let take me over .. the entry in has been primarily through the physical and text works but now because of portable loop machines sound is there – and oh installation formulations keep creeping in. I don’t think I’ve done my best work or even come close to it – I think Im still in process of understanding what I’m doing and am still learning how to channel.. without falling apart.. as well as hold the narratives. There are so many myths about performing and what a performance is.

Today my current investigations are centred around intimacy, rituals, and collective mythologies. I think I should have been a clown! There is always the same question at the end and beginning of every performance: How do I bring everybody along for a journey, when I don’t even know where it’s going? 

Why performance? I think its the same rush a mountain biker gets .. or a free faller gets. The work is essential, of course, but unless it’s carried out with clear articulation – it’s not fruitful, so it needs to fruitfully engage, to leave us all a little more available to the imagination, because the imagination is always searching for the ‘yes’; for the solutions. I’m struggling with this question I don’t think I’ve really ever been asked it or been ever ready to answer it.

 

And, the future – what does it hold?

I’ve started to want to make choreography again, as movement/music/patterns is a strong love of mine but it is also my biggest fear: timing, counts strength, articulation floor patterns. I’ve had two small lead-ups via residencies in Auckland this year,  that  got me back up on (albeit wobbly) feet, but next year is where I’ve promised myself to really step up and bring it. The piece is called Motherland, and needs a Dramaturgist and some serious money. Universe could you hook us up with that please?
In Conversation with Jess Holly Bates
Vicky Kapo’s performance work “false prophets/true gods = ShaWoman” will be performed on opening night of PAWA on Wednesday 8th November at play_station gallery.